Public schools for the elite

I attended public schools from kindergarten through 12th grade in the Chicago suburbs. Nearly all my classmates were white; none were poor. In fact, most were Jewish in elementary and middle school and tracking kept my high school classes majority Jewish as well. I got an excellent education. Diverse it was not.

Public schools in name only educate more than 1.7 million U.S. children concludes a Fordham Institute report on  “private public schools” with very, very few poor students (and few blacks and Hispanics).

More students attend these schools than attend charter schools. And in some metro areas, like New York’s, almost 30 percent of white students attend these exclusive schools. Because you have to be well-off enough to live in their attendance boundaries, these schools are more private than private schools—which at least give scholarships to some needy children.

. . .  there’s none of the outcry that surfaces when someone proposes vouchers so poor children can attend private schools at public expense. How come? And if the civil rights community is upset that charter schools serve “too many” poor and minority kids, why aren’t they upset that these “public” schools serve too many white and middle-class children?

The report include links to the all-affluent public schools in 25 cities. My schools don’t make it, probably because they’re too far from Chicago.

The report’s author, Mike Petrilli, whose elementary school makes the elite list, writes:

Unions and others love to hide behind their fealty to “public education” when arguing that charters or vouchers will lead to “exclusive” schools, whereby their beloved public schools “serve all comers.” Except, it turns out, when they don’t.

Interestingly, 79 charter schools made the list of 2,800 public schools serving few poor students. I’d be curious how that reflects the percentage of schools in the 25 urban areas.

Many private schools, especially Catholic schools, “do valuable work serving primarily poor students,” writes Eduwonk guest blogger Sara Mead. In addition, “many affluent public schools raise significant funds from private donations and other fundraising.”

The Coleman Report found private schools better integrated by income than public schools, Cato’s Andrew Coulson writes.

In New Jersey, which has many small school districts, one in four white or Asian students attends a public school with very few poor students, notes the New York Times. Only two percent of black students and three percent of Hispanics attend a wealthy school.

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