Monday, July 15, 2013

Charter schools and increasing segregation

Posted By on Mon, Jul 15, 2013 at 12:44 PM

The U.S. Supreme Court has pretty well decided this is a post-racial world and things like school assignments that resegregate public schools or admission policies that favor whites are no longer constitutional concerns. We've come so far, Justice John Roberts reminded us just the other day.

Where we're going is a bigger question. In Arkansas, the legislature has opened the door to unlimited "school choice," certain to produce resegregated school districts in several locations. And where "choice" doesn't segregate conventional school districts, there's always the charter school fallback. The most successful here are whiter and have higher income than the surrounding school districts. That is offset, in the charterites mind, by all-black charter schools (see! Black folk want segregation, too!). A number of them haven't performed so well, but that's another story.

More here on charter school segregation, with a focus on developments in the Minneapolis area. From the Hechinger Report:

In keeping with national demographic shifts, the Twin City suburbs have been growing more diverse in recent years, with an increasing African-American and Hispanic population. But that diversity is not always reflected in the area schools.

At Seven Hills Classical Academy, a charter school in Bloomington, Minn., for instance, 80 percent of the student body is white, compared to 57 percent in the Bloomington Public School District. Indeed, the number of predominantly white charters in the Twin Cities metro area has risen from 11 in 2000 to 37 in 2010.

Charter schools and their proponents argue that charters must take any student who wants to attend— and randomly select students through a lottery if too many apply — and, as such, can’t control who enrolls. Yet some experts are concerned that this trend is an example of the next phase of white flight, following a long history of white families seeking out homogeneous neighborhoods and schools.

School choice was once seen as a means of helping to diversify schools in spite of residential segregation. But in practice, researchers have found charter schools to be segregated as well. While much attention and research on charter school segregation have focused on predominantly black schools located in cities, pockets of mostly white charters are popping up in diversifying suburbs.

In the Delaware’s suburbs, for instance, a handful of independent charter schools have attracted large numbers of white families seeking to skirt an unpopular busing program. One study found that nearly all of the state’s charter schools enroll either more than 70 percent white students—or virtually none at all. In the Cleveland suburbs, a charter network known as Constellation Schools, which enrolls a disproportionately small percentage of black and Hispanic students, has grown to more than 23 schools over the past 13 years.

The Civil Rights Project at the University of California Los Angeles, which has documented charter school segregation for years, has found that in several western and southern states white students are disproportionately represented in charter schools. These patterns “suggest that charters serve as havens for white flight from public schools,” according to a 2010 report from the group.

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