In a few weeks we’ll mark the 60th anniversary of the (May 17,) 1954 school desegregation decision, Brown vs. Board of Education. Even after 60 years, however, the U.S. is still struggling with racism and segregation.
SPEAKING OUT AGAINST RACISM
Last weekend President Obama spoke out against the racism reflected by the comments of Donald Sterling, owner of the NBA franchise, Los Angeles Clippers.
“The United States continues to wrestle with the legacy of race and slavery and segregation, that’s still there, the vestiges of discrimination,” he said. “We’ve made enormous strides, but you’re going to continue to see this percolate up every so often. And I think that we just have to be clear and steady in denouncing it, teaching our children differently, but also remaining hopeful that part of why statements like this stand out some much is because there has been this shift in how we view ourselves.” [emphasis added]
The President included segregation as one of the problems that still exists in America. Does he realize that his administration is contributing to the problem of segregation by forcing states to increase the number of charter schools?
Race to the Top, the Obama/Duncan plan to privatize America’s public schools, requires states to, among other things, increase charter school caps. Charter schools do not, in general, perform better than public schools, and are often worse. But what’s relevant to President Obama’s comments, though, is that charter schools are often responsible for increased racial segregation.
CHARTERS AND SEGREGATION
…the policy on charter schools remains a centerpiece of the administration’s initiatives (as it was, in a different form, in the Bush Administration), despite abundant evidence that the policy is inconsistent with the longstanding goal of promoting school integration.
Perhaps the increase in segregation is unintended. In 1954, Brown vs. Board of Education struck down the concept of separate but equal schools. States could no longer maintain separate facilities for students based on race. However, in 2007, the Court found that using race as a means to desegregate schools was also not allowed. This allowed continued de facto segregation. In other words, it is legal for schools to be segregated if the segregation is by, among other methods, “parental choice.” Whether segregation is desirable or not doesn’t seem to be an issue any more.
The fact is that desegregation worked — in that it helped the achievement of black students thereby reducing the racial achievement gap (The results were not universal, so desegregation alone is not sufficient to end the achievement gap, however, the gains made during the time the U.S. desegregated schools were real). The challenge to the nation today is to find a way to increase school integration without using race as a means to desegregation…
In any case, whether it is intended or not is irrelevant. School segregation is increasing and charter schools are contributing to the increase.
It is not that government has an agenda to increase segregation. Proponents of charter schools believe they’re giving low-income and minority students opportunities they otherwise would not have had. That belief is true in some cases; all charter schools do not result in segregation. But far too many do, and the trend is unfavorable. It takes a lot of care through targeted funding and oversight to mitigate the pressures that lead to yet more segregation. But whatever motivations drive the choices families and schools make, it is important that government does not exacerbate the problem of segregation by ignoring the unintended consequences of its policies. The risk is an increasingly divided public education system. [emphasis added]
It’s been asked before if President Obama is even aware of what his administration’s education policy is…what it expects the states to do…and its consequences — intended or unintended. Does he know that charter schools increase racial segregation?
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.
Seven years after the Civil Rights Project first documented extensive patterns of charter school segregation, the charter sector continues to stratify students by race, class and possibly language. This study is released at a time of mounting federal pressure to expand charter schools, despite on-going and accumulating evidence of charter school segregation.
Our analysis of the 40 states, the District of Columbia, and several dozen metropolitan areas with large enrollments of charter school students reveals that charter schools are more racially isolated than traditional public schools in virtually every state and large metropolitan area in the nation. While examples of truly diverse charter schools exist, our data show that these schools are not reflective of broader charter trends.
“The United States continues to wrestle with the legacy of race and slavery and segregation, that’s still there…”
Yes, Mr. President, it’s still there.
- Breaking News: School Segregation Study Strikes A Nerve
- Scathing Report Finds Rocketship, School Privatization Hurt Poor Kids
- A Walmart Fortune, Spreading Charter Schools
- The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America
- Jonathan Kozol at the Andrea Neves and Barton Evans Social Justice Lecture Series.
All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.