The war on charter schools continues. An opinion piece by Ferrell Guillory, Vice Chairman of EducationNC and a professor at UNC School of Media and Journalism, was recently published in a local paper and a popular education web site because it parroted Gov. Roy Cooper’s warning that allowing municipal charter schools “could lead to taxpayer-funded resegregation”
Critics have been trying to smear charter schools with allegations of segregation and racial isolation for decades. They point to disparities in the composition of charter schools and traditional public schools; cite statistics and studies and ask people to notice the changing populations around charter schools. Sadly, critics like these frequently use race to prop up and protect the education establishment’s monopoly. Don’t fall for their tactics.
Let’s start with the facts. First, merely citing statistics and research studies does not prove causation. Guillory should remember that the results of some of the studies cited by charter school opponents are products of a deeply flawed methodology. In a number of cases, student populations of charter schools were compared to state averages rather than their surrounding local communities. The comparisons are apples-to-oranges. Faulty methodology leads to flawed conclusions.
Guillory acknowledges that schools reflect the divisions in society. Much as we hate to admit it, however, the public schools have helped to cement and perpetuate many of those divisions. Public schools are defined by attendance zones that largely mirror economic divisions and segregated housing patterns. These realities combined with their monopoly powers, have allowed many public schools to foster and perpetuate racial segregation. The history of segregation supports this. Remember Brown v. Board of Education and Swann vs. Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education? Often, you’ll find, the school districts are the defendants and usually not on the side driving change.
It’s irresponsible to say charter schools foster segregation and slow efforts to integrate students. Efforts to integrate schools stalled years ago because of white flight, endless court fights, the ridiculous busing policies that resulted in social unrest, and affirmative action plans. This happened years before charters came along.
Of course, there has been progress. However, you can’t sanitize the world into which most charter schools have parachuted. Our schools are segregated because our communities are segregated. Racial isolation in charter schools is a by-product of a larger community struggling with the same problems.
Charter schools developed in North Carolina and nationally as a lifeline for children who lacked access to good schools. Charter schools sprung up near troubled or failing public schools to serve struggling populations. Often these populations were and remain minority. It’s one of the reasons why support for charters and school choice is so high among minorities. If segregation was an issue in charter schools, you’d expect minorities would be the first to be complaining about it. Yet, the complaints aren’t there.
Guillory calls on state authorities to “appropriate the funds necessary to address the educational needs of poor and minority young people packed into schools that then become branded as low performing.”
He makes his plea while at the same time casting dark clouds around the very programs that have helped thousands of children find their way out of packed and low-performing schools. Allegations of racial isolation ignore these truths. They also ignore the simple fact that some charters are designed to serve specific populations and as such may not mirror local or regional populations.
Such facts don’t seem to bother the author. Guillory seems perfectly willing to sacrifice these opportunities and willing to keep students trapped in failing schools. The kind of schools that fail many students but that the educational establishment has somehow managed to hold blameless. In the Progressive hierarchy, social engineering trumps minority choice and student achievement.
Charter schools have emerged as one of the effective —albeit imperfect —alternatives to help honor the national promise of equality and liberty for all Americans.
Charter schools do not foster segregation or impede integration. To say so is misguided. Such claims rev up the Progressive and liberal bases of the educational establishment, but they also needlessly jeopardize the futures of those who have been the most disappointed by public schools. More reason why anyone concerned about providing our children with a quality education should continue to work to ensure that the truth be told.