Are Charter Schools Segregation Tools?

Posted by Nikhil Swaminathan

boston-charter-schoolLast week, the Civil Rights Project, a part of UCLA's Graduate School of Education & Information Studies released a report titled "Choice without Equity," where  it asserted that charter schools are far less diverse than normal public schools.Here's an excerpt from the report's foreword:

Some charter schools enrolled populations where 99% of the students were from under-represented minority backgrounds. Forty-three percent of black charter school students attended these extremely segregated minority schools, a percentage which was, by far, the highest of any other racial group, and nearly three times as high as black students in traditional public schools. Overall, nearly three out of four students in the typical black student's charter school are also black.
The Civil Rights Project has a name for these schools where 99 percent of students are underrepresented minorities: "apartheid schools."Eduwonks participating in a debate on the National Journal Online's "Education Experts" blog are uniformly panning the study for mischaracterizing the problem:Most of the responses quibbled with the use of "segregation," saying that most charter schools are opened purposely in underserved, homogeneous neighborhoods, and that parents "choose" to send their kids there. If sending your child to a charter school was not a voluntary option, then it'd be easier to label it segregation.Kevin Carey of the think tank Education Sector even points out an irony: Charter schools were initially seen as a means of white flight from public schools.It would be great if charter schools could be more diverse. But if they're improving the learning experience relative to neighboring public schools (a debatable point), are we asking too much that they be racially balanced as well?Photo (cc) by Flickr user Office of Governor Patrick