Friday, January 29, 2016

Should Charter Schools Be Held to Desegregation Standards?

Posted By on Fri, Jan 29, 2016 at 1:00 PM

click to enlarge COURTESY OF PHOTOSPIN
  • Courtesy of PhotoSpin
Today's post in honor of School Choice Week: State proposals and lawsuits in Minnesota look at charter schools and desegregation. In general, segregation has increased in our public schools over the last few decades around the country, but charter schools tend to be more segregated than district schools. Should this be considered a civil rights issue? That's the question being raised in Minnesota.

The Minnesota Department of Education is considering making charter schools create integration plans if they have large minority populations. The reporting I've read on the issue is confusing. Does it address charters with large white populations as well as those with large black populations? Is it more concerned with academic progress or desegregation? Whatever the specifics, the proposal is creating heated discussion in the state.

At the same time, a lawsuit accuses the state of allowing greater segregation in its public schools and maintains that charter schools have made the problem worse. A graph in the article shows 65 percent of black charter school students attend schools that are 90 percent minority, compared to 15 percent of students in district schools; 28 percent of white students are in charters with less than 10 percent minority students, compared to 12 percent in district schools.

My research in Tucson also shows that segregation is higher in charter schools than in TUSD. TUSD's student population is 64 percent Hispanic and 21 percent Anglo, which is a reflection of the population of school-aged children in the city. Tucson charters are 53 percent Hispanic and 37 percent Anglo, meaning that charters attract a disproportionate number of Anglo students. In Tucson charters, 35 percent of students attend schools with fewer than 30 percent Hispanic students, compared with 2 percent of TUSD students.

Minnesotans arguing against using desegregation rules with charter schools say that parents make active choices to send their children to charter schools, so it's not the state's concern if parents choose to send their children to schools with high percentages of white or black students.

School desegregation remains a hot-button issue across the country, not just here in Tucson, and the importance of charters in the deseg equation is receiving increased attention.

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