A Case For Segregation

Chris Levister, Black Voice News, August 23, 2007

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Charter schools that cater to African-American and underserved children are ‘proudly’ segregated and wildly popular boasting waiting list numbers in the thousands.

Both graduates of Historically Black Colleges (HBCUs) the Brewers say they recognize the benefits of a rigorous curriculum, smaller class size, and dedicated teachers who believe in Black students, and that every one of them has gifts.

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Los Angeles-based Inner City Foundation, founder and chief executive Michael Piscal is not surprised. The Foundation which operates L.A.’s View Park charter schools, says its waiting list numbers more than 5,000. In particular, charter schools that have opened in working class, Black or Latino neighborhoods such as the Inland Empire and high desert cities have been flooded with applications.

“The momentum we’re building is tremendous,” said Piscal. The Foundation announced last week that it has received more than $4 million in grants from the NewSchools Venture Fund, the Dell Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation, and plans to open four new charter schools in mostly Black and Latino South Los Angeles this fall.

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It has been more than 10 years since the charter school movement forged into existence with much anticipation and hope matched by just as much skepticism and opposition.

But the intended goal of a superior not necessarily equal education that boosts the learning development of primarily Black and underserved children is proving to be extremely popular.

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When it first began, the charter school movement struck a chord in many communities particularly in urban districts. Though they were exempt from many regulations, hundreds of schools were created to give parents a choice over failing public schools.

Now more than a decade later, charter students are more likely to be Black and less likely to be Hispanic or Asian. 70 percent of Black charter school students attend intensely segregated schools compared with 34 percent of Black public schools students. In almost every state, according to Dr. Gary Orfield co-director of the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, the average Black charter school student attends school with a higher percentage of Black students.

While charter school advocates and critics trade barbs over whether charter schools perform better than public schools, education experts are increasingly struggling with the issue of racial segregation.

Public schools have struggled with the issue for the past 50 years. Today charter schools are largely more segregated than public schools, says Orfield. He said data collected from charter schools in several key states detail segregation is worse for African-American than Latino students.

“The problems reported may not be due either to the intent or the desires and values of charter school leaders. They may reflect flaws in state policies, in enforcement, in methods of approving schools for charters, or the location where charter schools are set up.”

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The Brewers say the stepped up segregation argument is nothing new. “HBCUs struggle with the same argument and criticism. It’s a scapegoat for a system that has failed our children for decades, for that reason alone we are prepared to wait as long as it takes.”

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