Report: Racial Gap Grows in Charter Schools

Emily Gersema, Arizona Republic (Phoenix), February 8, 2010

The racial gap is widening with the increase in charter schools in Arizona and other states due to a lack of regulation and enforcement of existing civil-rights regulations, a group of researchers based at the University of California-Los Angeles said in a new report.

The UCLA Civil Rights Project report, “Choice Without Equity,” revealed what researchers deemed a troubling pattern of racial stratification in charter schools across the country.

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Based on data collected from 2000 to 2007 by the National Center for Education Statistics, the researchers found patterns that indicate charter schools in Arizona, California and other Western states have become havens for “White flight.”

Of the 98,728 students enrolled in Arizona charter schools in 2007, 52 percent were White, 34 percent Latino, 7 percent Black, 4 percent American Indian and 3 percent Asian.

Orfield said this racial gap has been widening over three decades.

“The (Southwest) region has experienced very sharp increases in segregation of Latino students since the 1970s, and it is usually segregation by both race and poverty, and sometimes language as well,” Orfield wrote.

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Researchers also had said in their report that although a majority of the students in Arizona charter schools are White, a few charter schools have a majority of ethnic minority students–which researchers refer to as “isolation.”

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Researchers said the pattern of segregation in charter schools has emerged as public support for “school choice” is on the rise. The goal of this educational movement is to give families opportunities to choose which school their children will attend.

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This has left researchers pondering how race plays into school choice. They admitted they cannot explain whether parents enroll their children in the schools with conscious consideration of demographics.

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