Articles from Boston and Indiana discuss charter schools and integration. Charters do tend to disproportionately serve minority students, but that’s not evidence of pernicious segregation but rather that these students are least likely to be well served by the traditional public schools and most likely to be seeking other options.
Integrated schools are preferable to segregated ones and are an important goal. But, because of housing patterns and the broken urban core in many cities urban schools tend to be segregated by race and income (its capital flight not just white flight). And, unless several pro-busing jurists are appointed to the Supreme Court or Americans radically change how they live over the next several years that is not going to change.
So policymakers must continue to pursue pro-integration policies but not at the expense of addressing urgent problems right now. Otherwise, integration becomes one more issue like heath care or funding that while vitally important ends up being another excuse for the failure to educate minority students now wherever they live or go to school.
Afterthought: Isn’t this the problem with the Democratic argument against vouchers? Yes! Minority parents want good educational options now, not unproven plans with a time horizon that often exceeds the amount of time their children will even be in school. So, despite their obvious problems as a public policy, vouchers will continue to be an easy argument for Republicans until Democrats forthrightly embrace ideas like public school choice and charter schools that help offer immediate relief to parents while addressing some of the shortcomings of vouchers. It’s also why until they embrace serious alternatives to vouchers, voucher opponents look ridiculous each time large numbers of minority parents opt to participate in school choice programs again illustrating the severity of urban educational problems. This excellent New York Times column by Samuel G. Freedman sheds more light on the issue. Must read!
Didn’t Clinton embrace charters? Ummm…yes! And his political career turned out OK!
Update! Important new report from the Citizens’ Commission On Civil Rights about NCLB’s public school choice provisions, you know, the ones that are allegedly designed to destroy the public schools. Turns out, according to CCCR that NCLB’s public school choice provisions are, “used much more widely than previously reported and [have] educational and other benefits for students.” Hmmm…CCCR must be some right-wing group…No! They’re a left-wing pro-civil rights organization…