This thoughtful article by Emma Brown in the Washington Post shows the debates in the District of Columbia about the future or the demise of neighborhood schools. Some see the neighborhood school as a relic of the past, with school choice being the wave of the future. Others think of the neighborhood school as the heart of the community, where children and parents walk to school together, plan together, build community together.

It is clear that the corporate reformers would like to kill the very concept of neighborhood schools and communities. They prefer a free market that mirrors a shopping experience, with schools run by corporate entities and parents choosing schools as they might choose one kind of milk or another in the grocery store (the metaphor used by Jeb Bush in his speech to the 2012 Republican convention).

Some of us recall that in the 1950s and 1960s, school choice was the battle cry of the most ardent segregationists. Scholars today have found that the most segregated schools are charter schools, which are typically more segregated than the district in which they are sited. When journalist John Hechinger wrote about the charter schools of Minneapolis, he wrote that it was as though the Brown decision of 1954 had never happened.

Hechinger wrote:

“Six decades after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down “separate but equal” schools for blacks and whites, segregation is growing because of charter schools, privately run public schools that educate 1.8 million U.S. children. While charter-school leaders say programs targeting ethnic groups enrich education, they are isolating low-achievers and damaging diversity, said Myron Orfield, a lawyer and demographer.

“It feels like the Deep South in the days of Jim Crow segregation,” said Orfield, who directs the University of Minnesota Law School’s Institute on Race & Poverty. “When you see an all-white school and an all-black school in the same neighborhood in this day and age, it’s shocking.”

“Charter schools are more segregated than traditional public schools, according to a 2010 report by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles. Researchers studied 40 states, the District of Columbia, and 39 metropolitan areas. In particular, higher percentages of charter-school students attend what the report called “racially isolated” schools, where 90 percent or more students are from disadvantaged minority groups.”

Is this the future of American education? Are we doomed to repeat the past? Ironic that we reach this moment in which the elites embrace George Wallace’s cause, luring black families to all-black charter schools, with promises that are seldom fulfilled, as we near the 60th anniversary of the Brown decision.