Archives for category: Segregation

Jan Resseger writes here to refute Trump and Betsy DeVos’s ridiculous claim that school choice is a “civil rights issue.” As she points out, charter schools and vouchers divert funding from the public schools that most children of color attend. School choice is responsible for budget cuts to public schools.

Privatized educational alternatives like charter schools and vouchers for private school tuition not only extract public funds needed in the public school system to serve 50 million American children, but they also undermine our rights as citizens and our children’s rights. Only in the public schools, which are governed democratically according to the law, can our society protect the rights of all children.

The late political philosopher, Benjamin Barber, warns about what we all lose when we try to privatize the public good: “Privatization is a kind of reverse social contract: it dissolves the bonds that tie us together into free communities and democratic republics. It puts us back in the state of nature where we possess a natural right to get whatever we can on our own, but at the same time lose any real ability to secure that to which we have a right. Private choices rest on individual power… personal skills… and personal luck. Public choices rest on civic rights and common responsibilities, and presume equal rights for all. Public liberty is what the power of common endeavor establishes, and hence presupposes that we have constituted ourselves as public citizens by opting into the social contract. With privatization, we are seduced back into the state of nature by the lure of private liberty and particular interest; but what we experience in the end is an environment in which the strong dominate the weak… the very dilemma which the original social contract was intended to address.” (Consumed, pp. 143-144)

What she does not mention is that the demand for school choice originated with Southern governors in response to the a Brown decision. From its origins, school choice was rooted in racism. Last year, Steve Suitts of the Southern Education Foundation wrote an important monograph about the origins of school choice. It was supposed to block civil rights, not advance them.

The advocacy group called Public Funds a Public Schools gathered a useful archive of research studies of vouchers.

The studies were conducted by nonpartisan academic and federal researchers.

The findings are broadly congruent.

Voucher schools are academically inferior to public schools.

Voucher schools divert funding from public schools, which enroll most children.

Voucher programs lack accountability.

The absence of oversight promotes fraud and corruption.

Voucher programs do not help students with disabilities.

Voucher schools are allowed to discriminate against certain groups of students and families.

Voucher programs exacerbate segregation.

Voucher programs don’t work, don’t improve education, and have multiple negative effects.

Civil rights groups are suing to block the use of charter schools to desegregate public schools in North Carolina.

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May 18, 2020

LAWSUIT CHALLENGES NORTH CAROLINA LAW ALLOWING BREAKAWAY, SEGREGATED CHARTER SCHOOLS

By Wendy Lecker

Parents and civil rights groups in North Carolina have sued the State challenging a law passed in 2018 authorizing predominately white, wealthy towns in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district to break away and form town-run, separate charter school districts that could exclude non-town residents. In the lawsuit filed in Wake County Superior Court on April 30, plaintiffs charge that the law violates North Carolina’s state constitutional guarantees of a uniform public school system and equal protection and will exacerbate persistent racial and socio-economic segregation in the county district.

The plaintiffs in the case, North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP v. State, are the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Branch of the NAACP and two parents with children in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. They are represented by Mark Dorosin, Elizabeth Haddix and Genevieve Bondaies Torres of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the law firm of Tin, Fulton, Walker and Owen, P.L.L.C.

History of School Segregation in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) has a long history of school segregation. The district was the subject of a major desegregation case in the 1960’s, Swann v. Charlotte–Mecklenburg Board of Education. In that case, in 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court placed CMS under federal supervision to ensure school desegregation. In 1999, white parents succeeded in ending the desegregation order, and CMS was removed from federal court oversight.

CMS then implemented a voluntary, “neighborhood” school assignment plan which, over time, resulted in school resegregation within the district. By 2010, CMS was almost as de facto segregated as it was before Swann was filed to end de jure segregation.

In 2016, the CMS school board developed a plan to increase diversity and reduce the number of schools with high concentrations of poor students. The plan met with strong opposition by elected officials and parents in the mostly white and affluent towns of Cornelius, Huntersville, Matthews, and Mint Hill – all towns within the CMS district.

The Charter Breakaway Law

Desegregation opponents pushed the introduction of HB 514 in 2017 in the North Carolina legislature. The bill would allow the towns of Matthews and Mint Hill to establish municipal, and predominately white, charter schools with admissions preferences that would authorize by law the exclusion of non-resident, low-income students and students of color.

In an effort to appease legislators supporting the bill, the CMS board drastically scaled back its desegregation plan, limiting its effect to only 5% of the district’s students.

At the same time HB 514 was introduced, a State legislative committee studied the viability of breaking up large school districts in the state. That report concluded, in 2018, that breaking up large districts would exacerbate disparities in resources between high- and low-wealth schools and would provide no educational benefit.

In reaction, desegregation opponents dug in their heels and amended the municipal charter legislation to include the CMS towns of Cornelius and Huntersville. The bill passed in June 2018, and because it was considered local legislation, it did not require the governor’s signature under North Carolina law. In vetoing companion legislation to allow teachers in the new charter school district to participate in the state retirement and insurance programs, Governor Roy Cooper made clear that “municipal charter schools set a dangerous precedent that could lead to taxpayer funded resegregation.”

A companion funding bill was passed to facilitate the municipal charters under HB 514 by allowing towns to spend local property taxes to fund charter schools without requiring a voter referendum, as previously required by North Carolina law.

The plaintiffs in the current lawsuit charge that these new laws will drain resources from CMS, increase segregation in CMS, create segregated town charter schools, and deny low-income, non-white students equal access to higher-funded schools.

The Role of Charter Schools in School Segregation

This lawsuit is the latest in an emerging trend of litigation under education guarantees in state constitutions challenging states’ use of charter schools to foster segregation. In 2018, the Minnesota Supreme Court allowed a challenge to school segregation in Minneapolis-St. Paul to proceed to trial, noting that segregated schools cannot be “uniform” under that state’s constitution. Plaintiffs in that case charge that the formation of segregated charter schools in those cities and their exemption from desegregation plans play a major role in school segregation.

In February 2020, the New Jersey Supreme Court granted Education Law Center’s petition to review the Commissioner of Education’s approval of the expansion of charter schools in Newark without evaluating the charters’ segregative impact on the district or their negative impact on the educational resources available to students in Newark district schools.

Given the growing body of research documenting the lasting negative effects of segregation on the academic and life outcomes of public school students and a history of lax or almost no regulation by states over their charter school programs, these lawsuits seek to hold states accountable to ensure charter schools authorized by their laws do not undermine or jeopardize students’ rights to education under state constitutions.

Wendy Lecker is a Senior Attorney at Education Law Center

Press Contact:
Sharon Krengel
Policy and Outreach Director
Education Law Center
60 Park Place, Suite 300
Newark, NJ 07102
973-624-1815, ext. 24
skrengel@edlawcenter.org

This article appeared in the New York Times in 2017. It evaluated Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s legacy in high school admission.

Mayor Bloomberg eliminated zoned high schools and instituted a policy of citywide choice. Students could apply to any high school in the city.

This was supposed to reduce racial segregation, but instead it increased it.

Bloomberg, who had sole control of the New York City school system, also increased the number of schools with selective admissions policies.

This too increased the segregation of schools.

Graduation rates are up, but graduation rates are always suspicious since they are easily manipulated and manufactured by devices such as “credit recovery.”

What is certain is that segregation has intensified.

Fourteen years into the system, black and Hispanic students are just as isolated in segregated high schools as they are in elementary schools — a situation that school choice was supposed to ease.

Within the system, there is a hierarchy of schools, each with different admissions requirements — a one-day high-stakes test, auditions, open houses. And getting into the best schools, where almost all students graduate and are ready to attend college, often requires top scores on the state’s annual math and English tests and a high grade point average.

Those admitted to these most successful schools remain disproportionately middle class and white or Asian, according to an in-depth analysis of acceptance data and graduation rates conducted for The New York Times by Measure of America, an arm of the Social Science Research Council. At the same time, low-income black or Hispanic children like the ones at Pelham Gardens are routinely shunted into schools with graduation rates 20 or more percentage points lower.

While top middle schools in a handful of districts groom children for competitive high schools that send graduates to the Ivy League, most middle schools, especially in the Bronx, funnel children to high schools that do not prepare them for college.

The roots of these divisions are tangled and complex. Students in competitive middle schools and gifted programs carry advantages into the application season, with better academic preparation and stronger test scores. Living in certain areas still comes with access to sought-after schools. And children across the city compete directly against one another regardless of their circumstances, without controls for factors like socioeconomic status.

Ultimately, there just are not enough good schools to go around. And so it is a system in which some children win and others lose because of factors beyond their control — like where they live and how much money their families have.

Choice does not solve the problem of scarcity. Instead of concentrating on increasing the number of good schools, Bloomberg focused on choice.

Each year, about 160 children from Pelham Gardens join the flood of 80,000 eighth graders applying for the city’s public high schools. The field on which they compete is enormous: They have to choose from 439 schools that are further broken up into 775 programs. One program may admit students based on where they live, while another program at the same school may admit only those with strong grades.

The sheer number of choices offers up great possibilities, but it can also make the system maddeningly complex, with so many requirements, open houses, deadlines and portfolios to keep track of. Yaslin Turbides helps middle schoolers apply through the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation, a nonprofit organization in Brooklyn. She said that she and her colleagues called the application system “the beast.”

Rare is a 13-year-old equipped to handle the selection process alone.

The process can become like a second job for some parents as they arm themselves with folders, spreadsheets and consultants who earn hundreds of dollars an hour to guide them. But most families in the public school system have neither the flexibility nor the resources to match that arsenal.

Are Zillow and Realtors Contributing

to School Segregation?

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How do renters or buyers judge the quality of the schools zoned to their prospective homes?

Often it starts not with schools or teachers or students, but with the real estate industry.

Two recent pieces of investigative journalism call attention to a prominent flaw with this system: Realtors and real estate websites alike share assessments that downgrade schools that serve higher percentages of low-income and minority students, while also serving to maintain segregated housing patterns by steering Whites away from districts that serve students of color.

For a series of articles published earlier this month, the Newsday newspaper in Long Island paired testers of different ethnicities and races and had them seek similar homes from the same realtors.

The newspaper found that realtors repeatedly steered White buyers away from school districts enrolling higher percentages of minoritized residents, typically using veiled language. For example, they told White buyers that one community was an area to avoid “school district-wise” or “based on statistics.” Yet that district’s 90 percent Black and Hispanic high school boasted a 96 percent four-year graduation rate and above-average performance compared to the rest of the county.

In a study of the areas investigated by Newsday, NEPC Fellow Amy Stuart Wells, a professor of sociology and education at Teachers College, Columbia University found that a one percent increase in Black/Hispanic enrollment corresponded with a 0.3 percent decrease in home values. In other words, a home worth $415,000 at the time of the study in 2010 would cost $50,000 more in a 30 percent Hispanic/Black district as compared to a 70 percent Hispanic/Black district.

Wells and her team compared two districts with similar housing stocks and socioeconomic backgrounds but different percentages of Black, Hispanic, and White residents. Although Wells said realtors discounted the quality of the schools of the majority Black/Hispanic area, her team found few differences when they actually visited and studied the district.

“There didn’t seem to be a huge difference at all in the curriculum and the quality of the teachers,” she told the newspaper. “So, they [real estate agents] do play an important role in steering people away from certain districts that are becoming more racially, ethnically diverse and less White, in particular.”

An internet-era wrinkle to these longstanding practices was documented and described last week in an article published in the education-focused news site Chalkbeat. The site’s analysis found that school ratings featured on popular real estate sites like Zillow and Realtor.com—ratings assigned by the non-profit corporation called GreatSchools—nudged buyers toward schools with higher percentages of White students by assigning lower ratings to schools with higher percentages of Black and Hispanic students. This happened even when GreatSchools’ own evidence showed that these schools were doing a good job growing the scores of their students.

Specifically, although student’s test score growth is also considered, it’s worth a much smaller share of a school’s “grade” than proficiency, a factor that greatly penalizes schools serving students with fewer opportunities to learn due to societal inequalities outside the realm of the school.

More than that, the GreatSchools algorithm is overwhelmingly about these test scores, largely ignoring other factors of school quality. Rather than assessing the degree to which all students are provided opportunities to learn, test results tabulate outcomes that are profoundly influenced by the unequal opportunities and resources offered to White students versus students of color.

Alternative approaches are available, but they require us to truly and deeply learn about the school. Superficial measures like those used by GreatSchools and its real estate customers must be set aside. One example of such an alternative approach is NEPC’s Schools of Opportunityrecognition program for high schools, which uses a holistic assessment of school quality. The application and evaluation processes consider how these schools are broadening and enriching learning opportunities, creating and maintaining a healthy school culture, and implementing a variety of research-based approaches that close opportunity gaps.

Yet it is the GreatSchools ratings that are viewed by 150 million users of real estate software per year. And there’s evidence that it’s having an effect: A recent study found that property values in areas with a high GreatSchools rating increased by nearly $7,000 over three years, furthering the discriminatory real estate cycle that has always existed in the United States.

This newsletter is made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu

Copyright 2019 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

Bethlehem School Superintendent Joseph Roy spoke candidly about charters and race and expected he had struck a hornets’ nest. 

He said in a public forum, not for the first time, “that some parents send their kids to charters so they won’t have to go to school with “kids coming from poverty or kids with skin that doesn’t look like theirs.”

Roy is among many superintendents, including Allentown’s Thomas Parker, who are calling for state officials to overhaul the charter school system because of the cost to school districts, which pay tuition for students who enroll in charters.

The Bethlehem Area School District expects to spend more than $30 million this year. Allentown spends about twice as much. Statewide, districts sent $1.8 billion to charters in 2018.

I met with Roy to discuss charter school funding, public accountability and other topics that I may write more about later. He also opened up about the controversy.

It started with his comments at the news conference about why students attend charters. He offered several reasons, including bus transportation, longer school days, specific academic programs and uniform requirements. He also mentioned race.

“The honest fact is, not all, but some parents send their kids from urban districts to charters to avoid having their kids be with kids coming from poverty or kids with skin that doesn’t look like theirs,” Roy said.

Five days later, Saucon Valley School Board President Shamim Pakzad, who enrolls one of his sons in a charter school, called for Roy to resign, though he didn’t mention him by name.

“What they said was ugly, divisive and outside of the boundaries of human decency,” Pakzad said at a school board meeting.

Roy also got backlash from the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools. Parents from several charters demanded an apology.

Others defended Roy, including Bethlehem’s school board and Bethlehem NAACP President Esther Lee. He said he received emails of support from district parents.

I asked Roy why he believes some people don’t want to talk about issues involving race.

“No one wants to be called or viewed as a racist,” he said. “That’s one of the worst things you can say. But then that is used as a defense mechanism to shut down any honest conversation about it.”

Charter schools have varying levels of diversity. Some are made up primarily of minority students, while others are overwhelmingly white. Income levels vary, too.

I was reminded of the time I spoke to the Florida School Boards Association a few years ago. I asked its executive director why students left public schools to attend charter schools. He bluntly said, “They don’t want to go to schools with kids who don’t look like them.”

School choice encourages segregation by race, social class, income, and religion. It takes determination and willpower to overcome segregation.

Valerie Strauss, veteran education writer at the Washington Post, interviewed me about my new book SLAYING GOLIATH. 

Her questions get to the heart of the book. I hope you will read the exchange.

Peter Greene writes that state officials in North Carolina keep getting embarrassed by the facts about their charter schools.

In 2016, when the first report came out, the state sent it back to have the data massaged because it turned out that charters were effectively resegregating the students in the state.

This year, a similar problem arose when it was time to release the annual report.

The charters are highly segregated, and their grades reflect which students enroll in them. (Surprise!)

It is a well-known fact that the demographics of a school predict its test scores.

Charter officials don’t like those facts. They want different facts. They are still trying to find a way to hide the reality of charters.

Greene writes:

North Carolina’s 2020 Annual Charter Schools Report has caused some consternation among members of the state’s Charter Schools Advisory Board (CSAB). They’ve seen the first draft and requested a rewrite, because, well, members of the public might become confused by the information that suggests Bad Things about North Carolina’s charter industry.

This is not the first time the issue has come up. Back in 2016 the Lt. Governor called the report “too negative” and pushed to have it made “more fair.” The report was not substantially changed– just more data added. But in 2016 it still showed that North Carolina’s charter schools mostly serve whiter, wealthier student bodies. This prompted a remarkable explanation:

Darrell Allison, president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, said that fact is simply a reflection of which families are applying to charters.

Well, yes. Education reform in North Carolina has been about crushing the teachers’ unions and teachers themselves,while also being aimed at enabling white flight and accelerating segregation. One might be inclined to deduce that they hope to set up a spiffy private system for whiter, wealthier folks (including a corporate reserve-your-own-seats policy) along with vouchers, while simultaneously cutting the public system to the bone so that wealthy taxpayers don’t have to spend so much educating Those People’s Children. North Carolina has done plenty to earn a spot in the education policy hall of shame, enabled by some of the worst gerrymandering in the country.

But while NC legislators don’t seem to experience much shame over what they do, they sometimes worry about how they look (remember the great bathroom bill boycott of 2017). So now the charter report is going to be carefully whitewashed.

For instance, the report included a section about the racial impact of charter schools. But amid concerns that it might contain “misleading” wording that could be “blown out of proportion,” that section will apparently be removed. Regarding the report, ” I think it doesn’t actually represent what I believe to be true,” said Alex Quigley, chairman of the CSAB. “And given the choice between facts and the stuff I choose to believe, well, my beliefs and our charter marketing should come first.” Okay, I made up the last part, but that first part he totally said.

What data said is that 75% of charter schools have a white student enrollment that is more than 10% “off” from the surrounding district. Well over 50% of charters were off by more than 10% on black enrollment numbers. State law says that charters have to “reasonably reflect” the makeup of the district’s where they are located…

 

 

Matt Barnum and Gabrielle LaMarr LeMee wrote a provocative article  about the way that a private school rating agency rates schools and steers patents toward white affluent schools and away from schools where children of color predominate. Larry Cuban reposted the article on his blog.

GreatSchools ratings effectively penalize schools that serve largely low-income students and those serving largely black and Hispanic students, generally giving them significantly lower ratings than schools serving more affluent and more white and Asian students, a Chalkbeat analysis found.

And yet, according to GreatSchools’ own data, many schools serving low-income, black, and Hispanic populations are doing a good job helping students learn math and English. But those schools still face long odds of getting an above-average rating on GreatSchools — likely because their students are arriving far behind.

The result is a ubiquitous, privately run school ratings system that is steering people toward whiter, more affluent schools. A recent preliminary study found that as the site rolled out an earlier version of its ratings, areas with highly rated schools saw increases in home prices and rises in the number of white, Asian, and better-educated families. After three years, the study found, property values in those areas increased by nearly $7,000, making it more difficult for low-income families to buy into the areas.

Readers of this blog will not be surprised to learn that this rating service is funded in part by rightwing foundations that want to promote school choice and destroy neighborhood schools.  Most notable among the funders is the Walton Family Foundation, which despises public schools and eagerly promote charter schools and vouchers.

Fred Klonsky writes with amazement that Mayor Pete Buttigieg just realized that there are segregated schools in his hometown of South Bend.

He acknowledges that he was slow to come to this realization.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg told Reverend William Barber that he didn’t notice South Bend’s public schools were segregated.

Buttigieg is the mayor of South Bend.

“I have to confess that I was slow to realize — I worked for years under the illusion that our schools in my city were integrated… But what I slowly realized… if you looked at the county, almost all of the diversity of our youths was in a single school district,” Buttigieg said in an interview with Rev. William Barber III.

Yes. “All the diversity of our youths was in a single school district,” is a weird formulation.

But that he didn’t realize that integration was an illusion in his city?

Buttigieg is either a liar or suffers from too common a white blindspot.

In Indiana, more than 70 percent of black students attend a non-white majority school,

In 2015, several South Bend schools showed concentrated black enrollment, inconsistent with county racial realities.

The problem of racial segregation is a statewide problem in Indiana. There is much that is wrong in the Hoosier state, and the legislature doesn’t care.

Indiana doesn’t have a plan to combat segregation but it has a robust school choice program of charters and vouchers.