Archives for category: Segregation

Nikhil Goyal is a prodigy who wrote his first book when he was only a teenager in public high school. Happily, he uses his considerable skills as a researcher to analyze the Trump “billionaire wrecking crew” that is planning to tear down our nation’s public schools.

Donald Trump, a self-described billionaire, wants billionaire heiress Betsy DeVos to take over the Department of Education. These two ultra-rich people have never attended public schools. Nor have they sent their kids to them. Yet they will likely accelerate the bipartisan dismantling of public education as we know it.

Private foundations, billionaires and Wall Street hedge fund managers have funneled billions of dollars either directly into the education system or the political process to influence policy. These groups are often staunch advocates of pro-market policies such as charter schools and school vouchers, which allows parents to send their kids to private schools using public money. DeVos has been described as “the four-star general of the voucher movement”…

Over the past two decades, as members of the ultra-wealthy rightwing DeVos family, Betsy and her husband, Dick, have been discreetly using their immense fortune to underwrite many of the major local and state crusades to privatize public education.

They helped pass Michigan’s first charter school law, pushed a failed Michigan school voucher referendum, helped get hundreds of pro-voucher and charter candidates for public office elected, proliferated charters, weakened teachers unions by advocating for right-to-work legislation in Michigan and warded off a proposed Detroit charter oversight commission in a state where 80% are run for profit with minimal accountability.
There are several flaws with vouchers. Their logic is based on empowering the individual over the state, rather than making systemic changes to funding, curriculum, assessment and teaching to achieve a high-quality, humane and equitable public system for all. Vouchers also siphon funds away from a cash-starved public system.

What’s more, studies have shown that school choice experiments in Chile and Sweden exacerbated existing inequalities. If we are to improve educational outcomes for all children, decades of research show that we must address the miserable social and economic conditions that profoundly affect schools: poverty, homelessness, inadequate healthcare, unsafe drinking water, food insecurity and gun violence. Reformers such as DeVos are not keen on the state redistributing their wealth to cure those ills…

The problem with this is that many charters are deeply segregated, push out low-performing and misbehaving students, and have been accused of “financial fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement” totaling more than $200m in a single 12-month span. Moreover, the Obama administration preserved and expanded Washington DC’s private school voucher program, which was originally launched by former president George W Bush.

DeVos will find many allies across the aisle in Washington, from Senator Cory Booker (who served on the board of the Alliance for School Choice, of which she was chairman) to the Center for American Progress to Democrats for Education Reform. At least she is forthright about gutting public education, as she wrote in an editorial urging to abolish and replace Detroit’s public schools with a free-market system, whereas Democrats hide behind the guise of “civil rights” and “educational opportunity”.

Unfortunately, the Obama years sowed the seeds for DeVos to finish the task. Without well-organized resistance, it will happen.

Carol Burris, veteran educator and executive director of the Network for Public Education, writes here about what the new Trump administration plans to do to American education. She foresees that President Obama’s “Race to the Top” will turn into President Trump’s “Race to the Bank,” as for-profit entrepreneurs find ways to cash in on the education industry. The ultimate goal is the elimination of public schools, which are a cornerstone of a democratic society.

She writes:

The elimination of democratically governed schools is the true agenda of those who embrace choice. The talk of “civil rights” is smoke and mirrors to distract.

The plan on the Trump-Pence website promotes redirecting $20 billion in federal funds from local school districts and instead having those dollars follow the child to the school of their choice — private, charter or public. States that have laws promoting vouchers and charters would be “favored” in the distribution of grants. Like Obama’s Race the Top, the competition for federal funds that states could enter by promising to follow Obama-preferred reforms, a Trump plan could use financial incentives to impose a federal vision on states.

The idea is not novel. Market-based reformers have referred to this for years as “Pell Grants for kids,” or portability of funding.

Portability, vouchers and charter schools have been hallmarks of Pence’s education policy as governor of Indiana. Unlike the Trump-Pence website, which frames choice as a “civil rights” initiative, Governor Pence did not limit vouchers to low-income families. He expanded it to middle-income families and removed the cap on the number of students who can apply.

Pence attacked the funding and status of public education with gusto as governor, following the lead of his predecessor Mitch Daniels:

It was promised that vouchers would result in savings, which then would be redistributed to public schools. What resulted, however, was an unfunded mandate. The voucher program produced huge school spending deficits for the state — a $53 million funding hole during the 2015-16 school year alone. That deficit continues to grow.

The “money follows the student” policy has not only hurt Indiana’s public urban schools, it has also devastated community public schools in rural areas — 63 districts in the Small and Rural Schools Association of Indiana have seen funding reduced, resulting in the possible shutdown of some, even after services to kids are cut to the bone.

In contrast, charters have thrived in Indiana with Pence’s initiatives of taxpayer-funded, low-interest loan, and per-pupil funding for nonacademic expenses. For-profit, not-for-profit and virtual schools are allowed. Scams, cheating scandals and political payback have thrived, as well. Former Indiana education commissioner Tony Bennett was forced to resign as the commissioner of Florida[1] after it was discovered that he had manipulated school rating standards to save an Indiana charter school operated by a big Republican donor who gave generously to Bennett’s campaign.

Burris shows how this kind of untrammeled school choice affected the schools of Chile and Sweden, where the far-right imposed Milton Friedman’s school choice theories. In Chile, the result was hyper segregation of all kinds; in Sweden, rankings on international exams fell. What was left of public schools were filled with the children of the poor.

Burris asks important questions:

Do we want our schools to be governed by our neighbors whom we elect to school boards, or do we want our children’s education governed by corporations that have no real accountability to the families they serve?

Do we to want to build our communities, or fracture them, as neighborhood kids get on different buses to attend voucher schools, or are forced to go to charters because their community public school is now the place that only those without options go?

Do we believe in a community of learners in which kids learn from and with others of different backgrounds, or do we want American schools to become further segregated by race, income and religion?

The most shocking instances of charter school scandal and fraud consistently appear in states that have embraced the choice “market” philosophy. Are we willing to watch our tax dollars wasted, as scam artists and profiteers cash in?

Public schools are not a partisan issue. People of all political parties serve on local school boards.

Trump’s plan is a radical plan, not a conservative plan. Conservatives don’t blow up traditional institutions. Conservatives conserve.

Now is the time for people of good will to stand together on behalf of public schools, democratic governance, and schools that serve the community.

Mercedes Schneider here assembles the themes and details of President-elect Trump’s plans for education, or at least the federal role in education.

It is a nightmare vision, a dystopian vision. It is a vision of privatization, a concept I have been highlighting and exposing day after day as a source of inequity, fraud, graft, and bad education.

Please someone tell Mr. Trump that no high-performing nation in the world has charters and vouchers and for-profit schools and public tuition for home-schooling. Tell him that the two nations that embraced privatization–Sweden and Chile–now regret it. They saw increased segregation, not better education.

In Trump world, school choice is the answer to every education issue.

Too bad there is no evidence for his vision. Too bad for our public schools. Too bad for our kids. Too bad for our future.

We can’t let this happen. Parents, students, teachers, administrators, local school boards, state school boards: we have to stand together to defend what belongs to us. We must protect the commons.

Public schools under democratic control are part of our heritage as Americans. Conservatives don’t destroy traditional institutions. Conservatives conserve. Anarchists blow up neighborhood schools. Not conservatives. Nihilists destroy what belongs to all of us. Stand and argue. Resist.

Robin Darling Young, a native of Hampton, Virginia, writes in Commonweal magazine about the frightening possibility that Trump has rekindled the spirit of white nationalism and race hatred that she knew so well in her youth.

“To comprehend fully the anarchic spectacle of Donald Trump—a show unhindered by the guiding political and religious institutions of the United States—it helps to have been a young white woman growing up a half century ago, as I did, inside the border of the Old Confederacy. In my Tidewater hometown of Hampton, Virginia, democratic hopes were abundant. The twenty years after World War II had seen American progressivism pry open the old Southern social order and force it to admit black Americans. Southern integrationists expected that another generation or two would banish Jim Crow forever, more or less as the scourge of polio had yielded to Salk’s vaccine. Such things were inevitable, after all, like the ever-rising prosperity guaranteed by American industry and empire.

“What the progressives of my girlhood did not foresee was the postindustrial impoverishment of the working class; furthermore, even as the Republicans’ Southern Strategy captured the Old South, those same progressives failed to reckon with the lasting wages of America’s original sin. In time these two phenomena combined with ominous ramification. The crash of 2008 underscored the insecurity of the white working and middle classes, and in the context of this abiding insecurity, Trump’s slogan of “Make America Great Again” now clearly signals its real meaning: bring back white jobs, and with it white male power, to quell the threat of dark-skinned immigrants and the menace of black urban neighborhoods. Like the witch of Endor, Trump has the power to summon America’s undead, in the form of the white nationalists now relabeled the “alt-right.” Seizing the legacy of the new Southern Republicanism rooted in Richard Nixon’s cynical appeal to Dixiecrats, he has reanimated the race-hatred of the Old South.

“The success of Trump’s dog-whistle appeal to race comes as no surprise to someone who observed firsthand the satisfactions that white Southerners took in segregation. In my 1950s childhood, Confederate statues and flags sanctified the landscape throughout the South. My nursery-school class marched, battle-flags clutched in our hands, to commemorate Confederate Memorial Day. My elementary school class watched Gone With The Wind during the Centennial. My Episcopalian parish featured a statue of a Confederate soldier in its graveyard, facing the town’s main street. My second-grade class excursion to Richmond included a devotional visit to Lee’s statue, where we learned that his boots had no spurs because the noble “General Lee would harm neither man nor beast.” At the time Virginia was fighting in vain to hold the line against miscegenation, its bitter defeat inscribed in the Supreme Court’s 1967 landmark ruling in Loving v. Virginia. Four decades after the last lynching in the state in 1926—which occurred after a white woman gave birth to a “mixed” baby and named a black man as the father—racial lines remained clear, and white women and black men knew all too well that they must not touch in public. Yet everyone also knew that the paler, blue-eyed blacks among us had come from precisely such unions….

“Though Donald Trump’s path to victory appears increasingly narrow as the election approaches, his ascendancy to the Republican nomination—boosted by his coded segregationist rhetoric—has left a mark on American politics. Even if he loses, he’s emboldened the dormant monster of white supremacy, in part by nurturing a pernicious lie that played to white resentment at the election of a black president. Assessing the significance of Trump’s appeal, John Cassidy, writing in The New Yorker, warned of a “long-term Trumpian movement —a nationalist, nativist, protectionist, and authoritarian movement that will forever be associated with him, but which also has the capacity to survive beyond him.” While Trump himself might lack the discipline of a serious candidate, Cassidy reasoned, another leader could arise in four or eight years to lead a movement like the Know Nothings of the 1840s or the America First Committee of the 1930s.”

We have been warned.

Steven Rosenfeld, writing at Salon, notes that both the Washington Post and the New York Times warned the NAACP not to pass the resolution to halt the expansion of charter schools. Both editorials were condescending and misinformed. Fortunately, the NAACP ignored them and did what was best was kids and American education.

Their editorials were wrong, writes Rosenfeld.

He writes:

The New York Times called the NAACP’s proposal “misguided,” while The Washington Post snidely declared, “Maybe it should do its homework.”

But both newspapers are misguided and uninformed about what the charter school industry is doing to America’s public schools. Their attempt to influence the NAACP board’s vote this weekend reveals that they don’t understand or care to understand how the industry is dominated by corporate franchises with interstate ambitions to privatize K-12 schools.

What do the drafters of the NAACP resolution understand that these editorial boards do not? They know that the charter industry was the creation of some of the wealthiest billionaires in America, from the Walton family heirs of the Walmart fortune, to Microsoft’s Bill Gates, to Eli Broad, Michael Bloomberg, Reed Hastings, Mark Zuckerberg and others, including hedge fund investors. These billionaires have pumped billions into creating a new privatized school system where those running schools can profit and evade government oversight. These very rich Americans aren’t trying to fix traditional public schools, but create a parallel, privately run system that’s operating in a separate and unequal world inside local school districts.

He adds:

How separate and unequal is the charter world? Their most antidemocratic accomplishment may be destroying the tradition of local control over schools by allowing private charter school boards to replace locally elected and appointed officials. These boards do not have to be composed of district residents, don’t have to hold open meetings, don’t have to bid or disclose contracts, and do not have to publicly reveal much of anything about their operations. As a result, privatizers have been able to tap into more than $4 billion in taxpayer subsidies in recent years, of which at least $200 million has been misspent or vanished in a spectrum of self-dealing scandals documented by public interest groups and investigative reporters in every state where charter schools exist.

The Times, at least, admits that there have been problems with poorly functioning charters. Trying to sound reasonable, the editorial cites a respected Stanford University study saying better charters have had good academic results, even though the opposite has happened in cities like Detroit, where half the students attend “significantly worse” charters. They cite demand from parents as evidence that the schools must be working, not mentioning the industry’s marketing routinely trashes traditional K-12 schools. And they say it’s disingenuous for the NAACP to claim charters have reintroduced segregation, because many inner cities are predominately non-white….

The Times and The Post fail to see the charter school industry for what it is — a privatization juggernaut. It receives massive funding from the richest Americans, who incorrectly blame traditional schools for not solving poverty. It benefits from seductive marketing that goes unquestioned, with major media often acting as its propaganda wing. In too many communities, charters present a false hope, as many local activists and parent groups have found. Scarce funds are redirected from traditional schools, students are cherry-picked as communities are roiled and divided, and better educational outcomes are not guaranteed.

Why are the Times and the Post both indifferent to the dangers of privatizing our nation’s public schools? Why do they think it is naive and unreasonable to insist on charter school accountability?

I was in the U.S. Department of Education when the idea of charter schools was first floated. The idea, at the time, was that they would gain autonomy in exchange for accountability. Now they get autonomy with no accountability. The NAACP thinks that is wrong. Public money should be accompanied by public accountability, not by freedom from any accountability at all.

The national board of the NAACP endorsed the resolution passed by its 2016 annual convention calling for a moratorium on charter school expansion!

So-called reformers, who falsely claim to be in alliance with the civil rights movement, should read the resolution with care. They should stop closing schools, they should abandon privatization, they should turn their efforts and money to helping improve public schools. They should help to foster desegregated schools and communities. They should insist on health care facilities and fully funded services at every school. They should support social justice for all children and families, not privatization of public services, which generates segregation and inequity.

Here is the statement of the national board of the NAACP:


October 15, 2016

CINCINNATI – Members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Board of Directors ratified a resolution Saturday adopted by delegates at its 2016 107th National Convention calling for a moratorium on charter school expansion and for the strengthening of oversight in governance and practice.

“The NAACP has been in the forefront of the struggle for and a staunch advocate of free, high-quality, fully and equitably-funded public education for all children,” said Roslyn M. Brock, Chairman of the National NAACP Board of Directors. “We are dedicated to eliminating the severe racial inequities that continue to plague the education system.”

The National Board’s decision to ratify this resolution reaffirms prior resolutions regarding charter schools and the importance of public education, and is one of 47 resolutions adopted today by the Board of Directors. The National Board’s decision to ratify supports its 2014 Resolution, ‘School Privatization Threat to Public Education’, in which the NAACP opposes privatization of public schools and public subsidizing or funding of for-profit or charter schools. Additionally, in 1998 the Association adopted a resolution which unequivocally opposed the establishment and granting of charter schools which are not subject to the same accountability and standardization of qualifications/certification of teachers as public schools and divert already-limited funds from public schools.

We are calling for a moratorium on the expansion of the charter schools at least until such time as:
(1) Charter schools are subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools

(2) Public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system

(3) Charter schools cease expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate and

(4) Cease to perpetuate de facto segregation of the highest performing children from those whose aspirations may be high but whose talents are not yet as obvious.

Historically the NAACP has been in strong support of public education and has denounced movements toward privatization that divert public funds to support non-public school choices.

“We are moving forward to require that charter schools receive the same level of oversight, civil rights protections and provide the same level of transparency, and we require the same of traditional public schools,” Chairman Brock said. “Our decision today is driven by a long held principle and policy of the NAACP that high quality, free, public education should be afforded to all children.”

While we have reservations about charter schools, we recognize that many children attend traditional public schools that are inadequately and inequitably equipped to prepare them for the innovative and competitive environment they will face as adults. Underfunded and under-supported, these traditional public schools have much work to do to transform curriculum, prepare teachers, and give students the resources they need to have thriving careers in a technologically advanced society that is changing every year. There is no time to wait. Our children immediately deserve the best education we can provide.

“Our ultimate goal is that all children receive a quality public education that prepares them to be a contributing and productive citizen,” said Adora Obi Nweze, Chair of the National NAACP Education Committee, President of the Florida State Conference of the NAACP and a former educator whose committee guides educational policy for the Association.

“The NAACP’s resolution is not inspired by ideological opposition to charter schools but by our historical support of public schools – as well as today’s data and the present experience of NAACP branches in nearly every school district in the nation,” said Cornell William Brooks, President and CEO of the NAACP. “Our NAACP members, who as citizen advocates, not professional lobbyists, are those who attend school board meetings, engage with state legislatures and support both parents and teachers.”

“The vote taken by the NAACP is a declaratory statement by this Association that the proliferation of charter schools should be halted as we address the concerns raised in our resolution,” said Chairman Brock.


Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities. You can read more about the NAACP’s work and our six “Game Changer” issue areas here.

Mercedes Schneider has written a book every summer for three years in a row, during her break from teaching high school English. Thomas Ultican reviews her latest book, School Choice: The End of Public Education?

The book traces school choice to libertarian economists Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman. Mercedes shows the centrality of school choice to the segregationist diehards in the South in the 1950s and 1960s.

There is a terrible irony in the fact that today’s advocates of school choice claim to be fighting for civil rights when they are promoting racial segregation. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., would not have allowed them to get away with this deceptive rhetoric.

Ultican notes that school choice has encouraged not only racial segregation, but class segregation as well. He tells this anecdote:

“Around 2003, a friend tried to convince my wife and I to send our daughter to High Tech High. This mother did not want her daughter to be exposed to all those bad influences at Mira Mesa High School. Mira Mesa High School is a quality school that graduates amazingly gifted students every year and sets them on to a course of academic and social success. But the new charter school that Bill Gates and Irwin Jacobs had put so much money into surely would not have all those feared “bad kids.””

Schneider’s book is the go-to book to understand the current vogue for vouchers and charters, as well as public ignorance of the ways that charter operators scam public funds. The most lucrative angle is in real estate; the charter operator buys the building, rents it to his charter school, charges double the going rate, and passes the bill to taxpayers.

Ultican urges you to buy the book, read it, and share it with friends.

Plaintiffs in Arkansas sued to block the state takeover of Little Rock public schools. Plaintiffs argued that the expansion of charters was racially discriminatory because the public schools are predominantly black, and the charters are predominantly white. The judge rejected their request.

“The plaintiffs, led by civil rights lawyer John Walker, had sought to reverse both the takeover of the LRSD and the granting of permission to Little Rock charter schools to expand their student populations. The suit named as defendants the state Board of Education (which gave final authorization to the takeover and the charter expansions), Education Commissioner Johnny Key and the Arkansas Department of Education. Marshall said the plaintiffs had failed to make a case against the state, though the school district itself must still face a trial on the merits of a complaint about unfairness in facilities.”

The plaintiffs didn’t prove that the plan was intended to cause segregation, even though it did.

In his decision, the judge wrote:

“And there’s no real question about disproportionate effect: more than 65 percent of LRSD students are black; a majority of the dissolved Board was black; and the students at the growing charter schools in Little Rock are (to generalize) whiter and wealthier than LRSD’s students. But the settled precedent is clear; discriminatory effects alone are insufficient to show discriminatory intentions.

“What’s missing are pleaded facts that show the intention to discriminate based on race, that show foul thoughts becoming harmful actions.”

So much for “saving poor kids from failing schools.” How about “opening segregation academies with state funding for affluent white kids?”

In a warning to the people of Massachusetts and Georgia, this parent in Red Bank, New Jersey, explains her community’s fight against a charter school that has drained resources from the town’s public school and increased segregation by luring mostly white students.

She writes:

Many years ago, a small group of Red Bank parents started talking about how upset they were that the Red Bank Borough schools were terribly underfunded and terribly segregated, mostly due to the charter school in our small town.

For years, a group of us did our best to ignore the negative effects the Red Bank Charter School was having on our schools and community. We hoped these effects would go away, and magically we would be properly funded and less segregated. We worked tirelessly on fundraising, asking for community support (for arts, music, etc.) and doing our own recruiting of parents to help even out the segregation issue.

But as time went on, evidence of the negative effects caused by the charter school continued to present themselves — whether it was in annual cuts to our school programs, broken friendships and neighborhoods, or simply being exposed to class pictures from the mostly white charter school.

I tried to turn the other cheek and focus on our schools and making them better. I became highly involved in the Parent Teacher Organization and worked with state politicians on our arts programs and underfunding.

Success was achieved. We restored our string instruments program with the help of our superintendent and many community partners. We also maintained our valuable elective classes such as Chinese, AVID (college-prep) and Project Lead the Way (engineering). We were making great strides through the leadership of our very smart administration, involved parents and community.

Then everything came to a head last year when the charter school asked to expand. We were faced with the already existing negative effects multiplying — less funding, deeper segregation. Our community was floored. But we pulled together to block the expansion. As we did, we had a chance to educate our larger community even more about the negative effects the charter school has on our district.

It was like unpeeling an onion, one layer at a time, and examining the funding model, segregation, student academic achievement, programming, budgeting, school communications, and more. And with each layer, we became more and more astounded and shocked. The data supported our deepest fears: We were indeed living in the most segregated neighborhood in New Jersey — yes, our “hip town,” our cool little town of Red Bank, the same Red Bank that Smithsonian magazine, The New York Times and many others have written about as one of the best small towns in America. The data and information we uncovered was the dirty little secret that creeped below the headlines.

Jeff Bryant writes here about a well-known phenomenon: School choice promotes self-segregation.

Donald Trump and the entire Republican party supports school choice.

The irony is that Secretary of Education John King, like Arne Duncan before him, also promotes school choice and believes that it will open opportunities to children of color. As Bryant shows, school choice has the opposite effect. The most advantaged families get the best choices. The least advantaged do not.

Mercedes Schneider recently wrote a book titled School Choice: The End of Public Education?, which documents that school choice was the central strategy of those who wanted to preserve racial segregation in the 1950s and 1960s.

In addition, there is international evidence that choice programs will exacerbate segregation, unless there is an effort to “control” choice by giving larger subsidies to disadvantaged children or limiting the enrollment of certain groups in the most desirable schools.