Charter schools are often touted as labs for novel approaches to education, but one of these innovations isn't so new at all. The Civil Rights Project at UCLA today released a report showing that charter schools have become bastions for racial re-segregation.
The racial segregation cuts both ways. In certain states with high minority populations -- in the West and South in particular -- the composition of charter schools is overwhelmingly white. In other places, it is primarily black or Latino. And because these schools operate independently of state school districts, they are more free to skirt guidelines for racial and economic diversity.
The Civil Rights Project suggests turning to magnet schools for the specialized approaches to education currently offered by charter schools. But it's an incomplete recommendation: Magnet schools function just like charter schools, but operate within the purview of school districts -- and draw on their students. There is no guarantee that they will draw a representative sample of the district's students. So unless school districts make it an active goal to ensure a diverse student body, they just become segregated charter schools with an institutional blessing.
Personally, I have never understood why specialized educational initiatives can't be implemented as programs at public schools. My high school, on the U.S.-Mexico border, was plagued by many of the problems that school districts serving high-immigrant, low-income students face (35 percent ELL learners, low college grad rate). And yet the school offered the International Baccalaureate program, allowing nerds like me to get the specialized education we needed without having to be shipped off to another school.
-- Gabriel Arana
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