Thursday, March 22, 2012

Charter schools and their segregating effect

Last week, the NY Times ran a very eloquent oped by a Brooklyn parent entitled How Charter Schools Can Hurt, pointing out how the aggressive marketing of a Success Academy charter outside her neighborhood public school could very well lead to her school to suffer even more budget cuts, and become less racially and economically diverse, as white middle class parents choose to enroll their children in the charter school instead. 
In response, a parent and an employee of the Success Academy chain wrote a letter, apparently to the applicants to their new Brooklyn charters, that was subsequently posted on our NYC Education List serv.  His letter claimed, among other things, that the charter school his children attend, Upper West Success Academy, “is among the most socio-economic and racially diverse schools in the entire city.”  His letter evokes several concerns.  First of all, If Upper West Success charter is so diverse, why didn’t he include any data about its racial/ethnic breakdown in his letter?
At the forum last fall called Miseducation Nation, sponsored by FAIR, I noted how in Brooklyn public schools in particular there has been a tremendously valuable trend towards integration, as neighborhoods are slowly being gentrified, and white parents are choosing to send their children to predominantly minority schools.  This growing trend should be encouraged and nurtured by DOE; instead, they continually undermine it by forcibly co-locating new schools in their buildings, many of them charters, causing these public schools to lose their most attractive qualities, including valuable programs and small class sizes, due to loss of space.
Also, the DOE’s expansion of charters and other schools of “choice” too often have led white parents to opt out of their neighborhood school for these new schools that tend to be less diverse.  Cindy Black, a Brooklyn parent, wrote about how a new district school of “choice” led to her child’s public school to become more segregated on our blog here.
In any case, there is little doubt that charter schools have had a segregating impact nationally.  The UCLA civil rights project revealed this trend in a comprehensive report in 2010.  John Hechinger at Bloomberg News, who just won a prize for his education reporting, has written about this cogently as well.   The NAACP has issued a resolution against the expansion of charters, in part because of their segregating effect.
See also the support of the KKK for charter schools, in a response to Hechinger’s article:
Parents have been given a choice as to where to send their children and without government interference, many have selected schools with a student population that reflects the race of those children.  In addition, many of these schools satisfy the children’s longing to identify with their racial history by incorporating cultural studies relating to their ethnicity.  There is nothing wrong with this, yet some think it is terrible. In fact, the majority of people prefer to be around others who are like them.  Even those who enjoy international travel and experiencing other cultures still, for the most part, live the rest of their life among those of similar racial background.  Why does this make some social engineers so angry? It is only natural. Each race should have the right to determine their [sic own affairs without interference.  This is why homogeneous nations are good for world peace. Everyone needs their own space.  And parents who choose charter schools for their children based upon this fact are doing so instinctually [sic] and its [sic] healthy for their families.
Finally, in his letter, the Success Academy parent and employee made the following statement, oft repeated by conservative free marketers:
 “….all parents should have access to and benefit from the resources and facilities that are paid for by our tax dollars.  All of our children should have the same rights to access these resources, facilities, and yes, lunchrooms, regardless of whether they attend charter schools or traditional public schools.
Does that argument also apply to private or parochial schools?  Should the operators of Spence or the Catholic diocese be able to lay claim to public school space because the parents of the students who attend their schools also pay taxes?  This is a very radical and dangerous notion indeed.


WAGPOPS said...

There's a significant danger to all of our public schools with Success Academy's marketing. Success Academy's removal of "at risk" admissions priority allows them to toss aside the false rhetoric of providing options to children in neighborhoods with so-called failing schools.

Marketing to neighborhood families where the schools are doing well reveals the REAL motive behind privately managed schools like Success Academy and the next wave of "fauxgressive" schools - to poach motivated families, ensure their high test scores and systematically dismantle real public education.

In D14, we want all of our kids in school together. We don't want Success Academy. We don't want Citizens of the World Charter Schools. We want REAL progressive choices WITHIN our public schools, not through privately managed schools. We want ALL of our schools to be successful with the support of the DoE and the community.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I couldn't agree more. Give me progressive choices within the public school. Can I please have a local middle school and high school to send my kid to, without having to go around the entire city looking for one? Finally, will the Bloomberg nightmare ever end or are we looking at mayoral control for the next mayor?

Robert D. Skeels * rdsathene said...

Open Letter to Mr. Suchanek of Harlem Success Academy

Mr. Mike Suchanek of Harlem Success Academy:

I am a widely published social justice writer from Los Angeles, although I was born in Huntington, Long Island. I have the privilege of being a contributor to the renowned Schools Matter site alongside education luminaries like Professor Stephen Krashen, Professor Jim Horn, Professor P.L. Thomas, Susan Ohanian, and others.

As you must know Real Reform Studios has produced an informative short film entitled "Los Sures fights against Success Academy Charter School." I found it so compelling that I posted it to Schools Matter:

I am going to be writing a long essay regarding the social justice perspective on Harlem Success Academy (HSA) for publication soon.

To balance the article I am looking for the right-wing perspective on both HSA and the lucrative charter-voucher industry in general. When someone showed me your "Dear Cobble Hill Parents" letter, I realized you espoused those right-wing views, and would provide the perfect counterpoint to the perspective of my article. It's clear from your letter that you wholeheartedly support paternalism, white privilege, cultural sterilization, and corporate profiteering. I want to provide you an opportunity to make your case for the corporate colonialism that epitomizes HSA, and the wider neoliberal project of charter schools, to a wider audience.

You can either provide me an essay that I can include in my piece, or I can send you a list of questions to answer. Your call, but I know it will be great to have someone like you, who passionately supports the "choice" fantasies of Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman, versus my passionate support of equity in public education. This is your chance to show the world that Eva Moskovitz has at least one supporter!

Please let me know right away, otherwise I'll have to contact another charter school supporter like Ann Coulter, to fill this role.

Advocating public education and social justice

Robert D. Skeels

PS: I noticed the HSA website features an Op-Ed by Stanley Crouch in which he attacks the highly regarded Professor Cornel West for his support of public education. Aside from the irony of Crouch using the word buffoonery for anyone besides himself, there's more to the self-colonized, self-hating Crouch than you may know. For example, were you aware that Crouch is by most accounts the the inspiration for Aaron McGruder's Uncle Ruckus character?