Racial Divide Grows with Charter Schools Across the Country

By Jorge Rivas Feb 05, 2010

The Los Angeles Unified School District has more charters schools than any other school district in the country. Charter schools in L.A tend to serve underrepresented communities which are often either Black, Latino or Asian. This results in schools whose enrollments are largely monoracial. You can find similar scenarios across the country, for example, in Texas, the typical Black charter-school student attends a campus where nearly 3 in 4 students also are Black. A new report from the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, "Choice Without Equity: Charter School Segregation and the Need for Civil Rights Standards," found that charter schools stratify students by race, class, and possibly language, and are more racially isolated than traditional public schools in virtually every state and large metropolitan area in the country. The LA Times notes there are nuances that underlie the data used in the report:

Locally based ICEF Public Schools grew out of an after-school and summer program in a predominantly black neighborhood. Its early families included many middle-class blacks, many of whom sent their children to parochial or other private schools. ICEF brought them into or back to public education. Word of mouth spread, and the organization continued to serve virtually all-black enrollments — even as Latino families increased in the neighborhood and as ICEF expanded beyond predominantly black enclaves. Parent Kawana Midgette, a human resources specialist, considers the black enrollment a bonus at View Park Preparatory Accelerated Charter Middle School; it helps instill strong engagement with black culture and history, she said.

While the study does not address these nuances, it does offers recommendations we should consider because the Obama Administration has promoted charter schools as a central component of educational reform. The report’s recommendations for restoring equity provisions and integration in charter schools, include establishing new guidance and reporting requirements by the Federal government; federal funding opportunities for magnet schools, which have a documented legacy of reducing racial isolation and improving student outcomes; and incorporating some features of magnet schools into charter schools. Regardless of what side of the debate you fall on, we have to look at these questions and ask ourselves whether charter schools are a truly a good choice for our communities. Read the entire report by visiting UCLA’s Civil Rights Project.