Editor’s note: Jim Griffin is president of the Colorado League of Charter Schools
In the recent EdNews blog post, Charters and demographic stratification, Kevin Welner points out a new study from CU-Boulder that compares the demographics of schools operated by Education Management Organizations (EMOs) with their local school districts. The report claims findings of “extensive” segregation in these schools.
First, the Colorado League of Charter Schools takes issue with the use of the term “segregation” when referring to school choice. Segregation is a toxic term associated with governmentally sanctioned, “forced” segregation of another era. The segregation that occurred in our nation’s past was deliberate policy designed to limit public school access. By contrast, charter schools and public school choice provide parents and children an opportunity to increase educational opportunities that have been traditionally unavailable.
Second, the League put the CU-Boulder data to the test by performing its own informal study. We compared EMO-managed charter schools in Colorado with similar, non-charter, neighborhood schools, and with the district.
After backing out online charters, and one operated out of a correctional facility, our data relates to five (5) EMOs and twelve (12) charter schools across multiple districts and communities. Some of these neighborhoods are high minority and low income, while others more white and middle class. In the end, the data contradicts the study’s claim of “extensive” segregation. On the contrary, it reveals that Colorado’s EMO-managed charter schools look more like the district than the neighborhood schools with respect to the percent of minority students they serve.
Parents are demanding higher-quality public school options for their children and rightfully so. Just last week, the Denver Post revealed that of the Colorado students who graduate high school and go onto college, nearly one in three require remedial classes. This doesn’t even touch on the numerous other students (many of whom are minorities) who fall through the system completely and drop out. This is exactly why Colorado charter schools got in the business of providing ALL students, regardless of race or any other factor, a chance at a better education and a better life.
Over the past 16 years, charter schools have proven that there is another option when it comes to public education. Charters have created choice and competition in the public school market – and are showing positive results. Unfortunately, naysayers who want public education to remain exclusively in the hands of those currently operating the system – the status quo–pull out all the stops when trying to convince the public to steer away from better school options for their students, even if it means using emotionally charged terms such as “segregation.”
As Americans we demand choice and snub monopolies when it comes to selecting doctors, automobiles, and grocery stores. Yet when we want to shop for the best public school option for our children – we are criticized. To insinuate that minorities should pass up quality education options for their children if a school’s demographics are too black or too white sounds like some confused priorities.
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