Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Separate... But Equal?

Separate... But Equal?

Happy Black History Month - Did you know that schools are more segregated now than they were back in the 60's when whites and colors had to use different drinking fountains? Oh, sadly, it's true.

America’s schools are more segregated now than they were in the late 1960s. More than 50 years after Brown v. Board of Education, we need to radically rethink the meaning of “school choice.”

So much depends on a yellow bus, winding its way across the North Carolina landscape.

For decades, this was how Wake County integrated its schools. Buses would pick up public school students in largely minority communities along the Raleigh Beltline; in affluent Cary, a Raleigh suburb; in dozens of small towns and unincorporated communities around this fast growing state capital.

Most of the students would travel to schools not far from home. But every year, a few would cross the county to a new school, in a neighborhood very different from their own.

The system won Wake County praise from many integration advocates — but locally, people were less enchanted. In late 2008, a wave of anti-busing sentiment swept in new school board members who promised to support neighborhood schools and keep kids closer to home.


Today, one-third of black students attend school in places where the black population is more than 90 percent. A little less than half of white students attend schools that are more than 90 percent white. One-third of all black and Latino students attend high-poverty schools (where more than 75 percent of students receive free or reduced lunch); only 4 percent of white children do.

Things have been better, and not so long ago. In 1990 more than 40 percent of black students in the South were attending majority-white schools. Today, fewer than 30 percent of students do — roughly the same percentage as in the late 1960s, when many districts were still refusing to implement 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education.

I highly advise reading the whole article. It's really pretty good. But isn't it pretty sad and shocking that American schools are more segregated today than they were at the time of Brown v. Board? Fuuuuuuuuuuuuck.

Generally speaking, Charter schools are the new shit for minorities and many of them are very heavily segregated. They are also great ways to funnel huge amounts of money more or less directly into private hands, though some of them are run honestly.

Over all, the fundamental problem with charters is that their central premise is contradictory and impossible. A charter school is supposed to be a public school with additional possibility to experiment and break from restrictive school boards and teachers' union contracts to get better education outcomes (note how the very language I'm framing this in sees education as a service-commodity). So they are supposed to be subject to more direct local control with less political interference.

The problem is that the reason we have school boards is to centralize all the back-office work of payroll, logistics, accounting, and administration. And small charter schools cannot sustain themselves and their own back-office operations without consolidating into larger charter companies.

So at the end of the day they get reorganized under the various large charter management companies that are springing up, and you have all the problems that theory posits is associated with school boards - but now these school boards are not subject to local political control but are instead regional or nationwide for-profit or nonprofit (not that that makes a difference: the NFL is a nonprofit organization) corporations. So you lose all accountability.

If you look at who sits on the boards of most charter schools, there might be a handful of prominent locals (sometimes church leaders or more often real estate developers) and then the rest of the board will be employees of the charter management organization. Frequently these are used as ways to goldbrick, double-bill, or simply impose the will of the management organization on the in-name independent charter school.

Ironically enough even the national organization representing charter management companies is aware of the huge problems facing its industry: there is massive corruption and graft, which usually becomes most pronounced in GED and special ed programs where usually management companies will spend maybe a third of their per-student allocation on education and pocket the rest.

But hey, maybe it's pretty "cool" that we're dismantling the public education system, supposedly the backbone of a democratic society...

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