Since the 1990s, charter schools have sprung up across America. Set up by non-profit groups such as parents, teachers and universities, they receive public money but are freed from certain rules and regulations, possessing greater autonomy than regular state schools. They two vital things: choice and competition. However, they have been criticized in a recent UCLA Civil Rights Project report for the racial segregation that they cause.
Original critics of charter schools worried that they would ‘cream off’ the brightest, more wealthy and predominantly white students. However, this never happened. 54% of charter school pupils qualify for free or reduced lunches, and black students account for 32% of charter school enrollment: twice their share of enrollment in regular public schools. Throughout the USA, ethnic minorities and low earners have been moving their children into charter schools. Dissatisfied by the one currently handed to them by the state, parents have been seeking to give their child a better education. Because of this, the concentration of particular ethnicities has risen. The UCLA’s study found that 70% of black charter students are in schools where over 90% of the student population is non-white- in comparison to only 36% black pupils in regular public schools.
According to UCLA this is a cause for concern. Professor Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project insists that "the vision of a successfully integrated society…ought to be a defining characteristic of charter schools. Federal policy should make this a condition for charter school support”.This type of political posturing is not only infuriating but potentially damaging. Studies show that charter schools have been very successful in helping minority students. As many charter schools cater to their local community, the ethnic mix of pupils often reflects racially exclusive neighborhoods, not prejudice.
Threatening a school’s future just because they cannot attract the right mix of skin tones would be far from progressive, and would hinder those who require a decent education the most. Interfering in charter schools through politically motivated and discriminatory legislation undermines the very concept of an autonomous place of learning. charter schools should continue to focus on providing quality teaching to whoever walks through their door regardless of colour; their job is education, not integration.