After reading The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates published in The Atlantic May 21, 2014, I began to ponder that the information supports why most black and brown parents support charter schools in Philadelphia and other urban communities. Despite the data (Stanford report) that continues to support that charter schools perform the same or even worse than traditional public schools, more and more charter operators are opening or taking over buildings in urban centers across the country. In order to fully understand the phenomenon one must look beyond corporate intentions.
The charter school movement has been compared to the mortgage debacle that led to the 2008 financial crash. These predatory lending practices were inherently racist but continued to thrive despite the Fair Housing Act. Charter schools are also usually advertised to communities that have been plagued with poor schools for decades as the secret weapon to graduation rates and safety. The problem is they are usually mired in misappropriation of funds, poor working conditions for teachers, and test prep driven curricula. And many of them are the pathway for brown and black children to be the first generation to attend college. Now that sounds amazing if you do not realize that many of the charter schools have little to no data to support just how many students actually graduate from higher education they all simply boast how many colleges their high school seniors have been accepted to . The latest percentage of college graduates that reside in Philadelphia County was 20%.
Articles that attempt to understand and analyze the charter school movement tend to forget that it is not only poor families that flock to sign their children up. Middle school families that could not get their children into the few magnet schools or afford private options also research and prefer some charters over traditional public schools for reasons that are not always discussed. All families seek a school where their child can be successful and safe. This need is two hundred fold in minority households. Brown and Black children are always told that they must hold themselves to a higher standard in order to be successful, and that can feel impossible when there already exists a have and have not hierarchy in existing public schools and fewer and fewer spaces in preferred school environments.
Historically, very few education writers include 250 years of slavery, 90 years of Jim Crow, 60 years of separate but equal, and 35 years of racist housing policies in the same sentence as eroding public education or the corporate agenda. The laws may have changed but the racist attitudes and sentiments that supported those laws are still present. Remember the gutting of the Voting Act that occurred on the same day as the passing of the Marriage Equality Act. The teaching workforce continues to not attract and keep enough minorities or males. This is yet one more reason that charter schools appeal to brown and black families. Many of the CAOs/CEOs and staff of smaller charter school operators have a higher percentage of minorities on staff and in administration. On the other hand, larger operators usually replicate the low minority staff of the school district at large and are still just as popular.
As the truth continues to come out about charter schools and what is actually occurring, the numbers of families selecting them continues to remain steady. Especially in communities that are high minority or high poverty.
For this reason effective oversight (every 5 years not 10) must continue for charters and research and data must provide a transparent picture of what is actually occurring in the classrooms.
Charter schools founded by minorities for minorities also include a curriculum that celebrates and acknowledges a variety of cultures that makes all of the children feel more included and empowered to participate in the greater society where many of them are rendered invisible.
In order to create schools and school districts that completely function without the tendrils of corporate reform and entrepreneurial privatization, American society must recognize its compounding moral debt when it comes to race and segregation in American neighborhoods (read here). The push for urban schools to be less segregated cannot occur without understanding there was a time when it aggressively was being fought and now it is not. There are reasons for that. And fully understand that poor and middle class, Black and Brown families are simply attempting to create their own version of good schooling that works best for their children in a society that is not always welcoming or willing to review its historical contribution to the current state of public education. By continually shutting people out they have sought refuge elsewhere and similar to colonization it does not always benefit brown and black children and families.