- Mississippi’s first rural charter school was founded to promote a college-bound mindset and address historically “abysmal educational outcomes” for area students, according to The Hechinger Report.
- But the opening of Clarksdale Collegiate last school year was met with strong opposition from local parents, educators and school board members, who joined forces with the Southern Poverty Law Center in an attempt to overturn the state’s charter school law. Previous iterations of school choice in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education had propagated school segregation and left local public schools destitute, they argued.
- The local debate in Clarksdale is reminiscent of the national discussion surrounding charter schools and school choice.
Education policy has come a long way since the days of Brown v. Board of Education, but more than six decades later, school segregation persists — and not just in the Deep South.
Research has shown dozens of communities across the country have split from their existing school districts in recent years — and they're mostly more affluent and less diverse than the ones they left behind. Earlier this month, a study of this "district secession" trend in Alabama, Louisiana and Tennessee showed segregation for black and Latino students has noticeably increased in the left-behind schools since 2000.
New York City is also grappling with school segregation after recent data surfaced showing "massive segregation" in the city’s specialized high schools. Among the most vocal groups on this issue is the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at the University of California Los Angeles, which recently released a report finding the number of schools where students of color make up more than 90% of the student body has tripled since 1988.
Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project, has placed blame on charter schools, as some of the group’s previous research has found rates of racial and ethnic isolation are higher in this sector. Other research is somewhat mixed.
A recent Urban Institute report, for example, found that “in bigger metropolitan areas, charter schools decrease segregation between districts. So while charter schools deepen the racial divide among schools, they increase diversity across districts in the same metropolitan area.”
Regardless of how it happens, segregation has been shown to have a harmful effect on students, who benefit from diversity in classrooms. Of traditional public schools and charters, Orfield said in 2017, “I don’t think the effect of segregation is very much different between these two systems. The problem is, these are new schools. We’re creating new segregated schools…. In most of them, nobody’s doing anything to make them diverse.”