- Black students in North Carolina are equally likely to attend charter schools or traditional public schools, but charters have about 35% more black teachers, according to a new study from Seth Gershenson, an associate professor of public affairs at American University in Washington.
- With growing research showing students of color benefit when taught by a teacher of the same race — or at least see minority educators in their schools — Gershenson’s study also finds black students attending charters are 50% more likely to have a black teacher than their peers in traditional district schools.
- The analysis, which uses state education data from the 2006-07 through 2012-13 school years, also shows that the benefits of having a same-race teacher on math achievement are greater in charter schools, while not statistically significant, and that nonwhite students in charters are more likely than white students to experience those benefits. Published by the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute, the study recommends district schools seek to hire more teachers of color.
As comparisons between charters and traditional public schools — on issues such as funding, student achievement and now student-teacher race match — continue, it appears charter schools will be a frequent topic of debate among those vying for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
In keeping with efforts in California to limit charter school growth, Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has called for a moratorium on new charter schools and has pledged to stop charter schools from receiving public funds if elected. Sanders has also argued that charter schools harm black students in urban areas by taking funds away from traditional schools.
Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, however, is taking a more balanced view of charter schools, saying that while he has seen “outrageous and unacceptable” charter school proposals, he has also seen how charter schools have increased opportunities for low-income black students to attend higher-performing schools. While mayor of Newark, Booker worked with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and then-Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, to expand charters in the city.
In a recent article, Jon Valant, a fellow in governance studies for the Brookings Institution’s Brown Center on Education Policy, writes about the growing racial divide among Democrats over charter schools, with whites expressing opposition and black and Hispanic Democrats — whose children are more likely to attend charter schools — having more favorable views.
“While it’s possible that growing skepticism from white Democrats — and pledges to act from candidates like Sanders — will help with cleaning up some of the problems with today’s charter schools and policies, the potential for harm is real,” Valant wrote, adding that restricting charter growth could have “tangible, unwelcome consequences for families of color.”