To Charter of Not to Charter
Published in TC Today - Volume 31, No. 2
As a woman of color, I wholeheartedly agree. But are charters-- a legacy of the school choice movement born in the post-integration South, where white parents sent their children to private, state-funded "segregation academies"--the right vehicle?
Even prior to coming to TC, I knew the debate. Proponents say charters' small size promotes more meaningful interactions between students, teachers and administrators-- and thus better student performance. Critics call charters a disinvestment in public schools. Citing the lack of evidence that charters raise student achievement, they ask: Why operate unproven schools for children who desperately need quality education?
Yet with charters proliferating, I reflected that they might, after all, enable parents, educators, community-based organizations and others to shape the education of their children.
Then I learned about the many charter "chains" run by Education Management Organizations (EMOs), whose managers typically are neither from economically disadvantaged backgrounds nor of color. Now I'm researching how white-run EMOs arrive at their vision for charters whose student bodies are entirely black and/or Latino; how the community can better influence school governance; and why, given all the question marks, blacks and Latinos aren't more skeptical about charters. A parent seeking to enroll her child at a new charter school gave me one answer to that question: "If my child can't get into this school," she said, "where else can he get a good education?"
Janine Rudder is a master's degree candidate in Sociology and Education (with a policy concentration) at Teachers College.