by Dr. Terry Stoops
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
Raise your hand if you’ver heard this one before: charter schools in North Carolina promote racial segregation. And no matter how many times it’s said, you can count on Washington Post’s resident school choice hater Valerie Strauss to give it space on her Answer Sheet blog.
Last Friday, Strauss published a blog post by Justin Parmenter, seventh-grade language arts at Waddell Language Academy in Charlotte and a fellow with Hope Street Group’s North Carolina Teacher Voice Network. Parmenter writes,
While some charter schools in some states have helped low-income students improve academically, in North Carolina they’ve been used predominantly as a vehicle for affluent white folks to opt out of traditional public schools. Trends of racial and economic segregation that were already worrisome in public schools before the cap was lifted have deepened in our charter schools. Now more than two-thirds of our charter schools are either 80 percent+ white or 80 percent+ students of color.
The statistic that charters “are either 80 percent+ white or 80 percent+ students of color” contradicts the claim that charters have been used “predominantly as a vehicle for affluent white folks to opt out of traditional public schools.”
More importantly, Parmenter ignores the fact that charter schools cannot select the students who will attend. When applicants outnumber seats, the school must employ a lottery to randomly select who attends the school. In other words, the system is not rigged in favor of “affluent white folks” or anyone else. I suspect that Waddell Language Academy, which is a magnet school, operates in much the same way.