Choice changes everything



walking feet photo

These feet were made for votin', and that's just what they'll do.
Photo by Josiah Lau Photography

Close on two years after Gary Orfield’s Civil Rights Project
released its influential—and controversial—Choice Without Equality report, another of the Orfield clan is
chastising charters for their level of racial segregation. According to Brother
Myron, charter schools in his home state of Minnesota resemble “the Deep South
in the days of Jim Crow segregation,” as these schools cater to niche student
markets—often of the same race. At Dugsi Academy, for example, the school’s
all-black student population studies Arabic and Somali: The school has a
mission of educating East African children in the Twin Cities. A few miles down
the road, students at the Twin Cities German Immersion School, who are 90
percent white, are immersed in German language and cultural studies. Myron is
right that these “boutique” charters are racially homogeneous. But Orfield is
missing a few structural beams in his tower of rhetoric. The most crucial: This
type of “segregation” is both self-selected and voluntary. “Some people call it
segregation. This is the parent’s choice. They can go anywhere they want. We
are offering families something unique,” explains Dugsi’s director. Instead of
lamenting the lack of diversity in these unique school models, Orfield should
respond the all-American way: via competition. Open up some racially diverse
charter schools, Myron, and let parents vote with their feet.

Segregated
Charter Schools Evoke Separate But Equal Era in the U.S.
,” by John
Hechinger, Bloomberg News, December
27, 2011.

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