Are Charter Schools Separate and Unequal?
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
The San Diego Unified school board will consider whether a Somali charter school should be allowed to expand. KPBS Reporter Ana Tintocalis explains why supporters of that school plan are facing some opposition.
SAN DIEGO The San Diego Unified school board will consider whether a Somali charter school should be allowed to expand. KPBS Reporter Ana Tintocalis explains why supporters of that school are facing some opposition:
Iftin Elementary is an Afro-centric charter school in the City Heights area. Roughly 90-percent of its students are Somali, and now the Somali community wants to create a new high school.
But some San Diego Unified school district officials don't back the high school proposal. They say Iftin and other charters like it are going against the spirit of school integration laws, as well as a California state education code that indicates the student population at charter schools should reflect the entire district community.
Gary Miron, a national researcher on diversity in charter schools at Western Michigan University, says charter schools are more racially segregated than traditional public schools because they're allowed to adopt certain cultural themes that appeal to certain parents.
“Our public education system as a whole is slowly becoming more segregated by race and class, but charter schools are accelerating that,” Miron said. “Charters are getting to that point like in the 1950s, but a little bit quicker (than traditional public schools).”
Miron adds creating a culturally-themed charter school isn’t going against any law, but he says charter school officials should show they're recruiting all students from across the entire district. The problem, Miron says, is that many charter school officials market their campus in certain areas because there are no strict guidelines when it comes to community outreach. And that can lead to bigger issues.
“This comes down to a values issue,” Miron said. “If you don't have a problem with ‘separate but equal,’ I guess we're going backwards in time, but okay, separate but equal. But wait a second, are (the charter schools) really equal? When we have charter schools that are so dependent of social capital and private revenues, how can we ensure they're going to be equal?”
The San Diego Unified school board is expected to take up that question today. San Diego school board member Katherine Nakamura is the only trustee to speak out publicly about the proposed charter high school and others like it. She is expected to vote against it.
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