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Ethnic Charter Schools: Good or Bad?

Somali families in City Heights want the San Diego Unified school board to approve a charter high school that caters to Somali students. But some question whether ethnically-themed schools are a good idea. KPBS Reporter Ana Tintocalis has more.

Charter schools are public schools that have control over their own curriculum and operations.

That flexibility lets charters to focus on certain themes such as art, science and technology.


But a growing number of San Diego charters are establishing themselves around a specific culture or ethnic profile.

For example, there's a German language school, an Afro-centric elementary school and now a new charter school founded by Pacific Islanders.

Somali families in City Heights want to add a high school to that list. Community activist Sufyaan Mohamed says the school would help Somali families who know little about the American culture or school system.

“Students when they come here they are acculturated or socialized in a different way that parents do not understand.” Mohamed said.

Mohamed says Somali parents want to be involved in their child's education.


But school trustee Katherine Nakamura sees problems in ethnically- or culturally- themed charters. She says charter schools should be about integration, not segregation.

“I really believe that it’s not the purpose of American public education to be so narrowly focused. And that ultimately it does not serve the students.” Nakamura said.

Ethnic charter schools are legal. They just can't pick students based on race and ethnicity.

District officials say the issue is not resolved and more debate is expected.

Ana Tintocalis, KPBS News.