AP report attacks minority families for choosing public charter schools for their children
An Associated Press report in newspapers across the country, including Spokane’s Spokesman Review, recently infuriated charter school families and supporters. The report says one in seven charter schools “put their students in racial isolation,” and then blames all public charter schools for re-segregating society on the basis of race. Charter school supporters and African-American school leaders across the country have roundly condemned the AP for a report so flawed in logic and lacking in fact.
The AP misses the full meaning and import of the fact that charter school families voluntarily choose to attend charter schools. This voluntary feature makes charter schools the exact opposite of the laws that forced segregation of schools by race, laws that were repealed over 50 years ago. With breathtaking heartlessness, the AP asserts minority students will not learn in sufficient numbers until society is fully integrated by race, insinuating most minority families have no hope of educating their children until then.
Just as egregious is the AP’s most glaring omission----the fact that for families, public charter schools represent the most liberating, popular school reform in 25 years. Many families, especially minority families whose urban schools fail to educate their children, find renewed hope in the choice to enroll their child in a public charter school. This is borne out by the numbers. Over the last ten years the number of students enrolled in charter schools has nearly tripled, from 1.2 million students to 3.1 million students. One million students sit on charter school waitlists, and forty-three states and the District of Columbia now allow public charter schools.
The AP appears to have been inspired by teacher union leader Randi Weingarten. At a conference last July, Ms. Weingarten said charter schools are a “polite cousin of segregation.” She compared the school choice movement to efforts of white racists to create private but publicly funded schools to resist integration in the 1950s. This false and extreme racial rhetoric reveals how afraid Randi Weingarten is of the growth of public charter schools and of the new narrative in public education. That new narrative is called school choice.
School choice is the idea that parents can help make the education of their children better. School choice is about liberating parents, and giving parents the power and freedom to guide and direct the education of their children.
Today, parents are taking control over the elementary and secondary education of their children. Parents, especially charter school parents, are telling schools what they want to see in their classrooms. Parents often say they have chosen a public charter school because they are safer. Parents like charter schools because they offer smaller, more nurturing environments than traditional schools. A mother who wants a safe school for her child should not have to wait until society is racially integrated to the satisfaction of the Associated Press.
School choice is not limited to public charter schools. Many states have created ways to help families enroll their children in private schools. Today 30 states and the District of Columbia offer 61 different school choice programs, and every year states consider and pass new programs. Today about 400,000 children benefit from school choice programs across the country.
Families want more school choice. A January 2017 poll shows 68 percent support for school choice. The pro-school choice coalition is bipartisan and diverse, with majority support from Latinos (75%), African Americans (72%) and Millennials (75%). 83% of respondents support offering scholarships to children with special learning needs.
School choice is surging forward. Opponents like Randi Weingarten and teacher unions can invoke the hateful rhetoric of race to attack public charter schools, but these opponents are no match for parents determined to find better schools for their children.