Charter Schools: the Segregation of Latino and African-American Students

Neoliberal policies promoting charter schools have not created healthy competition promoting improved educational outcomes benefiting all students. The market-based approach to education has actually accomplished the opposite, precipitating segregation, unequal class structure and the disenfranchisement of certain ethnic groups and children from families earning low incomes. As funding is being pumped into charter schools, public schools are receiving reduced funding – negatively impacting the educational experiences of some Latino and African-American students precipitating class hegemony gearing these students for working class jobs, rather than professional positions. (Saltman, The Politics of Education, 2013, P. 19)

The recent article in the New York Times, “Racial Isolation in Public Schools“, discusses the lack of resources and funding in public schools negatively impacting minority children, especially children in Buffalo. The so-called, “criteria schools” are known to be schools offering better education for students. However, increasing the cap limits into these schools will not benefit the population as a whole. Rather than funneling funding into alternative educational institutions, funding should be allocated toward public schooling. Privatization has not demonstrated improved outcomes beneficial for all students, especially minority students.

Some privately operated and owned charter schools in certain demographic areas continue the segregation of Latino and African-American students. Public funding is being invested in charter schools even though these schools do not offer open enrollment. On the contrary, they establish cap limits and require extensive paperwork to be completed by the prospective students and their parents. According to Fabricant and Fine in Charter Schools and the Corporate Makeover of Public Education, 2012, statistics demonstrate that English Language Learners and students with disabilities are less likely to attend charter schools. (Fabricant and Fine, Charter Schools and the Corporate Makeover of Public Education, 2012, P. 45). ELL students and their parents may find the paperwork cumbersome, especially ELL students whose parents do not speak English as their primary language and do not know where to turn to find assistance completing the required forms. This is hardly public education. The essence of public education is open enrollment and full financing toward resources for students and educators.

The segregation of ELL students from the mainstream classroom creates a separation between English speaking students and bilingual students. Language mastery is achieved when one practices dialogue with others. Segregating ELL students from English speaking students maintains the status quo, hence maintaining future workplace hierarchal relationships. Critical theorists such as Paulo Freire and Donaldo Macedo have written about the importance of creating dialogue within the classroom. Dialogue establishes relationships that build community by establishing understanding and respect. Regardless of differences in cultural values and traditions, dialogue requires talking and listening, which is the essence of understanding, even if those involved in the conversation do not agree with each other’s points of view.

Antonia Darder has stated that ignoring cultural differences and promoting cultural hegemony precipitates disenfranchisement. It is important to include various cultures, such as Latino culture and African-American culture, into the American educational system. Creating a homogenous society and implementing educational policies that promote privatization, standardized testing, and performance incentive funding disenfranchises some Latino and African-American students with the effects on school experiences carrying through on into the workforce. Kenneth Saltman, in his book The Politics of Education (2013), discusses segregation among certain ethnic and minority groups precipitated by neoliberal policies maintaining minority populations within the working class.

Charter schools’ selective process of student admissions and lack of open enrollment establishes the pattern of segregation. History has proven the ineffectiveness of charter schools in delivering equitable, quality education that engages students and creates a democratic community. Improved funding should be allocated toward public schooling, rather than funneling more funding into privatization efforts, such as charter schools, that have proven to be ineffective. Collaboration among educators, students, parents and policymakers is imperative for positive change.