Deluxe Charter Schools Serve Up Opportunities For Taxpayer-Funded White Flight

Human Rights

Charter schools are often billed as benefiting disadvantaged urban kids—but in lots of places around the country, charters are segregating school systems by offering rich white families a way to get their kids away from students of color and poor students. In reality, 115 charter schools nationwide have student populations at least 20 percentage points whiter than public schools in their districts; more than 700 charter schools nationally are whiter than their district’s public schools. 

Why charter schools do this is no mystery: racism pays. As for how they they do it, Emmanuel Felton reports on common tactics like not offering school bus service so that parents have to have the flexibility and the reliable vehicle to get their kids to and from school. Or they require uniforms from Land’s End that low-income families can’t afford. Or they create “priority attendance zones” that ensure that kids from mostly white neighborhoods will get an admissions advantage.

Felton reports in depth on Lake Oconee Academy in Georgia, which is 73 percent white while public schools in the district are just 12 percent white. It was founded essentially at the behest of a company selling luxury lakeside properties, and when the school opened, 80 percent of its spots were reserved for people living in that company’s properties. Lake Oconee Academy has a “piano lab” with 25 pianos. It has 17 Advanced Placement courses. And just 10 percent of its students are black in a district where 68 percent of public school students are black.

As one mother, who ruled out trying to send her kids to Lake Oconee Academy because there was no school bus to get them there, said, “It’s like a black and white thing, who has money and who doesn’t have money.” It’s not just Lake Oconee Academy, and it’s the kind of education policy the Trump administration, with Betsy DeVos heading the Education Department, is pushing.

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