(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)
Classic Little Ramona today in Salon where she conjures up a huge conspiracy between the Koch Brothers, ALEC and southern segregationists to overthrow Brown vs. Board. Mostly standard baloney. You can’t “re-segregate” if you never de-segregated in the first place, the public school system everywhere (not just in the South) is highly segregated by both income and race due to attendance boundaries and segregated housing patterns, etc. This line is however is worth noting:
Now the media celebrates all-black schools and ignores the fact that they are segregated. The subtext is: Look at this! An all-black school with high test scores! Isn’t that great?
Couple of things:
The students attending the sort of high performing charter schools Ravitch dislikes attend the school through the voluntary choice of their parents. In the event that the school had more applications than seats, the law requires schools to hold a random lottery for admission.
Let’s compare this to what would happen if these same black children tried to transfer to a suburban district school. Now I want to take care to note that many school districts do participate in open-enrollment, some even if state law does not require it. However if you look into the details of open-enrollment it tells you something more than a little disturbing. Even if the law requires consideration of such a transfer, they universally allow schools to determine whether or not they have space for transfers. In 1999 I interviewed the Superintendent of a fancy inner ring suburb near Detroit and asked him why his district chose not to participate in the open-enrollment program. The man literally told me “I think historically the feeling around here is that we have a pretty good thing going, and we want to keep the unwashed masses out.”
I mean there is just no way to see that statement in any sort of racial or segregationist context is there? In addition to what amounts to voluntary participation, open enrollment laws typically do not require admission lotteries- which leaves it wide open to picking and choosing.
So back to that all-black charter school- it is absurd to even imply that a school whose enrollment is driven by voluntary association and random admission lotteries equates to the old southern hillbilly governor standing at the school-house door with a baseball bat scenario. The tools used by districts on that front are more subtle than a baseball bat these days, and thus far more effective. But I digress- should we celebrate an all-black charter school with high test scores?
I don’t see why not-we have far too many all-black district schools with low-test scores after all. Those kids are in those low-performing district schools in part because they were excluded from other opportunities, whereas the charter students were included in a new education opportunity that would not exist if Ravitch had her way. Nice try Big Sister, but war is not peace, freedom is not slavery and ignorance is not strength.