UCLA Civil Rights Project Gets It Wrong

February 4, 2010

My friends over at Mid-Riffs take apart the new report from Gary Orfield’s UCLA Civil Rights Project claiming that charters produce segregation:

“The report finds:

that charter schools, particularly those in the western United States are havens for white re-segregation from public schools; requirements for providing essential equity data to the federal government go unmet across the nation; and magnet schools are overlooked, in spite of showing greater levels of integration and academic achievement than charters.

It looks like, based on a quick pass through the report, their main finding is based on demographic comparisons  between charter schools and traditional public schools at the state level. This method of comparison likely leads to inaccurate conclusions due to the fact that charter schools are overwhelmingly an urban phenomenon. The correct comparison is between charters and the demographics of their immediate geographic area. We have discussed this topic as it relates to Little Rock at length here.

The Economist’s take on this report is concise, to-the-point, and spot on.

In plain English, there are a lot of black kids in charter schools. This is because charter schools tend to get set up in neighbourhoods where the public schools are terrible, such as south-eastern Washington DC or the rougher parts of New Orleans. These neighbourhoods are disproportionately African-American. Charter schools are popular with poor black parents because their other choices are so awful. There are very few charter schools in rich white suburbs with nice public schools, because there is no call for them.

The important question about charter schools is: do they give kids a better education than they would otherwise have received? The answer is yes. Nothing else matters.”