Rann Miller directs the 21st Century Community Learning Center, a federally funded after-school program located in southern New Jersey. He spent 6 years teaching in charter schools in Camden, New Jersey. The views expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of BCNN1.
The education system has failed black children. At least, that’s how black parents see it.
As a 2017 poll shows, 42 percent of black parents believe the education provided to black students is not as good as that for whites. 90 percent do not believe that schools in black communities receive the same level of funding as schools in white communities.
The Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 found that segregation was detrimental to the development of black children. But the parents of Linda Brown, the third-grader at the center of the case, had no complaints about the all-black school she was attending.
Nevertheless, the Brown decision led to the closing of black schools, the firing of black educators and the assimilation of black children into white schools. Over time, white students departed from these schools while white teachers remained.
Given this dismal reality, it makes sense that black parents have desired an alternative to public schools—homeschooling, for example, tripled among black families from 1999 to 2007.
Homeschooling, however, isn’t an option for most households. Not every parent can afford to move to a zip code with a more desirable school district. And private schools are even more prohibitive. With the cost of these other “options,” it’s no wonder that many black parents in America’s cities have turned to charter schools.
If we are going to advocate for the ability of black parents to decide how their children are educated, we must also tell the whole truth about charter schools—even if we may not like what we hear.
According to a 2019 report from the National Center for Education Statistics, charter schools are no better at improving test scores than regular public schools.
Research has also shown that charter schools are more racially isolated than other schools. Some charter advocates argue that segregation is acceptable, as long as it’s a by-product of choice. A similar argument among black charter school advocates is that integration shouldn’t be the top concern. After all, the impetus for Brown wasn’t the inadequacy or inferiority of black schools.
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