The Hidden Connection Between Charter Schools and Equity

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools just released a report that I wrote…

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You can read the whole thing here (you can skim it in about 10 minutes).

I enjoyed writing the piece because it allowed me to reflect on what I believe to be the most overlooked part of the New Orleans reform effort: the fact that the reforms significantly increased equity, not just academic quality.

Some excerpts below…

…at the outset of the reform effort, New Orleans leaders failed to ensure that all schools in the city adopted equitable practices. Bad apples in the charter community denied enrollment to students with severe special needs and expelled students for low-level infractions. While these schools were in the minority, their practices brought into question whether or not the reforms could benefit every student.

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Undoubtedly, there are legitimate reasons to support neighborhood schools: families value school proximity, and a neighborhood school can connect the greater community to the children in the area. However, neighborhood schools also serve as the anchors of extreme inequality in access to public schools.

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In too many cities, the government turns a blind eye to the persistence of failing schools, thereby undermining any real hope for educational equity. In these cities, operating a school is the right of the incumbent: save for the most extreme circumstances, the school goes on.

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Ultimately, it is not a coincidence that there has been a direct relationship between the RSD reducing the number of schools it operated and the RSD increasing its effective- ness as a regulator.

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Various organizations—including the Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and numerous community-based organizations—opposed the strategy of charter school expansion. Some were opposed to charter schools on ideological and policy grounds, others opposed the way charter schooling was implemented in New Orleans.

The differences in ideology and policy remain unresolved. However, at times, the social justice community’s calling out of unjust school actions and systems level inequities acceler- ated the implementation of equity solutions.

Perhaps, over time, New Orleans will become a model for how education reform leaders and social justice leaders can influence each other in a manner that is for the betterment of all children. At a minimum, charter advocates need to welcome a dialogue with social justice leaders as it will create positive pressure for change.

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Moreover, this bipartisanship has been sustained despite attacks from the flanks of both parties. The far left continues to levy accusations of privatization, while the far right bemoans the centralization of equity and accountability regulations.

Do read the whole thing.

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