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California Teacher: Charters Are Wreaking Havoc on Communities of Color

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Erika Jones is an experienced teacher in California. In this post, she responds forcefully to the claim by charter advocates that privately managed charter schools “save” children of color.

They don’t.

I urge all charter advocacy groups and individuals to read her eloquent article and consider her words carefully.

She begins:

As a public-school educator who is African-American, I am keenly aware of what it means to be a student of color within the public school system and the role institutional racism has played.

We have faced decades of funding and resource inequities, which have left our current public schools in marginalized communities unable to fully serve their students. Historically, acknowledging these inequities can lead to strategies to combat institutional racism in our schools and across the country.

The last 20 years of exploding charter school growth in communities of color also make it clear that many proposed solutions can have serious negative consequences for the overwhelming majority of public school students. The time is now for our elected leaders in Sacramento to pass laws to support students by curtailing the worst parts of this broken, decades-long experiment.

Often within the conversation of supporting communities of color, school choice and specifically charter schools frequently are presented as the answer. When looking at institutional racism within public education, instead of being the panacea for children of color, more often than not the charter school industry actually leads to worsening conditions for a majority of students of color. This is because many school districts in California, whose students are overwhelmingly students of color, are in crisis mode: seeing upwards of a 200 percent growth in charter schools, lacking facilities and averaging hundreds of millions of dollars in fiscal impact directly attributed to this growth.

Yet the achievement gap for students of color has continued to widen. We see a select group of children of color leaving the traditional public school setting to attend charter schools, while the majority of children of color remain in the traditional setting.

I taught both 3rd grade and kindergarten in South Los Angeles at Angeles Mesa Elementary and during the years I was there multiple new charter schools popped up surrounding my school. I saw firsthand how our families of color were lured away by the promise of free tablets for their kids, nicer uniforms and so-called college readiness. I hugged parents as they brought their children back to my school, feeling devastated that their child had been kicked out of one of the charters or their children found themselves in schools with higher class sizes and less student support. Some of my families had even been misled to believe that the new charter school was their new home school.

The original intent of charter schools was to be educator-driven incubators of change where innovations that lead to student success could be shared with all schools within the public school system. Here we are 20 years later and instead of sharing methods, many traditional public schools in communities of color find themselves competing for resources, having disproportionate numbers of students with high needs and having larger populations of English learners. All this while for the most part charters are performing about the same as traditional public schools.

Erika Jones answers all the questions with facts and evidence. Please read the rest of her article.

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