The use of the emotionally charged word segregation is misleading and deflects attention away from the positive contribution our charter schools are making to the educational landscape. There is a tremendous difference between choice and forced segregation. Charter schools transcend boundary zones where for many families the amount of money they are able to spend on the purchase of a home translates into the quality of their children’s schools. Charter schools are public schools, open to all, and they’re built to give every child an opportunity for a great education at the school where they can learn best, no matter their ZIP code.
Although perception is reality, numbers don’t lie. According to the 2017-2018 Charter Schools Annual Report, the percentage of white students in charter schools and district schools is virtually the same. Also, the number of charter schools serving students of color is similar to district schools with charter schools enrolling slightly more black students than their district counterparts. Further, the percentage of students with disabilities is similar as well with 10.3% of charter schools’ students being served compared to 12.2% of district students.
Some charter schools choose to provide student transportation, an option afforded them by law. It is important to note that, due to their small size, many charter schools just don’t have the infrastructure that district school systems enjoy. For example, in a district, there may be a team of employees whose jobs are directly related to transportation only, whereas in some charter schools a single administrator must oversee all aspects of school management with instructional leadership being most important. However, if the General Assembly were to mandate that charter schools must provide transportation, then district schools should be held to the ultimate accountability charter school leaders and boards face every day: school closure.
Finally, the misguided notion of re-segregation deflects from the most important issue: a parent’s right to choose a high-quality school that meets the needs of their child. Parents of means have always had the ability to choose the best education available. Charter schools level the playing field because they give all families the right to choose. Not only that, but most Americans are in favor of charter schools. Perhaps it is because Americans value their right to choose in so many areas of life. Education should be no different.
Rhonda Dillingham is the executive director of the North Carolina Association for Public Charter Schools.