The White Choice

A growing number of choosy choosers are choosing the white choice for their children

It’s hard to believe but National School Choice Week is here again. This year’s choicetacular celebration started off with a bang—make that a bell—as students from Newark Prep Charter School, operated by K12 (NYSE: LRN), rang the New York Stock Exchange opening bell, signaling the dawning of a new era of investing in student futures. But hark! Could those be dark clouds threatening our bright yellow choice-filled future???

White Turn
First: a brief encounter with our auld friend history. Back in the day the civil rights issue of our time was civil rights and the scourge of segregation lay heavy upon the land. But that was then and then is so not now. Today’s civil rights issue of our time is *choice*—the opportunity to choose one’s choice of educational choices. There’s just one wee problem, reader. In communities in which the symbolic yellow scarf doth now wave, a growing number of choosy choosers are choosing a particular choice for their choosy children: the white choice.

Land of 10,000 Choices
First up on our *three cheers for choice* tour: Minnesota, aka Land of 10,000 Choices. The first state in the nation to allow charter schools, Minnesota now offers its choosy choosers an astonishing array of single race charters from which to choose. Among the most popular of these choices? Mostly white suburban charters, which have grown by 40% in the past five years, even as the suburbs in which the schools are located grow more and more diverse.

Ivory and Ivory
Minnesota isn’t the only state where choosy choosers are choosing the white choice. From Delaware to Texas to Arizona to suburban Ohio, charters that cater to affluent white students are enjoying measurable growth such that old school civil rights activists fear the cresting of a great white wave of resegregation. What’s behind this completely unforeseen and utterly unpredictable trend? For one thing, many of the urban areas that were the original choice for charter choice are rapidly reaching a saturation point, leaving minority students with nothing BUT charter choice, particularly of the No Excuses variety. Which has left the charter movement sitting atop vast reserves of excellence and innovation, leaving it with no choice but to bring choice to the suburbs.

One Day…
But wait, there’s more! Recently Mr. Chris Barbic, the head of Tennessee’s Achievement School District, which is tasked with catapulting the bottom 5% of students in Tennessee straight to the top 25%, found himself in some serious hot water after telling a local radio station that diversity, while a worthy goal for public schools, shouldn’t be the responsibility of charters.

“Most schools, they are the representation of a neighborhood and most neighborhoods are folks who live together that look alike. That’s just the honest reality. I think that’s the case here in Nashville and most communities. And so I think to put that on charters that it’s something they’ve caused or are responsible for is unfair.”

In other words, *meh.* While the condemnation of Barbic was swift and furious, it’s important to note that he’s only articulating the *new school* view of the civil rights issue of our time. You see, Barbic, who formerly Taught for America and was quickly tapped to lead for educational equity, understands that the charters with which he’s rapidly replacing public schools in Tennessee, exist for one purpose and one purpose only: to boost student achievement. Larger, loftier goals like integration are strictly old school…

Stand Fore! Choice
But enough with all of that. It’s National School Choice Week—let’s have some fun. And nothing says *white people having fun* more than golf. Which gives me an excellent idea. What if somebody opened an academy of excellence and innovation just outside of a gated golf community??? Great news, reader: the Anderson Creek Club Charter School, Inc. is slated to open in August and *could become a model for other developers who want a piece of North Carolina’s expanding charter-school market.* Talk about a hole in one; while Paige and Tyler enjoy a 21st century learning environment, mom and dad can relax in *an exquisite clubhouse that features a historic bar where they can recap their round.* Happy Gilmores all around, reader. And while we’re at, how’s about a toast—to choice…

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14 Comments

  1. A “hole in one”-? You can’t make this $#*• up – as we storytellers are fond of saying. This such a great article ! The writing is so to the point and damn funny – if only the topic didn’t make my blood boil.

  2. Charters have a long, long ways to go before they can begin to match the race-sorting that occurs every day within a public school system that lets parents get into the “right” school by choosing to move to the “right” zone. Nice try, though.

    1. Actually, to cite Minnesota again, they had unlimited choice for traditional schools as well for twenty years. In fact, there was unlimited busing to wherever an urban student wanted to go, for twenty years.

      The result of this choice panacea, of course, was greater racial isolation and socio economic isolation at the end of twenty years than at the start. 89% of students in one large, urban district were bused even though a majority lived within a mile of their neighborhood school. In addition, students attending their neighborhood schools outperformed those bused to choice schools.

      So, after 20 years of unlimited charter choice, and unlimited traditional choice, the silver bullet of choice missed the target and made things worse.

      To quote the famous you, “Nice try though”

          1. Stanford came out with a report that charters perform lower on reform industry tests than public schools when similar populations of students were compared. Who pays you to post here?

  3. Thank you again for making the latest terrible news of public education tolerable because it’s so damned funny. On LA’s westside, which has more co-located charter schools than anywhere on the planet, people basically say the same thing–it’s not their problem. Will we watch the new districts that are charter schools go through the same discrimination/civil rights challenges that our public schools faced? Maybe not, because although they claim to be public schools when stepping up to the funding trough, the courts have ruled that charters are private and therefore are not shielded from punitive damages when sued: http://charterschoolscandals.blogspot.com/2010/07/palisades-charter-high-school.html. And also in labor disputes, they’ve been considered private: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/01/04/charter-school-ruled-private-entity-for-labor-relations/. So maybe the trajectory will be more like desegregating the all-white country clubs than mid-century schools.

  4. I hope parents are tuning in to the changes in education in America, and ban together for the children. But there is so much misinformation in the name of better education. My interpretation, is that public schools are suffering cutbacks. The college trained teachers have very little quality help and an unteachable ratio of students. The students aren’t learning alot, they are testing alot.
    Charter schools siphon funds that are there for public schools. They are alluring and offer great things, but a high percentage of teachers are not required to have more than several weeks classroom training. Their ratios are almost/the same as public school ratios. If I’m correct thus far, charters can’t deliver.
    Diversity, obligation? The diversity at UF turned Gainesville into an amazing place to live! A school has nothing to offer if diversity isn’t offered.
    I have a neice and nephew who attend The Breck School in MN. It is a private school, the teachers have masters degrees, the students love learning, and learn alongside other races and cultures.
    All children in this country deserve an education this rich. Instead, we have a caste system of schools that pump out little pay for little education, (with exception to the overpaid officials high up in the administration).
    Parents, as frustrating as public education is, ban together and learn about the sneaking changes that are coming. Our students need more funding, not less, and the doors to stay open.

  5. The problem of residential segregation in the U.S. is also a function of choice–the choice of where to live, and with whom. The segregation of schools can’t fairly be squared against charters when it’s such a universal affliction.

    Race identity and relations as a function of 20th century American culture are the culprits for school segregation. I agree with giving families multiple options for schooling, and unfortunately choice will *reflect* the cultural problem until it is alleviated, just as public education *reflects* the effects of poverty on educational outcomes (rather than exacerbating them).

    1. Except that one of the original selling points for charters was that they would combat residential segregation because they’re not bound by district boundaries. Oops, guess that didn’t work out so well, did it?

      1. The who people who thought (or think) that school organization is that kind of panacea are about as in touch with reality as people who condemn charter schools because they don’t outright solve some of the problems that afflict traditional public schools.

  6. PS Some of you may *think* you’re living in the 21st century, but systemic segregation clearly disproves that…

    *bleh*

  7. “We can maintain separate schools regardless of the U.S. Supreme Court by reverting to a private system, subsidizing the child rather than the political subdivision.”

    — Governor of Georgia, Herman Talmadge, in 1953, a year before Brown vs. the Board of Education. And so it goes with “choice” and vouchers today.

  8. The link about the yellow scarf has gone away, so I’m not sure specifically what it refers to, but I do find it really ironic, because yellow scarfs were used in Rome to distinguish the Jewish community from everyone else for about 200 years until the early 1800’s.

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