by Jason L. Riley, The Wall Street Journal
A new report on New York City public charter schools faults them for being too segregated. But what’s more important, the racial composition of a school’s student body or whether children in the school are learning?
According to UCLA’s Civil Rights Project, which produced the study, just 8 percent of New York City charter schools are considered multiracial, versus a New York City average of 14.5 percent. The authors, John Kucsera and Gary Orfield, conclude that some 73 percent of the city’s charters are “apartheid schools” where fewer than 1 percent of students are white. “Charter schools take the metro’s segregation to an extreme,” they write.
Charter critics pretend that something invidious is going on, but the reality is that charter operators consciously locate in slums and ghettoes to offer poor minorities better school choices. The racial makeup reflects the neighborhood, not some racist conspiracy. Moreover, public charter schools in New York City (and elsewhere) typically outperform the surrounding traditional public schools, and some are among the highest-performing schools in the state. This belies the notion that black children must be sitting next to white children in order to learn.
The political left has a longstanding obsession with the racial makeup of schools. The Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown decision introduced the notion that “separate” was inherently “unequal.” Ever since, and despite the fact that high-quality all-black schools have proliferated, the liberals have placed racial parity above all other concerns. The Obama Justice Department is currently trying to shut down a voucher program in Louisiana by arguing that it will harm desegregation efforts.
In other words, liberal policy makers would relegate disadvantaged black kids to inferior schools for esthetic reasons. Of course, polls over the decades have consistently shown that black parents care most about having access to a quality school in their neighborhood. The racial composition of that school is a secondary concern at best.