Connecticut Charter Schools are promoting greater racial segregation using taxpayer funds

As Robert Cotto Jr. writes about the way in which Connecticut charter school companies are pocketing public funds in his latest CTNewjunkie commentary piece entitled, Stunning Charter School take down by Robert Cotto Jr. let’s not forgot that the problems with charter schools goes far beyond greed, waste and fraud.

The REAL TRUTH about Connecticut Charter schools and racial segregation;

Forget the 1954 landmark Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education that ruled that segregation in schools violated the United States Constitution.

Forget the 1996 Connecticut Supreme Court case of Sheff v. O’Neill that ruled that segregation in Connecticut schools violated Connecticut’s Constitution.

Forget that as a result of the Sheff v. O’Neill case, Connecticut taxpayers are spending hundreds of millions of dollars every year to reduce racial isolation in public schools.

The REAL TRUTH is that more than $100 million a year in scarce Connecticut funds are being handed over to charter school companies and that according to the most recent reports filed with the Connecticut State Department of Education (2012-2013), every single major charter school in Connecticut is more racially segregated than the school district they are supposed to serve.

The REAL TRUTH is that while Connecticut spends massive amount of money to fulfill its federal and state constitutional mandate of REDUCING segregation, Connecticut charter schools are using public money to actually INCREASE racial segregation in Connecticut!

Just look at the data about the charter schools in Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport and Stamford.

Using public funds, Connecticut charter schools are creating greater racial isolation – something that is nothing short of illegal and unconstitutional.

HARTFORD % of public school students who are non-white
Hartford School District 89%
Jumoke Academy Charter School 100%
Achievement First Inc. Hartford Charter School 100%

 

Bridgeport % of public school students who are non-white
Bridgeport School District 91%
Achievement First Inc. Bridgeport Charter School 99%
Bridge Academy Charter School 99%
New Beginnings Academy Charter School 99%

 

New Haven % of public school students who are non-white
New Haven School District 85%
Achievement First Inc. Amistad Charter School 98%
Achievement First Inc. Elm City Charter School 99%
Highville Charter School 99%

 

 

 

Stamford % of public school students who are non-white
Stamford School District 66%
Stamford Academy Charter School 96%
Trail Blazers Charter School 96%

 

And now Governor Dannel Malloy and the Connecticut’s charter school industry want to divert even more public money away from Connecticut’s public schools so that they can open up two more charter schools – one in Bridgeport and one in Stamford.

CT Charter Schools are a vehicle for segregation

The numbers tell the true story. 

According to reports filed with the Connecticut State Department of Education, Connecticut’s Charter Schools are more racially segregated than the communities in which they are located.

While the State of Connecticut spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year to reduce racial isolation in our urban school districts, as required by Connecticut’s Constitution and Courts, Governor Dannel Malloy is pumping more than $100 million a year into Connecticut Charter Schools despite the fact that they have become a primary vehicle for the segregation of our public school system.

Here is the data:

School District/Charter School Percent Minority
Hartford School District 89%
Jumoke Charter School 100%
Achievement First – Hartford 100%

 

School District/Charter School Percent Minority
New Haven School District 85%
Achievement First – Amistad 98%
Achievement First – Elm City 99%
Highville Charter School 99%
Common Ground Charter School 99%

 

School District/Charter School Percent Minority
Stamford School System 66%
Stamford Academy Charter School 96%
Trailblazers Charter School 96%

 

School District/Charter School Percent Minority
Bridgeport School System 91%
Achievement First – Bridgeport 99%
Bridge Academy Charter School 98%
New Beginnings Charter School 99%

 

Sixty years ago,  the historic Supreme Court case of Brown vs. Board of Education determined that when it comes to public schools, separating out child on the basis of race, violated the most fundamental tenets of the United States Constitution and was therefore illegal.

The United State Supreme Court held segregation was segregation, whether mandated by law or allowed to exist because of a lack of laws and policies that ended up producing segregation.

Today, as the United States finds itself drowning in rising racism and segregation, Connecticut’s charter schools serve as a stark reminder that de facto segregation not only remains intact but that elected officials lack the courage, the conviction or both to stand up against the segregation that is undermining our nation…in this case privately-owned, but publicly-funded charter schools.

Late last week, as CTNewsJunkie reported in an article entitled, Ed Committee Jettisons Charter School Moratorium, the General Assembly’s Education Committee ducked their responsibility to adopt a moratorium preventing any additional charter schools in Connecticut until proper oversight was developed and the charter schools dropped their practices that lead to greater segregation and the discrimination against children that need special education services or aren’t fluent in the English Language.

Upon news of the bill’s defeat, Achievement First’s Co-CEO, Dacia Toll cheered on the legislators’ decision to look the other way on real charter school accountability saying, “The moratorium on public charter schools would have been a huge step backward.”

What an incredible statement – Stopping the expansion of charter schools until they join the effort to reduce racial isolation and end their blatant de facto discrimination against children who need help with the English Language or need special education services would be a “huge step backward?”

It is a disturbing yet telling commentary that the House Chair of the Education Committee, State Representative Andrew Fleischmann of West Hartford, and his colleagues buckled to the pressure from Governor Dannel Malloy and the charter school industry.

By failing to put a charter school moratorium in place, these public officials are effectively adding their seal of approve to the Charter School Industry’s ongoing violation of the most fundamental laws and values of the United States and the State of Connecticut.

As evident from the millions they are spending on television ads and lobbing, by wrapping themselves in the mantle of “civil rights,” the corporate-funded charter schools claim some kinship or association of the civil rights movement in the United States.

But in truth, Connecticut’s charter schools are nothing short of a vehicle for injustice.

One need only read the words of Martin Luther King Jr. and other true civil rights champions to understand the fraudulent claims being made by the charter schools.

As Martin Luther King Jr. said in his 1963 Great March in Detroit;

“For we have come to see that segregation is not only sociologically untenable, it is not only politically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Segregation is a cancer in the body politic, which must be removed before our democratic health can be realized. Segregation is wrong because it is nothing but a new form of slavery covered up with certain niceties of complexity.

[…]

No community in this country can boast of clean hands in the area of brotherhood. Now in the North it’s different in that it doesn’t have the legal sanction that it has in the South. But it has its subtle and hidden forms and it exists in three areas: in the area of employment discrimination, in the area of housing discrimination, and in the area of de facto segregation in the public schools. And we must come to see that de facto segregation in the North is just as injurious as the actual segregation in the South. And so if you want to help us in Alabama and Mississippi and over the South, do all that you can to get rid of the problem here.”

Despite their affinity for Connecticut’s charter school industry, Connecticut’s elected and appointed public officials have an obligation to stop the expansion of charter schools in Connecticut and require that these publicly-funded, but privately-owned education entities start abiding by our laws or close them down.

Wendy Lecker and Diane Ravitch on the 60th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education

Diane Ravitch, the nation’s leading voice for public education explains,

As segregation grows worse than it has been for decades, the problems are worsened by current “reforms.” School privatization intensifies segregation, high-stakes testing creates cause for closing struggling schools instead of helping students.

As Wendy Lecker writes, there is a growing grassroots to prevent the corporate takeover of public education and to turn schools into profit centers. The victory of Ras Baraka in Newark is the latest example of a community fighting for dignity.

In many cities and states, this is a bad time for public education. Plutocrats want to take control of the schools and decide which children to educate.

Over time, history teaches us that bad things don’t last forever. This is a democracy, and when people organize and unite, the plutocrats lose.

The following is Wendy Lecker’s latest commentary piece.  It first appeared in this weekend’s Stamford Advocate.  You can read the complete column at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-The-grass-roots-movement-for-educational-5484585.php

The grass-roots movement for educational equality (by Wendy Lecker)

This weekend marks the 60th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education that separate is never equal when it comes to the education of our children.

Judging from the lack of progress in school equity in the past 60 years, it is easy to despair that the promise of Brown will never be fulfilled. Schools are more segregated today than they have been in more than 40 years. Schools serving predominately African-American and Latino students receive far less funding than schools serving predominately white students. African-American and Latino students are much more likely to have inexperienced teachers than their white counterparts.

Compounding these inequities, current school “reforms” disproportionately harm children and communities of color. In Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Newark and elsewhere, officials, often backed by outside billionaires, have waged identical campaigns of destruction: disinvesting in community schools while funding and promoting privately run charter schools, declaring underfunded community schools “failures,” closing them and replacing them with more charters.

The results are devastating. Children are uprooted, interrupting their education and harming their achievement. They often must travel far, through dangerous neighborhoods, to unfamiliar schools. Many replacement charters have exclusive enrollment policies that shut out neighborhood children, and harsh discipline policies that push out even more. Experienced teachers from the community are replaced by outside Teach for America recruits with five weeks of training. Schools that have been community anchors for generations disappear, signaling the demise of the neighborhood.

Parents are not given a choice or a voice. When they protest these policies and instead demand the resources and support their schools and communities need, they are ignored. As New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie insisted when faced with grass-roots opposition to his slash-and-burn policies in Newark: “I don’t care about the community criticism. We run the school district in Newark, not them.”

These policies have proven to be failures. Test-based accountability has done nothing to help learning. Charters are no better than public schools, show no innovation and increase segregation. “Turnaround” strategies hurt school performance by destabilizing the school community. Yet despite the evidence, our political leaders push the failed schemes, simply because they are backed by the wealthy and powerful.

Worse still, those who impose this devastation on communities of color against their will cynically don the cloak of Brown. They adopt civil rights rhetoric, claiming they are “saving” children of color, while disempowering their parents and imposing a type of “education” on them to which they would never subject their own children.

So it is easy to fall into despair. Yet, from those very communities reformers seem intent on silencing and destroying, rays of hope are emerging.

Parents in Newark, New Orleans and Chicago have organized joint protests and marches to call attention to the destruction of their community institutions: their public schools. This week, grass-roots parent groups filed civil rights complaints demonstrating that school closures in their cities have disproportionately harmed African-American and Latino students and their families. Beyond these complaints, this 21 city coalition, the Journey for Justice, has presented a positive plan for sustainable schools and neighborhoods; a plan built on real evidence of what works both in schools and in communities.

While school privatizer and former Newark Mayor Cory Booker once said “real change has casualties,” these parents are declaring “our children are not collateral damage.”

And they are taking their fight to the ballot box. This week, voters in Newark beat back the Wall Street-financed charter school board member candidate and elected public school principal Ras Baraka as mayor. The biggest issue in the election was the so-called education reform — disinvestment, school closures, exclusive charters — that has wreaked havoc on families in that city. One supporter noted that people across the country are watching this race, as it is “the beginning of a surge of resistance” against school privatizers.

Here in Connecticut, that surge began in November 2012, when big money tried to eliminate a democratically elected school board in Bridgeport. Despite the millions poured into that effort from outside agitators, Bridgeport voters flatly rejected the attempt to disenfranchise them. Parents are also rising up to protest the profound racial isolation wrought by Connecticut’s charters.

Voters in the cities most affected by education reform are joining together to speak truth to power. Watching this genuine grassroots movement grow gives hope that one day soon, this country will reclaim its commitment to Brown’s vision not only of educational equality, but also of a just and equitable society.