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.

Another MUST READ by Wendy Lecker: Charter schools — civil rights rhetoric vs. reality

Perhaps the greatest indignity perpetrated by the corporate education reform industry is their fallacious claim that they represent the “new civil rights movement.”

Nowhere, including here in Connecticut, do they talk about tackling the terrible growth of child poverty that is destroying our society or the challenges faced by children who require special education services or need help with their English language capabilities.

None of the corporate education reform groups are willing to acknowledge, let alone address,Connecticut’s unconstitutional school funding formula or the fact that Connecticut public schools aren’t provided the resources necessary to support the children who walk through their front doors.

Instead of providing a meaningful solution to the problems the country faces, the charter school company owners and their allies, under the guise of “school choice,” demand more public funds while creaming off a sub-set of children and refusing to educate those who are English Language Learners and those who require additional special education services.

Claiming to be vehicles of opportunity for children, these fraudsters run schools that are more segregated and less egalitarian than the true public schools in their communities.

Chanting slogans of civil rights and wrapping themselves in the image of Martin Luther King Jr., the education reform industry is the antipathy of King’s message and the policies and practices that could heal this troubled and divided nation.

In her latest piece, education advocate and columnist Wendy Lecker dissects the utter failure of Connecticut’s charter schools to be part of the solution when it comes to reducing racial isolation.

Charter schools — civil rights rhetoric vs. reality (By Wendy Lecker)

First published at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Charter-schools-civil-rights-6207481.php

Education “reformers” often proclaim they are carrying on the tradition of great civil rights leaders, employing the rhetoric of that movement while in reality pushing measures that exacerbate inequality and impact most harshly on children and communities of color-like school closures, privatization, and over-testing. Last week, noted civil rights expert Gary Orfield, of UCLA’s Civil Rights Project, issued a report on Connecticut school integration that included an indictment of the practices of Connecticut’s most-practiced purveyors of civil rights doublespeak — charter schools. The report also called out state officials for their willful blindness to charter school practices.

The report, titled “Connecticut School Integration,” praised the state for some of the strides made in desegregating schools. However, it noted the well-documented “hyper-segregation” of charter schools, which undermines Connecticut’s progress on integration. The report further remarked that national education policies, including the expansion of charter schools, ignore race and poverty and have “consistently failed” to meet the goal of improving education for our neediest children.

Connecticut law on segregation is far-reaching. While the federal constitution only prevents intentional segregation, our Supreme Court, in the 1996 decision in Sheff v. O’Neill, prohibited “unorchestrated,” i.e. de facto segregation. Thus, state officials have an affirmative obligation not just to prevent intentional segregation, but to eliminate even unintentional segregation.

Most Connecticut charters are intensely segregated. They routinely fail to serve English Language Learners, students with disabilities and often our most impoverished students.

Yet, as the Civil Rights Project writes, Connecticut state officials have refused to do anything to stem the tide of charter school segregation. The report observes that the education commissioner could require changes in a charter if that school does not make measurable progress in reducing racial, ethnic and economic isolation. It remarks that the state board could make this goal a prerequisite to granting a charter. Yet, as the report goes on to note, these state officials, those with the express obligation to reduce segregation, have consistently chosen to do nothing to prevent charter school segregation and its effects, including exacerbating racial, ethnic and economic imbalance in the host school districts.

Indeed, one wonders if Connecticut officials had forced Hartford’s charters to abide by desegregation policies all along, would the city have reached its Sheff goals long ago, saving the state millions of dollars?

School integration is fundamental to advancing the democratic purpose of education. As the court noted in the Sheff decision: “If children of different races and economic and social groups have no opportunity to know each other and to live together in school, they cannot be expected to gain the understanding and mutual respect necessary for the cohesion of our society.”

Decades of evidence prove that school integration achieves this goal, reducing stereotypes and enabling adults to function successfully in a variety of settings. The benefits of school integration are more lasting and meaningful than the empty pursuit of higher test scores.

In 1996, our highest court clearly articulated the state’s responsibility to reduce segregation. Yet almost 20 years later, state officials allow charter school segregation to flourish. The State Board of Education continually rubber-stamps charter applications, trampling community opposition, and ignoring their duty to prevent charter school segregation and over-concentration. Even a new policy the state board announced, which applies to charter renewals only and not initial approvals, fails to require that charters serve the same students that their host district public schools serve.

This session, the legislature’s Education Committee considered a bill that would have placed a moratorium on charter school approvals. Yet, our political leaders did not even have the will to move this bill out of committee. And now the governor wants the legislature to fund new charters while refusing to provide public schools with any ECS increase.

In his report, Dr. Orfield exhorts the state to bring charter schools in line with Connecticut’s law and policies against segregation and to ensure that charter operators live up to their “civil rights responsibilities under state and federal law.” He even suggests pursuing litigation against charters that receive public funds, yet operate segregated schools in violation of Connecticut law.

Given the unwillingness of state leaders to do anything about charter school segregation, communities may have no choice but to look to the courts. In December, the Delaware ACLU filed a federal complaint against charter school segregation. One can only hope that a civil rights organization here will follow the lead of the Delaware ACLU and pursue a real civil rights agenda when it comes to school segregation in Connecticut.

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.

“Gifted” to the right, “Special” to the left, the rest of you sit down and wait

As Wait, What Readers learned in late February after reading, Blessed are the Gifted for they shall inherit the earth, “education reformers” extraordinaire Steven Adamowski and Paul Vallas have struck again.

Adamowski, Hartford’s former Superintendent of Schools and now “Special Master” of Windham and New London schools thanks to Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor and Paul Vallas, who was recruited to serve as Bridgeport’s Acting Superintendent of Schools by Stefan Pryor, are part of a team that have announced the creation of three “gifted academies” for Windham, New London and Bridgeport.

Fellow blogger and public education advocate Wendy Lecker, has used her latest column in the Hearst newspapers to blow the whistle on this absurd, even revolting, proposal.

In a column entitled, A return to school segregation?, Lecker explains why the proposal for gifted academies is an insult and attack on the entire public education system. 

As she writes, “From Brown vs. Board of Education to Connecticut’s landmark case, Sheff v. O’Neill, to the language of the Connecticut constitution, the law has been clear. Children have a constitutionally guaranteed right to a public education that is not impaired by isolation based on race, ethnicity, national origin or disability. Therefore, it is unconstitutional to develop and fund education programs that intentionally or unintentionally limit access to educational opportunities based on racial or ethnic backgrounds, or disabilities.”

But as she clearly lays out, these new “gifted academies” move Connecticut away from the true mission of public education and back to the ugly era of school segregation.

As Lecker adds, not only is it unbelievable that that Pryor, Adamowski and Vallas are setting up these “academies,” but they are intending to use the Connecticut Mastery Tests (CMTs) as major admission criteria.  Using CMTs is not only intellectually dishonest but will further divide our students on the basis of poverty, language barriers and the need for special education services.

Lecker’s latest commentary piece is a “must read” for many reasons, but “the most disturbing issue of all is that creating separate schools for “gifted” children violates Connecticut law and policies prohibiting school segregation.”

While the equal protection clauses in most state constitutions only bar discrimination, Connecticut’s expressly bans segregation as well as discrimination.

This plan violates Connecticut’s Constitution, it violates Connecticut law and it violates the official policy of the Connecticut state Board of Education.

Just three years ago, under the leadership of then Commissioner of Education, Dr. Mark McQuillan, the State Board of Education unanimously adopted a resolution blasting the destructive effect of separating children based on ability because grouping by ability “limits achievement and stifles expectation and opportunity for college and successful competition in the workplace.”

Lecker highlights the wording of the State Board of Education resolution;

“The board unanimously disapproved any practice that permanently groups students for instruction. As the board noted, the practice of tracking disproportionately burdens poor, African-American and Latino students.

The state board resolved that any school district that assigned students to a particular level based on assessed or perceived readiness had to disclose this fact to parents and report to the state the research proving that this separate placement was necessary, the length of time it planned to deny children in lower levels access to learning with higher-achieving peers, and the demographic characteristics of those children denied access to higher-achieving peers.”

And yet, here we are; a new Commissioner of Education and two of his top confidants are part of a new policy that will stand as a testament to how far we can move away from the principles and ideals of full and equal access to a quality education.

Lecker closes with what I believe is an absolutely correct observation – “And now, we have a proposal for “gifted only” schools, equipped with “gifted only” water fountains, “gifted only” bathrooms and “gifted only” lunchrooms…Something is very wrong here.”

I strongly urge you to take the time to read Wendy Lecker’s extraordinary piece at   http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-A-return-to-school-segregation-4340187.php