A new report released Wednesday by Connecticut Voices for Children concludes that children attending charter schools are more racially isolated than students attending local public schools. Meanwhile, interdistrict magnet and technical schools are meeting state integration standards.
The report, which some say highlights the need to address how schools are funded, concluded that a majority of magnet and technical schools are integrated with no fewer than 25 percent and no more than 75 percent minority students. On the other hand, the report found that “charter schools are hyper-segregated.” It found that about 90 percent of students who attend charters are minorities.
In Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, and Stamford charter schools are more segregated by race and ethnicity than the local public schools in all four towns based on information provided by the state Education Department. The report includes data from the 2011 and 2012 school year.
“In spite of state laws requiring charter and magnet schools to reduce racial and ethnic isolation of students, only interdistrict magnet schools are typically integrated, and a majority of the state’s charter schools are highly segregated,” researchers for Connecticut Voices for Children concluded.
Why is racial integration necessary in school?
Robert Cotto, one of the author’s of the report, said “national research is pretty clear that racial and ethnic integration of schools, particularly by policy has benefits to all children both white children and children of color.”
He said children who attend school in diverse settings are more likely to succeed in college and a multicultural society.
The report went even further to allege that at least one charter school organization with schools in New Haven and Hartford tends to “enroll children that aren’t at the bottom of the socioeconomic scale,” and accept fewer students who come from homes where English is not the first language or have special needs.
“We would raise questions about whether or not these school choice programs are serving children with the greatest needs,” Cotto said.
Achievement First, the charter school organization Cotto was referring to, says they don’t have a choice in which children they accept.
“Achievement First enrolls 100 percent of our students through a blind lottery, and our schools have no admissions requirements or fees,” Amanda Pinto, a spokeswoman with Achievement First, said. “We serve all students, and we only use a lottery rather than accepting all interested students because demand for our schools exceeds available seats.”
Jennifer Alexander, CEO of Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, said the premise of the report is all wrong.
“I think what’s striking [and] what’s missing from the report is a focus on results,” Alexander said. “Improving the outcomes has to be about outcomes.”
She said parents want options for their children and there are more than 4,000 children and families currently on a waiting list for a seat in one of the state’s charter schools. She said it begs the question regarding how these schools are funded and whether the state, which is responsible for funding education, needs to look at changing the formula.
Jeremiah Grace, director of the Northeast Charter Schools Network in Connecticut, said charter schools are not the source of educational inequality in Connecticut.
“We are part of the solution,” Grace said. “The facts speak for themselves — African-American and Latino children in New Haven, Bridgeport and Hartford are outperforming their peers in district schools. And parent demand could not be greater — with more than 4,200 children on waiting lists.”
He warned that charters did not create Connecticut’s achievement gap and are instead working to close it.