ITHACA, N.Y. — Schools have slowly segregated since the rise of charter schools in the early 2000s, according to recent research. However, residential areas showed little segregation and more diversity. Based on the study, there was a 12% increase in the segregation of Whites and Blacks in schools, however, the research revealed a decrease of 2% in residential areas.
Researchers believe the opposing results are due to the fact that charter schools, although publicly funded, are independent and do not require families to live in the district. This allows families to live in any residential area and choose the school of their choice. “The findings highlight education policy’s influence beyond schools and offer a cautionary lesson about continued charter expansion without efforts to limit racial sorting by families,” says lead author Peter Rich, an assistant professor in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management in Cornell University’s College of Human Ecology, in a statement.
Since 2000, the enrollment of charter schools has quadrupled. Now, more than 6% of students attend a charter school and this number is expected to continue rising. It is critical to understand the effect of these schools on segregation given this information.
For this study, over 1,500 school districts in metropolitan areas were examined to determine the outcome when the choice of the school separated residential and school areas. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics Common Core of Data and the census was used. According to researchers, policies do not always trump preferences and vice versa.
Since Hispanic students are a part of more ethnically diverse charter schools, the school choice did not affect the segregation of Whites and Hispanics. As the number of students increased, the segregation of the White-Hispanic group decreased. Although there was little decrease in residential segregation, the researchers say “policymakers should not see school choice as a tool for achieving resident diversity, given how it exacerbated school segregation.”
This study is published in the journal Demography.
Schools have not slowly segregated because of charter schools, schools have been segregated for decades because of the redlining practices that came out during the New Deal that restricted where people of color could live and buy real estate. School district lines often reflect the redlines. Public charter schools, on the other hand, usually are open to students from throughout a chartering jurisdiction. While they might attract large numbers of students of color, it is unfair to argue that they contribute to racial segregation. Often, they are a better school choice than the existing school district that is a product of racial segregation.