New Jersey Save Our Schools reminds us that "school choice" was closely associated with resistance to court-ordered school desegregation in the South. Not only vouchers but segregation academies ("schools of choice") were havens for whites fleeing contact with blacks.
Save Our Schools NJ Statement on School Choice Week
This week, there will be a concerted national effort to use the idea of parental school choice to advance an entirely different agenda.
We want to remind our legislators and those marketing school choice that legitimate school choices:
Ensure every child has access to a high-quality public school education;
• Do not segregate or discriminate against our children on the basis of income, English proficiency, special needs, race, gender, religion or sexual preference;
• Are transparent in the sources and uses of their funding and in their educational outcomes;
• Are democratically controlled by local communities.
Unfortunately, what is being promoted by “choice” advocates does not come even close to meeting these standards.
Vouchers arose in Southern states during the 1960s, as a method of perpetuating segregation. To prevent children of color from attending their all-white schools, some districts actually closed those public schools and issued vouchers to parents that were only good at privately segregated schools, known as segregation academies.
The more recent history of voucher use in other states confirms that they continue to increase segregation.
Unfortunately, many charter schools have the same segregating effect.
For example, the recent Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) study of New Jersey charter schools found that New Jersey’s traditional public schools served four and a half times as many students with Limited English Proficiency and one and a half times as many special-needs students as did the charter schools. Rutgers Professor Bruce Baker has documented that this segregation also includes income, with charter schools serving a wealthier population of students than comparable traditional public schools.
New Jersey Department of Education statistics confirm that a number of New Jersey charter schools are also segregated by race and ethnicity.
Until school choice advocates can ensure that greater options for some parents do not equal more segregation for all of our children, their claims of looking out for the needy do not ring true.
Joining an all-white country club is also a choice, but not one that we would ever support.
Save Our Schools NJ is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization of parents and other concerned residents whose more than 10,000 members believe that all NJ children should have access to a high quality public education.