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Cloaking Inequity: New: Does The African American Need Separate Charter Schools?

Turns out the debate we are having in the public discourse about segregated charter and public schools has roots that extend more than a century. In 1935, W.E. Burghardt DuBois asked in a seminal essay entitled Does the Negro Need Separate Schools? if “separate schools and institutions [were] needed” for the “proper education” of African Americans.

Last year I was invited to attend the Summit for Civil Rights at the University of Minnesota Law School. I blogged about the experience and my lecture in the post The Unfortunate History and Segregation of Charter Schools. The Summit for Civil Rights  brought together stakeholders such as civil rights lawyers, scholars, political leaders, community leaders, labor unions, and the faith community to reignite the historic coalition that fought for civil rights and to form a modern political alliance—and to realize the more fully inclusive society that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Thurgood Marshall, and A. Philip Randolph expected when they defeated Jim Crow.

To ignite progress, the Summit sought to begin the renewal of the coalition by fomenting local and national networks and connections for a multi-racial, grassroots political movement for “a racially integrated and united country with sustained prosperity for all.” In the plenum education forums, the discussion focused on the triumphs and failures of the past and examined the changed political and social landscape of education reform today. The presenters and attendees discussed their learned experiences as stakeholders of our nation’s public education system. Notably, the small group education forum discussion quickly turned to school choice, charter schools, segregation, and self-determination.

I viewed these components of the arguments in the small group discussion as an opportunity to elucidate and delve deeply into charter schools to inform the new civil rights coalition about the legal, empirical, and historical evidence about school choice. As a result, after the summit for the Law & Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice we wrote the article “Does the African American Need Separate Charter Schools?

To address this question, we analyze legal precedents, scholarly research, and historical evidence. We begin in Part I by revisiting several seminal cases related to segregation and schools. We review in Part II empirical research on charters and segregation. Then, in Part III we examine historical evidence to understand whether school choice and charters represent self-determination and empowerment for African Americans. We conclude by proposing an answer to Du Bois’s century-old question about whether separate, segregated schools are in the best interests of African American communities: they are not.

Vasquez Heilig, J., Nelson, S., & Kronzer, M. (2018). Does the African American Need Separate Charter Schools? Law & Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice, 36(2), 247-267.

I believe that Du Bois’ nearly century-old thoughts are sobering and equally salient for today’s debate about school choice and integrated schools.

Read the entire article here.

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Julian Vasquez Heilig

Julian Vasquez Heilig is the Dean and a Professor of Educational Policy Studies and Evaluation at the University of Kentucky College of Education. His current res...