Education Law Prof Blog: Two Maps of DC Charter Schools Tell It All: DC's Schools Are Separate and Unequal
These maps of Washington DC's schools and neighborhoods from Andre Perry's new piece at The Hechinger Report say it all. The first map is color coded by wealth. The darker the blue the wealthier the neighborhood. The red stars are private schools and the yellow dots are charters.
I drew a line from the top of this diamond to the bottom. What you see is incredible stark. Except for one that straddles the line, all the city's charter schools are to the right of that line. The city's wealthiest families are densely located to the left of the line. And while there are certainly a number of private schools in the wealthy areas, there are actually more private schools to the right of the line than the left.
To be clear, there is less land mass to the left. But notice the dark blue neighborhoods to the far west. They don't have a single private or charter school in them. Look at the dark blue neighborhoods in the north, the only private schools there are on the periphery.
What does this tell us? It tells us that wealthy neighborhoods in DC don't need alternatives to the public school system. They are more than happy with the public schools. Only low income students need alternatives.
To put it more bluntly: Charters are for poor kids. And private schools are not even for wealthy kids when the public schools are good.
To summarize Julia Burdick-Will, school choice is not a privilege. The real privilege is not even needing to choose a school.
The next map swaps family income for race. It is even more stark and you don't need the red line because the race line speaks for itself. Light blue shading represents majority white neighborhoods. The darker blues are majority to predominantly minority. From this map, charters are only for neighborhoods of color.
Charter proponents will say these charter schools are a reflection of the fact that public schools are not serving minority students well. I would second the fact that public schools are not serving minorities well. But it strikes me as extremely odd that the DC Public School system does not have an trouble serving white and wealthy families. It is only minority students whom the system struggles to educate.
Rather than demand that DC public schools serve all of its students well, public policy has chopped up the city and turned it into one that is separate and unequal: Good public schools for those who live in majority white neighborhoods and a litany of alternatives to public schools for those who live in majority minority neighborhoods. The litany of options, however, still don't add up to what kids on the other side of town have.
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