America's School System has Brought Back De-facto Segregation

This thread continues a discussion from the recent thread about the ACLU, which unfortunately got buried under posts about the school prayer issue. The discussion in question was the claim, which I advanced, that forcing poor children to remain in public schools is particularly bad for black and Hispanic children. Two notes to clarify: I do not claim that all who oppose school vouchers are racist, only that the stance has unavoidable racist effects. Also, in this thread, “minority” will refer to races that are minorities in the USA, even if they aren’t minorities in every part of the country.

In our K-12 education system, parents with sufficient wealth can send their kids to private school. Poorer parents cannot afford to, and thus must send their kids to public schools. Private schools deliver a much better education, and minorities are on average substantially poorer than whites. Hence our system leads to de facto racial segregation in many places.

Racial differences between whites and minorities are not subtle, especially in big cities. For example, just look at Washington D. C., and its notorious worst-in-the-nation school system. The public school student body is 96% minority and 4% white.. By contrast, the city itself is 61% minority and 39% white. Or similarly in Baltimore, the public school student body is 88% black while the city is 32% white. In these places nearly all the white people send their kids to private schools, while minority kids mainly get stuck in the public schools.

So with that established, what about results? Well, for minority students in big cities, public school education basically sucks. In New York City, for instance, only 44% of blacks and 39% of Hispanics graduate from high school within 4 years of entering. Test scores also suck.

So, is there an alternative? Indeed, both vouchers and charter schools have a proven ability to address the problem by giving a better education to poor, minority students. For example, multiple studies have shown that black students in charter schools on average see their scores rise faster and approach closer to the scores of white students than those black students in public schools. (See pages 2 and 3 of this report.) In New York City, Catholic schools outperform public schools. (See the report in the previous paragraph.) And in Florida, the state which undertook the strongest statewide effort to bring accountability and school choice statewide starting in 1998, performance by blacks and Hispanics soared upward over the next ten years.

So, to conclude, our current system discriminates against poor, black and Hispanic students. School vouchers and charter schools have a proven ability to address this problem. Yet many people continue to fight these solutions.

Having lived in Japan, I’m personally dubious that our species has yet been able to design a standardized test that effectively measures the quality of education. Learning to pass a test or even simply learning facts past reading, writing, and arithmetic is essentially pointless, but our current methods of testing make this useless labor the standard to try and achieve.

You would really need to run kids from both sets of schools past of panel of judges to rate how smart and knowledgeable they come across as. You would have to track them through their interests and personal specialties and how well they were doing within that scope. It’s an interview, not a test.

Until we have something like that, the only real answer is smaller class sizes and greater freedom for the teachers to do their job as best they know how, at least past the 3rd or 4th grade. I think it could be safely said that that works. Whether anything else does is largely unknowable.

Looks to me the segregrating factor is wealth, not race, though I’ll admit the two are correlated.

Vouchers are a scam to get poor people to pay for rich people’s kids’ private schools.

I don’t think it’s fair to blame America’s school system for bringing back de-facto segregation. In Little Rock, Arkansas part of the problem is that white flight occurred in the 1970s and especially in the 1980s. The completion of highway 630 and a judge’s order for 3 school districts in Pulaski County led to an increase in white students attending private schools and in families moving to the suburbs. Similar occurrences continue to happen in the wake of Brown vs. Board of Education.


[quote=“ITR_champion, post:1, topic:519309”]

The public school student body is 96% minority and 4% white..

Um, wouldn’t that make the white people the “minority”?

Perhaps, but charter schools or vouchers don’t address segregation. In fact, this study on charter schools states that they often exacerbate economic and racial segregation.

Well I would argue that years of de jure segregation, jim crow, and racism leads to de facto segregation. Also, charter schools and private schools are not better than public school across the board. The main problems are that public schools have to accept everyone, and are largely funded by property taxes and soft money contributions. Because of those two things, there are disparate results- not poor results across the board. For example, both MD and Northern VA have some of they best schools in the country (public or private), whereas DC has the worst. That isn’t a matter of public vs. private.

First, the percentage of non-Hispanic Whites is 32.5%. Second, those numbers don’t tell us anything about the demographics of school-age children. As someone who lives in DC, I can tell you that there are a large number of White residents going to colleges here in DC (Catholic, American, Georgetown, GW, Johns Hopkins, etc.) that may throw off the numbers.

Aside from that, I don’t see why you think any of that would change if there were more charter schools. Do you think rich people will suddenly decide not to send their kids to Sidwell Friends, et. al.?

The other problem is that you are not taking into account the fact that many rich people in DC, or other cities, only live there because they can afford to insulate themselves from the negative aspects of city life. For all intents and purposes, they don’t really count in discussion like this, since they will never send their kids to public schools, or heavily Black or Hispanic schools no matter the quality.

No they haven’t. We can go cite for cite all day. See here, here, and here. And that is with the added selection bias Charter schools enjoy since uneducated parents who are ignorant of the educational opportunities available to their children don’t even apply to charter schools.

Furthermore, charter schools are problematic because the market has winners and losers. Terrible public schools are awful, but they usually provide some stable resources for diligent, motivated students to make the best of a bad situations. Charter schools often just close down (about 9% do according to that last link). That’s a lot of displaced students and wasted tax-payer money.

They “fight” your “solutions” because they have not been proven to work any better, they disrupt the status quo which works quite well for the majority of students, and strip the last remaining shreds of dignity from the teaching profession. The ulterior motive here is always to break the unions, make rigid guidelines for teachers, lower pay, and fire everyone who doesn’t fall in line.

It’s basically the Walmart problem. Walmart is an admirable and well-designed company in many ways. They revolutionized the field, have lowered prices for consumers, and forced suppliers to tighten up and trim the fat. However, they also treat their workers poorly (many are on public assistance), squeeze suppliers till they break, outsource jobs, destroy local businesses, and create a paradox of choice which leads to cheap, disposable, cookie cutter goods sold to you at the lowest direct cost possible. If you want to take this idea of charter schools and vouchers to its logical conclusion, ask yourself whether Walmart would create good schools. Would they be better than some public school? Of course, but as a matter of public policy, I think it would be terribly foolish to champion this notion that the Walmart-created schools are more effective by their nature.

Our system of educations is similar to healthcare in many senses. High highs, low lows, a basic, yet inefficient safety net for all, and rationing based on income. As with healthcare, too many people think the market will fix everything when history and commonsense dictate otherwise. Particularly in education where social norms predominate. I’m not saying charter schools are always bad, or are always ineffective, but they aren’t a panacea either.

The rich are separated from the poor in every way. They go to fancy pre schools, then go to fancy and safe grade schools and well equipped high schools. They go to excellent colleges after being prepared for years.
They live apart, go to different restaurants, health clubs etc. The separation of the rich and poor is clear and distinct. They have less and less in common every year. What laws were unable to do in the past, financial inequality has succeeded in doing today.

I’m willing to support vouchers for private schools under the following conditions:

All schools accepting public money must have no prayer or religious instruction of any kind.

They have to accept every student who applies (no cherry picking just the “good” ones), and expulsion from the school has to follow the same strict due process as is required of public schools.

Private schools appear to provide a better education simply because parents who would send their kids to a private school–and pay more money to do so–are much more likely to be the kinds of parents who are more involved or at least concerned with their child’s education.
Students in public schools who have parents involved in their education and concerned with their performance do well and score higher than those who don’t. Unfortunately, a public school’s test results are an average of all kinds of students, not just good ones with involved parents.

Many poor parents who receive these vouchers are going to be the same, uninvolved, parents they were before. They will continue to assume the school should be doing all the work. After enough time, private schools will begin to show poorer average test results and acedemic achievement from its students.

It’s not an issue of money or race or school. The issue is parents not taking a vested interest in the education of their children, not being involved enough at home, and then blaming the “public school system” for their child’s shortcomings.

Bear Nenno gets it in one.

I still support Vouchers, because I think it’s an extremely rational form of doing the work. It enables people to shift schools for whatever reason they wish, acing essentially as an easy and small market economy. Good schools (that is, who are genuinely good, not simply filled with good students) will tend to attract more. Bad ones will tend to be bled dry over time.

And that’s a good ting. Frankly, most of the really bad schools are not bad becaue they have terrible students, but because they’re stuffed with bad teachers, in bad neighborhoods, with a bad environment. Removing students from it is probably a good things, since it permits the school boards to see the problem in very clear numerical terms, and address it. Even before that, the school may finally get its act together.

I don’t think this should be simply plopped down. It needs to be supported by less restrictive teacher’s union protection (tenure). That said, I don’t think principals or school bureaucracy should be the ones doing the firing.

This is untrue and has been shown to be untrue in many studies. From here, for instance:

“They examined achievement test data and concluded that students in Catholic schools learn more than students in public schools. Moreover, Coleman rejected the claim that Catholic school students perform better on achievement tests simply because they are more talented or come from better families. He argued that the achievement differences between public and Catholic school students are, in significant measure, attributable to the different schools they attend.”


“Taken as a whole, Coleman’s work, and subsequent research by other scholars, indicates that, on average, Catholic high-school students learn more than public-school students of similar backgrounds and ability levels. It was also found that Catholic schooling lowers high-school dropout rates.”

Later in the article they also discuss research that specifically looked at minority students in inner-city areas, and showed that Catholic schools outperform public schools in those areas as well. Since the report was commissioned by the Department of Education, it’s certainly not biased against public schools.

And where’s the cite for this? After all, voucher programs have existed in over a dozen states, sometimes for many years. Look at the link in my OP about the performance of students and especially minority students in Florida schools after the ambitious reforms of 1998. How does your theory account for that?

What evidence would convince you that private schools perform better than public schools? Or, as a 15-year-old skeptic would say, what makes your hypothesis falsifiable?

Let’s see: a one-sentence post with no facts and no cites. It must be the return of Diogenes the Cynic.

Your claims are flatly untrue. Here’s a list of voucher programs, and you can click on each one to see the criteria for eligibility. Once you do so, you’ll see that most are available only to the poor. The D.C. program was open only to kids in families below the poverty line, the Milwaukee program for families below 175% of the poverty line and so forth. In other states like Florida and Ohio, the vouchers were restricted to kids in failing schools, and needless to say failing schools are almost always in poor areas. So, in short, your claim that vouchers pay for “rich people’s kids’ private schools” is the exact, polar opposite of the truth.

Add a little means testing to insure that only households making less than a certain amount (say $200K a year) are eligible, and I’ll go along, even though corporate welfare still makes me queasy.
ITR, you would agree that religious schools should not be eligible to receive public money, do you not?

If you do agree, then where are all these secular private schools that are going to be able to take in millions of kids from public schools.

I’ve got good news. In this country we do exactly that. We have panels of judges whose job it is to carefully evaluate tens of thousands of high school students on the basis of academics, extracurricular activities, personality, and many other measures, then combine the results into a general assessment of each student. These panels are called the admissions departments at colleges and universities, and they take a larger percentage of private school students than public school students. Nor is it true only for the university system as a whole. Go to any top university and you’ll find that their entering class has a disproportionate number of private school students.

(I do generally agree that our system places far too much emphasis on standardized tests and too little on everything else. But whose fault is that? It’s the fault of politicians who are in charge of public schools. What’s the solution? Put in kids in private schools where politicians aren’t in charge.)

If you are an intercity kid, it would be delusional to think you can be part of the ever narrowing American dream. They know where they are born and raised has made them expendable. The system will do all it can to keep them separated from those who matter. It will happen ,rarely, that a person will escape. It will be pointed out to the kids, that it is possible. Except they know better. They are doomed to a difficult and dangerous life because of where they were born. We have exported the jobs they had a chance to get. They will have to live by exploiting each other , selling drugs , robbing each other or fast food. Government assistance is something to aspire to.The opportunities in their neighborhoods are long gone.

Your heart’s in the right place, but having gone from Catholic to public schools as a kid, I can tell you first-hand that parochial schools teach the 3 R’s, especially writing, very very well. Nuns with rulers impart this knowledge well enough that I’m willing to overlook the religious content in the context of vouchers. I don’t believe that Protestant Bible schools or Madrassas can make this claim (although yeshivas likely can).

If Charter schools are succeeding in cities like Boston and Washington, then they at least hold the possibility of improved education for inner-city kids. If charters are performing only the same as public schools in other cities, then the logical thing to do would be to study the differences and find why some charters succeed and others fail. Bluntly, we’ve been trying to fix public schools in big cities for a long time and absolutely nothing has worked. As the report about New York City’s schools makes clear, performance by many measures has stayed flat in the city’s bad schools for years, despite increased spending, new strategies, and federal intervention.

As a private school teacher, I see it mostly the other way around. My pay is not bad. The stereotype of private school teachers getting paid chickenfeed is out of date. Salaries have been moving up lately, getting close to and sometimes passing public school salaries. As for “rigid guidleines”, isn’t that one of the big problems with public schools? Public school teachers have rigid guidelines for many things, from what materials they use to how many hours they spend on professional development. Worse, these rules are made by politicians, and politicians care more about looking good than doing good. In my school, by contrast, the Head of School makes these decisions, and she’s willing to listen to our opinions and be flexible about most things.

As for “the Walmart problem”, it really isn’t because contrary to what some people seem to think, not just anyone can open a private school. You have to be accredited by the Board of Independent Schools; every state has one.

Parents sending their kids to religious schools using vouchers is perfectly constitutional - site

I much prefer this particular cite, but that’s a matter of opinion. Religious schools are allowed to receive public money. They receive money through vouchers in some states and cities. They also receive grants for things such as energy efficiency from any number of government programs, and they participate in the free school lunch program for poor children, and so forth. Religious schools at the university receive all kinds of public money and even the ACLU doesn’t try to block that.

That’s not the point, though. The main point is that private schools–religious and otherwise–work. They deliver a better education than public schools, and I want all kids, including poor kids and minorities, to have the best possible education. So therefore I logically cannot agree that religious schools should not be eligible to receive public money.