Charter schools and segregation

The folks who want to open a Waldorf-inspired school in Bloomington are back, this time with a plan that sounds a bit more secular than what they laid out the first time around.

They’ve asked the Indiana Charter School Board to approve a charter for what they’re now calling The Green School. The board will have a public hearing on the proposal Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at the Monroe County Public Library. Comments can be emailed until April 8 to charter-applications@icsb.in.gov.

The Green School charter application describes a school that will emphasize environmental sustainability and social justice with an “arts-infused” curriculum on the model of Waldorf schools, created a century ago by Rudolf Steiner. It will be a school “that meets the needs of the whole child: head, hands and heart.” Sort of a new-age 4-H club without the H for health – although that’s in the plan too: There will be crafts with beeswax crayons and natural paints and healthy cafeteria meals from the local co-op.

Initially calling their proposal the Green Meadows School, the organizers applied last year to Ball State University but withdrew that application. They have now dropped many of the explicit references to “spiritual” values and practices that made the first plan sound sectarian. But the Indiana Charter School Board should still look critically at whether a school whose curriculum is “informed” by Steiner can claim to be nonreligious.

The organizers of The Green School include some experienced and thoughtful educators. They care about children and they know what they are doing. But is what they’re doing in the public interest? They have created a plan for a school that will appeal to progressive parents who don’t want to send their children to public schools – just as the planned Seven Oaks Classical School in Bloomington is likely to appeal to traditionalists who see public schools as bastions of value-free liberal permissiveness.

George Washington University education professor Iris Rotberg pointed out in a recent Washington Post column that the proliferation of charter schools in the U.S. is exacerbating school segregation by race, ethnicity and social class. A National Education Policy Center paper by Amy Stuart Wells of Columbia University notes that “colorblind” school choice policies are having the same effect.

Here in Bloomington, we’re demonstrating that charter schools can be the mechanism by which parents segregate themselves, and their children, by tribe as well.

 

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2 thoughts on “Charter schools and segregation

  1. Schools are becoming the new frontier of the culture wars.

    This mirrors the trend toward people choosing to live in politically like-minded communities.

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