Educators give thumbs-down to school choice

Teachers, principals and superintendents don’t much care for charter schools and vouchers. Not even the ones who voted for Donald Trump for president.

That’s a key take-away from a survey conducted by Education Week and reported by the publication last week. The survey was administered to more than 1,100 educators in September and October.

It found that 74 percent fully or somewhat oppose the creation of charter schools. And 79 percent fully or somewhat oppose publicly funded vouchers to pay private school tuition.

Among educators who voted for Trump, 64 percent oppose charter schools and 70 percent oppose vouchers — even though Trump and his secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, have made expanding “school choice” a centerpiece of their education rhetoric.

Educators who voted for Trump? Yes, there are quite a few of them. Twenty-nine percent of survey respondents say they voted for Trump compared to 50 percent who voted for Hillary Clinton.

Furthermore, only 24 percent of the surveyed educators identified as liberals while 23 percent said they were conservatives. A plurality, 43 percent, said they were political moderates.

Only 27 percent of educators have a favorable view of Trump, but DeVos fares even worse – only 10 percent view her favorably. Even among educators who voted for Trump, only 30 percent have a positive view of DeVos.

More interesting findings:

  • 72 percent of educators support the idea that different states should use the same standards to hold schools accountable. But they apparently don’t want a push for common standards to come from Washington; a majority favor a reduced federal role in education.
  • On immigration, educators split evenly between saying that it’s good for the country and that its effects are mixed. Among Trump voters, two-thirds say the effects are mixed but only a handful say immigration has a negative effect.

Charter schools and segregation

The Associated Press used solid data-based reporting to show that charter schools are more segregated by race than the public schools in the communities where they operate.

“As of school year 2014-2015, more than 1,000 of the nation’s 6,747 charter schools had minority enrollment of at least 99 percent, and the number has been rising steadily,” the AP reported.

“While 4 percent of traditional public schools are 99 percent minority, the figure is 17 percent for charters. In cities, where most charters are located, 25 percent of charters are over 99 percent nonwhite, compared to 10 percent for traditional schools.”

As the AP points out, research has shown that racially isolated schools typically have fewer resources, less experienced teachers and lower test scores.

Charter advocates cried foul, arguing that parents of color are choosing racially segregated schools, so it’s not the same thing as the legally mandated school segregation that used to exist in the South (and elsewhere). Well, of course it’s not. The AP clearly made that point and gave charter school supporters and parents plenty of opportunity to make their case in the story.

But the numbers speak for themselves. As Andre Perry of the Brookings Institution argues, charter schools didn’t create segregation, but they shouldn’t be making it worse – or acting like it isn’t their problem.

“By not addressing segregation,” he writes, “reformers are turning off the stove when the house is going up in flames.”

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