For the past few years, charter schools continue to provoke acrimonious debate within the black community. On one hand, the NAACP and other black activists have called for a moratorium on expanding charter schools until they are reformed to be more inclusionary and said that charter schools are no substitute for public schools. On the other, civil rights activists argue that charter school give black families more choice and benefit students academically over the short and long term.

Charter schools certainly have not been a panacea, and there are legitimate concerns about how they cause segregation and enforce racism within their walls. But these concerns are hardly confined to charter schools, and there is a distinct paternalistic air in this debate coming from anti-charter activists. Would the NAACP call for a moratorium on expanding public schools since many of the issues with racism exist there as well? Of course not, and the same should be true for charter schools, which are not failing black children anymore than public schools are.

The Segregation Discussion

There are plenty of controversies surrounding charter schools, such as whether they are really better than public schools, as different organizations and experts will claim that they are or they are not. But the biggest controversy is whether charter schools promote segregation.

AP News, in December 2017, reported that “charter schools are among the nation’s most segregated,” with nearly one-sixth of all charter schools reporting minority enrollment of at least 99 percent.

But in reality, the very usage of the word “segregation” is misleading. Segregation was not evil just because black and white students went to different schoolhouses. It was evil because black students were forced into inferior schoolhouses and confronted with the National Guard when they attempted to achieve equality.

If force is used today to put black children into inferior schools, it is with public schools, not charter schools. Economic oppression as potent as any gun, forcing minorities into poor neighborhoods where they have no choice but to attend underfunded and low-quality schools. The fact that some white people attend those schools, as well, means nothing for students who do not have the resources they need to succeed.

In a perfect world, charter schools would be unneeded and every black student would have the chance to succeed in the nearest racially integrated public school and go on to pursue a Masters in Data Science or any other in-demand subject at college. But we do not live in that world, especially so under an administration which pursues white supremacy in all but name. Are we to tell black families that they are to sit without a choice, sacrifices upon the altar of racial integration?

Even if charter schools, as a whole, are no better than public schools, black parents should have a choice and a chance to give their children a better life and not be forced to attend poor schools just as their ancestors were. As activist Howard Fuller pointed out, the real goal should be the very real black children whose goal is surviving, not an ideal of integration.


While charter schools give minority parents a choice, there are some particular ways charter schools should improve to create a more inclusive environment.

A major reform would be greater government oversight about how discipline is conducted in charter schools. Some charter schools emphasize a no-nonsense approach, which do not hesitate to crack down on problematic students. This may sound like a good idea at first (one bad apple spoils the barrel), until you realize that such harsh disciplinary measures inevitably target black and minority students as educators are less inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Charter schools should also aim to pay their teachers more, as too many of them aim to cut costs by hiring young and inexperienced teachers, making the students constantly accountable to their parents. Charter schools should not be a place that tries to grab all the smart kids while dumping the rest into public schools, but somewhere which seeks to bring everyone to their potential for a better future.

Not a Failure

A major problem in the charter school debate is that more often than not, pro and anti-charter activists are talking past one another. Anti-charter activists emphasize the importance of ensuring racially diverse schools, and argue that charter schools promote segregation. Pro-charter activists argue that integration is less important than ensuring that disadvantaged and black students get the best education possible and that charter schools are the best hope of providing it.

Reforming public schools so that minority public schools receive equitable funding and minority students are better treated will be the best way to fix the education system as a whole. But reform will take time, and during that time, we will see black students fall by the wayside. Charter schools can offer an opportunity for some of these students by giving them and their parents a choice and chance.