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Are Educators Skeptical Of Charters Because They’re Blind To Inequality?

A majority say students of color have the same opportunities as white students

On Monday, Education Week released the results of a new survey gauging the political perceptions and behaviors of educators across the country.

The finding that drew headlines was that respondents overwhelmingly opposed charter schools, with 45% “Completely Opposed” to charters and another 26% “Somewhat Opposed.”

Screenshot from Education Week.

Although I think the wording of the charter school question may have skewed the results a bit (after all, “Somewhat Opposed” and “Somewhat Support” are two ways of saying the same thing, like a glass half-empty or half-full), it’s not surprising that a majority are skeptical of charters, since most of the survey participants work in traditional public schools.

Why would anyone expect them to endorse their competition?

On the other hand, the response to another question (one that didn’t get attention) is actually surprising and should be cause for concern. The survey asked participants: “To what extent do you agree or disagree that students of color have the same educational opportunities as whites in our country?” Astonishingly, more than half of respondents said that students of color have the same opportunities as their white peers.

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Screenshot from Education Week.

How could so many teachers, principals, and superintendents believe that minority students have equal educational opportunities, when study after study has shown that minority students are disproportionately suspended and expelled from school? How could they be unaware of the statistics that show clear racial disparities in graduation rates and college attendance? Although the achievement gap has been at the center of our national conversation on education for decades, many educators seem blissfully (or intentionally?) unaware of it. It’s dumbfounding.

At the same time, this may help explain why so many educators across the country take a dim view of charter schools, most of which enroll low-income students of color who have been underserved by the traditional public school system. If you have deluded yourself into believing that things in traditional district schools are fine for kids of color, then of course there isn’t any need for charter schools.

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Written by Peter Cook

Pete became involved in education reform as a 2002 Teach For America corps member in New Orleans Public Schools and has worked in various capacities at Teach For America, KIPP, TNTP, and the Recovery School District. As a consultant, he developed teacher evaluation systems and served as a strategic advisor to school district leaders in Cleveland, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. He now writes about education policy and politics and lives in New Orleans.

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