From NBC News:
This winter, charter supporters will make their fifth attempt in five years to bring charters to Mississippi, one of a dwindling number of states without a real charter school law. But the deep-rooted skepticism of the state’s black leadership remains one of the biggest obstacles to bipartisan support for charters in Mississippi and throughout the South, where powerful white Democrats are a disappearing breed. It also speaks to broader mistrust among black officials nationwide — particularly those who came of age before or during the civil rights movement — toward contemporary school reform efforts they believe are being imposed by outsiders on low-income, minority communities.
In Mississippi, which has the nation’s highest rate of childhood poverty and posts some of the weakest test scores, there’s particular urgency to improving the schools. Advocates of charters believe the autonomous schools will help boost the state’s abysmal academic performance. They say they can learn from mistakes made in other states to ensure Mississippi’s charter law is exemplary.
Blacks in Mississippi should be anxious about white legislators ‘fiddling’ with things, especially the schools. Most of us are old enough to remember the segregation laws of this and other Confederate states. In 1954 the U.S. Supreme Court declared segregated schools unconstitutional [ Brown v. Board of Education.] Not surprisingly, the citizens of that state made no effort to abandon their dual school system. The passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, most Mississippi school districts reluctantly adopted freedom-of-choice desegregation plans, which essentially provided that any student could choose to go to any school in a district. Naturally, the gap between white and black education created by fifty years of support for white (only) education was huge as reflected in state ranking of U.S. schools with MS perennially at the bottom.
Of course, black students were not welcome in the ‘white’ schools. An article on the University of Southern Mississippi website called “School Desegregation”
Freedom-of-choice desegregation, however, only offered five years of token desegregation and the preservation of largely segregated schools. The problem was that in the 1960s, most black Mississippians really did not have freedom of choice. Between 1964 and 1969, black parents who chose white schools for their children were subjected to numerous forms of intimidation: some were pressured or fired by their employers; some lost their housing; some lost their credit at the local bank; and others received threatening phone calls, had crosses burned on their lawns, or were victims of physical intimidation.
Thus, elementary and high schools in MS have remained essentially racially unmixed. Fast forward to 2013 and the article cited by NBC. Blacks remember all of this as well as the Jim Crow laws under which they and their grandparents suffered for generations. Is it any wonder that this new ‘talk’ of shifting school arrangements sounds an alarm bell?
The NBC article goes on citing the fear that the charter movement will be hijacked by virtual schools and for-profit companies hoping to profit off of Mississippi’s children. And why not. That profiteering at the expense of solid education of the children has occurred here in Ohio ever since the charter school movement, now cleverly renamed ‘Community Schools,’ began here. A bit of history is noteworthy. Sally Perz, a former Republican state representative from Toledo,wrote the legislation creating charter schools in the mid-1990s. She now makes a handsome living monitoring charter schools and lobbying for the cause. She works for her daughter, Allison Perz, the $105,000 a year executive director of the Toledo-based Ohio Council of Community Schools, which oversees 45 charter schools around the state. Clever, eh? By the way, both Perz women make 6-digit salaries off of state tax dollars collected for Ohio public schools.
Further, many of these schools pay up to 12 percent of their income to private companies that manage them on a day-to-day basis. Ohio’s largest is White Hat, run by David L. Brennan, an Akron industrialist who is a major Republican campaign contributor. Ms. Perz formerly was a White Hat lobbyist. Red flags, anyone? More about White Hat Management here.
When charter schools first opened in Ohio, they were not subject to state-wide testing. That changed a few years ago. Last year in the Toledo area, Charter [Community] schools performed poorly on the Ohio Achievement Test. Eight were rated in academic emergency [lowest rating], while of the remaining charter schools, 11 were in academic watch, 10 were in continuous improvement, and only two were rated effective. How’s that for tax dollars well spent! Several past charter schools were shut down by the state for terrible academic performance.
Thus, when the citizens of the state of Mississippi worry- especially the black citizens- about the charter school concept, they can learn quite a bit from the disappointments here in Ohio.
note: I published an article in 2009 regarding charter schools https://manwiththemuckrake.wordpress.com/2009/08/27/charter-schools-are-a-disaster/