Sen. Deanna Ballard Says That “School Choice Segregation Is a ‘Lie'” – Well…

Much talk of late has been focused on North Carolina’s charter schools and the overall effect they have on the resegregation of student populations within the state.

In a recent EdNC.org op-ed, Rhonda Dillingham, Executive Director of the North Carolina Association for Public Charter Schools, defended North Carolina’s charter schools from criticism concerning perpetuating segregation.

She said,

“Since then (1996), charter schools, which will always be free and open to all, have offered exceptional student learning environments and created opportunities for all students nationwide — and especially in North Carolina. The facts speak for themselves; in three key metrics — student-family wellbeing, academic performance, and diversity — charter schools are a beacon.”

The data presented in this post say otherwise. Dillingham has yet to respond or refute.

In a recent article by Center Point, Sen. Deanna Ballard made the same assertion.

Ballard said the racism claims are the critics “last hope for killing school choice,” but she thinks it is a shot in the dark. 

Enrollment numbers in North Carolina paint a different picture from the “white flight” that Mangrum described, according to Ballard.

About 20 percent of school-aged children do not attend traditional public schools, according to state numbers. The charter schools have a higher percentage of African-American students than public schools do. 

The Center Square confirmed that 26.1 percent of charter school students in North Carolina are African-American, and African-American students make up 25.1 percent of the public school population. 

Let it be known that the Center Point is a publication put out by the Franklin Press, a right-wing conservative outlet based in the Midwest. From PR Watch:

An effort to replace local journalism with right-wing reporting has put on a new mask this month. The Center Square is posing as a beacon of the “highest journalistic ethics,” but in reality, it is a rebranding of an outlet deemed “highly ideological” and criticized for “occasional…gross distortions” of the facts.

The Center Square website purports to be “a non-profit, non-partisan, non-political, no-nonsense organization.” But its “About Us” page does not disclose that it is the latest incarnation of the Franklin Center, a media site specifically funded to have a “valuable” role as part of Wisconsin’s “conservative infrastructure.”

So, let’s revisit that 26.1 percent versus 25.1 calculation that Ballard and Center Point claim proves the diversity of North Carolina’s charter schools.

Imagine if I were to tell you that inside a banquet room you are about to enter there were 100 people; 50 were white and 50 were African-American. According to Ballard and Center Point, that would constitute perfect diversity – 50/50.  However, when you walked inside, all of the white people were seated at tables at one end of the room and the African-American attendees were all seated at tables on the other side of the room.

Would you call that “diversity?”

What Ballard is hoping is that you don’t pay attention to how the attendees are (or are not) seated.

Sen. Ballard represents parts of five counties in northwestern NC: Alleghany, Ashe, Surry, Watauga, and Wilkes. Those counties house three of the over 170 charter schools in the state. Those charter schools are Bridges Academy in Wilkes County, Milennium Charter Academy in Surry County, and Two Rivers Community School in Watauga County.

Maybe it would be a good idea to see how the student makeup of each of these charter schools compares to nearby public schools. In this post, the site SchoolDigger.com was used. Each charter school in Ballard’s district was entered into the same search fields.

Here is what was found.

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Millenium Charter: 15.7 free and reduced lunch. Take a look at the table above of the nearest high schools – particularly Mount Airy High School which is the closest one.

Compare the percentages of student makeup.

Here’s Two Bridges compared to other close elementary schools. Again, take a look at the percentages of Free/Discounted Lunch Recipients and race makeups.

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Here’s Bridges Academy.

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Of the three above, two are starkly different in student makeup than other nearby schools. Only Bridges Academy seems to have the same student makeup as nearby schools. But would that have anything to do with the lack of diversity in Wilkes County? Possibly.

But two of three school in her district portray a vastly different image than the one she proffers in her words within the Center Point article.

Actually, those two schools prove her words wrong.