In the past few weeks, much attention has been focused in North Carolina around HB514, the municipalities charter school bill championed by Bill Brawley which will allow four predominantly white, affluent cities within Mecklenburg County to finance their own charter schools and give preference to their own students.
Those students would attend “local” charter schools and not the traditional public schools within the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System.
It does not take much deductive reasoning to see that HB514 will enable a backdoor path to further segregation in CMS. Anyone arguing to the contrary under the guise of “school choice” would need a very compelling argument.
When a charter opens in a locality, it will no doubt have an effect on the educational terrain of many schools, especially if the charter school is not tightly regulated or governed while using tax payer money.
Consider a recent NBC news story that aired on June 17th dealing with a small charter school in rural Georgia called Lake Oconee Academy (https://www.nbcnews.com/news/education/it-s-black-white-thing-how-some-elite-charter-schools-n878656).
Lake Oconee Academy is located in a small town called Greensboro, GA. It has approximately 3,500 residents. Located almost halfway between Atlanta and Augusta on I-20, Greensboro also is home to part of the Lake Oconee resorts.
Lake Oconee is a man-made lake constructed by Georgia Power. In a pine-tree laden area, the new lake made several miles of lake coast property all of a sudden much desired acreage. Developments ensued, golf courses were erected, and out-of-county money came into the local economy. LOTS OF IT.
This information is readily available in the NBC report which is based on a Hechinger Report article, but there is a big reason this blog is focusing on this particular segment.
credit: Terrell Clark / The Hechinger Report
See that picture? I know that sight well.
Because I grew up in Greensboro, GA.
Family has been there for generations. That street sign? Been to all of those places as well – many times. Madison is known for being a town spared by Sherman’s March. Many antebellum structures there still stand. Eatonton is home to Joel Chandler Harris and Alice Walker. Harris is famous for the Uncle Remus stories. Walker wrote The Color Purple.
And Athens is where the University of Georgia is located.
None of that changes the fact that Lake Oconee Academy has a demographic makeup that is highly different than the demographic makeup of the town that it supposedly services. It’s that way in many charter schools.
From the NBC report:
The school’s halls and classrooms are bright and airy, with high ceilings and oversize windows looking out across the lush landscape. There is even a terrace on which students can work on warm days. After a guide pointed out several science labs, the tour paused at the “piano lab.” The room holds 25 pianos, 10 of them donated by residents of the nearby exclusive communities. The guide also noted that starting in elementary school, all students take Spanish, art and music classes. The high school, which enrolls less than 200 students, offers 17 Advanced Placement courses.
Lake Oconee’s amenities are virtually unheard of in rural Georgia; and because it is a public school, they are all available at the unbeatable price of free.
Conspicuously absent from the open house were African-American parents. Of the dozen or so prospective families in attendance, all were white except for one South Asian couple. At Lake Oconee Academy, 73 percent of students are white. Down the road at Greene County’s other public schools, 12 percent of students are white and 68 percent are black; there isn’t a piano lab and there are far fewer AP courses.
Lake Oconee Academy is a charter school. Charters are public schools, ostensibly open to all. The idea behind charters was to loosen rules and regulations that might hinder innovation, allowing them to hire uncertified teachers for example. But dozens of charters have also used their greater flexibility to limit which kids make it through the schoolhouse doors — creating exclusive, disproportionately white schools.
That last sentence might need to be changed to “creating exclusive, disproportionately white PUBLIC schools.”
And that sounds a lot like what HB 514 here in NC would do – WITH PUBLIC MONEY.
Look at the on-air report. It’s eye-opening.
When unregulated charter schools open without proper oversight and without taking action to ensure equity, then what seems to be happening in my hometown will constantly be replicated in a deliberate fashion. Whether it is in the largest city in North Carolina or a small town in rural Georgia which has only one high school that serves the entire county, the effects on the local public school system can be detrimental.
In fact, many lawmakers in Raleigh are counting on it.