About That NBC News Report On Charter Schools and Segregation

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.

greensboro2credit: 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.











The Hypocrisy of Rep. Brawley and HB 514 – It’s More Than “School Choice”

When Rep. Bill Brawley championed HB 514, he championed a bill that allows for cities to use property tax money to fund local schools. It also allows for cities and towns to establish their own charter schools with enrollment preference for their citizens using taxpayer money.

There are a plethora of ill-fated consequences that can manifest themselves quickly because of this bill.

  1. It could raise everyone’s property taxes in the state. Whatever the state now mandates for public schools and does not choose to specifically fund can now be passed on to local school systems.
  2. It potentially weakens every public school system in the state whether or not it currently has a charter school. Now charter schools can ask the local district for funds to finance anything from custodians to benefits for charter school teachers.
  3. It will probably cause a rise in charter school applications and eventually lead to more charter schools in the state. And the more charter schools there are, the more it hurts traditional public schools which still service the overwhelming majority of students in the state.

But most importantly, it  would be allowing for the systemic re-segregation of student populations under the auspicious call for “school choice.”

Oddly enough, Rep. Brawley is a commercial real estate agent, at least according to his bio page on ncleg.net. If one is a real estate agent (commercial or residential), then one is probably very familiar with the Fair Housing Act. According to the Department of Justice (https://www.justice.gov/crt/fair-housing-act-1):

The Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. 3601 et seq., prohibits discrimination by direct providers of housing, such as landlords and real estate companies as well as other entities, such as municipalities, banks or other lending institutions and homeowners insurance companies whose discriminatory practices make housing unavailable to persons because of:

When people look for housing in North Carolina and had school-aged children, they may have asked a real-estate agent, “What school services this area?” It is commonly known that a real-estate agent cannot answer this question because of the Fair Housing Act. Talking about the reputation of the schools can cast an unfair light on an area. That can affect real-estate values.

Schools and real-estate prices are very much connected. This excerpt form an NPR expose is rather telling:

It’s well known in the real estate industry that highly rated schools translate into higher housing values. Several studies confirm this and even put a dollar figure on it: an average premium of $50 a square foot, in a 2013 national study.

In Chappaqua, N.Y., an affluent bedroom community for New York City, the town supervisor recently went so far as to declare that, “The schools are our biggest industry — whether you have kids in the school or not, that’s what maintains our property values.”

But some advocates for fair housing see a potential problem with the close ties between school ratings and real estate. They say the common denominator, too often, is race. And they argue that the problem has intensified in the last decade with new web platforms bringing all kinds of information directly to homebuyers.

“A school rating map mirrors a racial dot map,” showing patterns of segregation and diversity, observes Sally Santangelo, the executive director of Central New York Fair Housing, a group that provides education and legal assistance to oppose housing discrimination (https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/10/10/495944682/race-school-ratings-and-real-estate-a-legal-gray-area). 

Look at the following graph:


Someone who has been in real estate and has also been in the General Assembly for 4 terms witnessing how the charter school movement as well as other privatization efforts can work, then involvement in HB 514 in not just happenstance. It’s deliberate.

The mixture of charter district schools, real estate values, and secret backdoor lawmaking is a recipe. Not an accident. It signals a lot more intent than the “we are just giving people choices for schools close to home” excuse.

Charlotte was once a leader in desegregation movements in the 1970’s. Brawley would be cognizant of that as well as other civil rights endeavors. He was born in 1949 according to Wikipedia.

That also means that he grew up in the 1950’s when this poster circulated:


Maybe someone should re-share it with him.


Open Letter to Rep. Bill Brawley Concerning the Disastrous HB514

property tax

Dear Rep. Brawley,

With the impending approval of Bill HB514 which allows for municipal charter schools in a budget process that is intentionally kept within committee and out of democratic debate, this voter has to ask you one question (actually many): Do you realize what you have championed?

Really. Do you know what Pandora’s Box you have opened and what the last lasting effects actually could be just so you satiate your political views?

  1. You probably just raised everyone’s property taxes in the state. With the ability to now use local property taxes to help fund local schools (a measure which seems to conveniently appear in the budget to lay a path for HB514), whatever the state now mandates for public schools and does not choose to specifically fund can now be passed on to local school systems.

Think about the class size mandate that will come around again next year. The reprieve given this year was in part due to the incredible blowback from local districts who correctly cited the state’s having not funded it. Implementation of the class size mandate would have created a seismic rip in school system budgets. Now it seems that there is an avenue to pass the cost of any state mandate to the local LEA’s. Instead of having to field concerns about whether or not the state will fund certain mandates, the state can now just slide the financial responsibilities to cities and counties, some of whom are already economically challenged.

If more of a burden to fund schools comes to the local systems, imagine the battles waged between school boards and city/county commissions to find ways to get more revenue when they are already tasked with building maintenance, construction, and financing other non-state funded educational resources.

  1. You probably just weakened every public school system in the state whether or not it currently has a charter school. Now charter schools can ask the local district for funds to finance anything from custodians to benefits for charter school teachers.

Be reminded that charter schools are not run by local systems. They are run by the state usually through for-profit brokers and do not have to abide by the same requirements as traditional public schools. They can also govern their admissions processes which traditional public schools are not allowed to do because it is against the very democratic ideals concerning public education that you as a lawmaker swore to uphold.

Simply out, you are allowing local funds to help build “state-run” schools which will profit charter school companies that can keep certain students out of its classrooms. And if you want to argue that these charter schools will be locally-run by the cities involved with HB514, then you are redefining what a charter school is and exposing current regulations to broader interpretations that could lead only to more discord.

  1. Furthermore, this will probably cause a rise in charter school applications and eventually lead to more charter schools in the state. And the more charter schools there are, the more it hurts traditional public schools which still service the overwhelming majority of students in the state, including your district. Consider the new U. S. Census findings about education spending in North Carolina:

“The data, which do not factor in North Carolina’s growing spending on charters, placed the state at 45th in the nation, not counting Washington, D.C.

Total spending per student, about $8,792, lags the U.S. average of $11,762, according to the Census charts.

The funding levels were for the 2016 fiscal year. Census officials noted they did not include charter holders who were not governmental entities.

North Carolina charters are approved by the State Board of Education but run by private, non-profits. Of course, charter spending is of import in this discussion. Since North Carolina lawmakers lifted the 100-charter cap in 2011, the charter sector has risen to include 173 schools” (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2018/05/24/new-census-figures-minus-charter-spending-n-c-s-education-spending-ranks-near-the-bottom-of-the-nation/?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=c9f9014e-698a-485d-9b2f-569512cc459f).

If you can logically and conclusively explain how HB514 will not exacerbate that statistical nightmare, then you are either able to turn straw into gold or suffer from the worst case of confirmation bias in recent history.

  1. Maybe most important is that you would be allowing for the systemic re-segregation of student populations under the auspicious call for “school choice.”

Jeff Bryant wrote a prescient piece in OurFuture.org about 514 explaining how HB514 will undo years of progress. He says,

“After the Brown ruling, as well as Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, which held busing was an appropriate way to integrate schools, Charlotte-Mecklenburg became, by the 1980s, one of the most racially integrated school districts in America. Such efforts have led to long-term benefits for Black American,s including greater income, better health outcomes, and lower incarceration rates.

Since then, rulings by more conservative courts overturning previous legal precedent and a state General Assembly dominated by Republicans have done much to resegregate CMS and other NC school districts. House Bill 514 would surely add to the racial imbalances in schools” (https://ourfuture.org/20180531/north-carolinas-proposed-new-charter-school-bill-is-a-warning-sign-to-the-nation?link_id=2&can_id=92d07cb83522450844bb4898a9c25bee&source=email-progressive-breakfast-new-charter-school-plan-should-alarm-the-nation&email_referrer=email_362256&email_subject=progressive-breakfast-new-charter-school-plan-should-alarm-the-nation).

And do not think that this will not be seen in other states. What North Carolina has become under your three terms in Raleigh is a breeding ground for counterproductive “reform” and a laboratory for ALEC-based initiatives.

For a man who lived through enough social movements involving civil rights and gender equality, you possess too much historical perspective to not reflect and see that what HB514 is doing is not offering “school choice.” It is building walls, physical and metaphorical, while passing the costs to those who need strong public schools, not charter schools, the most.