Is School Choice the Black Choice?

By The74

  • School Choice advocates seek to offer alternative methods of education for black students

  • Three-quarters of Atlanta Public Schools’ 52,000 students are black

An impassioned discussion on school choice that shook a Morehouse College auditorium and brought several attendees to their feet was led by broadcast journalist Roland Martin. These gatherings seek to engage black families and stakeholders on issues of educational equity, student achievement, and parent involvement. So is school choice the black choice?

Roland Martin moderates the panel for "Is School Choice the Black Choice" at Morehouse College

Roland Martin moderates the panel for "Is School Choice the Black Choice" at Morehouse College

Why This Matters: The fiery debate may have offered the contentious narrative that the black community is battling itself on school choice. Atlanta charter school founder Gavin Samms said it was quite the opposite, and that the African-American community must work together to set a specific agenda for their children.

Three-quarters of Atlanta Public Schools’ 52,000 students are black. Despite their enrollment majority, black students performed poorly on the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress compared to their white peers, who comprise only 15%of the district’s student population.

Despite their enrollment majority, black students performed poorly on the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress compared to their white peers, who comprise only 15%of the district’s student population

Although charter system enrollment in Georgia fell by 1.3% between the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years, it has grown by more than 2,000 percent over the past decade. State lawmakers last spring increased funding for state charter schools.

Georgia’s charter landscape earned another window of growth opportunity in 2012, when voters gave a state-level agency — the State Charter Schools Commission — the power to authorize schools that don’t make the cut at the district level. In 2015, Atlanta was ranked the ninth-best city in the country for school choice by the Fordham Institute. Atlanta Public Schools last year narrowly gave KIPP, the city’s largest charter school operator, the green light to add 1,100 seats.

Situational Awareness: School choice advocates are hoping charter and non-traditional school options can fit in — to offer alternative methods of education for black students where the 20th century model isn’t working. A key piece of that is to push for more black educators and policy leaders.

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