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A First Look at Private and Charter Schools

Here, at Downstage Arts, we collectively persevere to be an agent of change. In order to do that, we must continue to listen deeply and learn how we can effectively carry out our organization’s vision: to give access to the arts for all people, especially those in marginalized and disadvantaged communities. Last week, we discussed Brown v. Board of Education and how its progress towards equality in public schools has been in a state of regression. This week, we continue to look at how our educational system is structured to leave BIMPOC students behind and segregated. Enter: private schools!

After Brown was decided and along with the heavy backlash it received, private schools became an easy escape for Whites to ignore the newly mandated desegregation of public schools and allow their children to attend private ones. Private schools could charge tuition and decide whom to hire and whom to enroll, making it exceedingly easy for White Supremacy to continue in the education system. Decades away from Brown, private schools are still under scrutiny for their mostly wealthy and white student body. Even the use of vouchers (meant to help low-income and BIMPOC families enroll) creates its own debate as to whether vouchers do more harm than good. The money used for vouchers is funding that is pulled from public schools, so how do we fix low-income public schools when funding is prioritized with vouchers that only help a few lucky students? Read on about vouchers here and how diversity has always been and continues to be an issue in private schools.

Also, what about charter schools? Ah, another complex layer in our education system. Unlike private schools, most charters are non-profit and will admit anyone who wishes to apply—until all spots are filled and then a lottery system is used—which may help keep the school well-diversified. Already, this seems like a possible substitution for both public and private schools! However, charter school’s rules vary by state. Charters can create their own curriculum and are governed by privately appointed boards, aspects that have the potential to be good or bad, since you may agree or disagree with the decisions the board makes about what and what no to include in the curriculum. When it comes to academic performance, charter school’s results are all over the place. Some do better, some the same, and others do worse than public schools. At the end of the day, charter schools, just as private schools, do not cure nor replace our public schools. If you would like some more facts about charter schools, NPR gives a basic Q&R that you can read here.

Almost universally, parents want the best for their kids, including a good education. So, when you can afford the cost of a nice private school or when you were lucky enough to win the voucher lottery, why wouldn’t you welcome that opportunity for your child? After all, hypothetically, a better education could result in a higher probability of being accepted into top universities, subsequently manifesting greater job opportunities. Even so, next week’s blog might challenge the way you think about your child’s education.

When we are left with public schools that are reaching higher segregated levels, private schools optioned only to the lucky or rich families, and charter schools that vary in rules and accountability by state, it might feel like a “pick your poison” situation. It is clear to us that the education system requires a massive overhaul. There are several nuances on this issue that we will continue to examine and discuss on this blog.

Thank you for reading, friends! We are grateful for you, and we hope you will continue to join us on the blog.

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