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After two decades of experience, most charter schools in the Twin Cities still underperform comparable traditional public schools and intensify racial and economic segregation in the Twin Cities schools. This is the conclusion of a new report issued today by the Institute on Race and Poverty at the University of Minnesota Law School.

Entitled “Failed Promises: Assessing Charter Schools in the Twin Cities,” the new study evaluates the record of charter schools in terms of academic achievement, racial and economic segregation, and their competitive impact on traditional public schools. The study finds that rather than encouraging a race to the top, charter school competition in fact promotes a race to the bottom in the traditional public school system.

“The Twin Cities is the birthplace of charter schools. Education reformers look up to Minnesota as the state with the longest track record with charter schools. But before they rush into expanding the charter sector in their states, they should take a closer look at the Twin Cities experience,” said Myron Orfield, Director of the Institute on Race and Poverty. “Rather than being a solution to the educational problems faced by low-income students and students of color, charter schools are deepening these problems.”

Failed Promises: Assessing Charter Schools in the Twin Cities Institute on Race and Poverty

The public school system drives conservatives right up the wall. First there’s all that political correctness nonsense– everything from the anti-Christmas campaign to segregation– and then there’s all the profit, just out of reach. So they came up with a solution: the Charter school.

It’s a perfect conservative strategy, hiding the violent anarchy of the market behind a facade of free choice and the freedom to innovate. It got rid of the nasty business of having to support segregation, too, among other things. And there’s all that public money to loot, too.

It’s probably one of the most socially corrosive notions to come along in a very long time. Instead of putting money and energy into the common experience of public education, conservatives argued, we should all fight for our little piece of the shrinking pie.

It should not be surprising that the Minnesota study found that Charter schools do no better over the long term than any other school, and that they reflect, if not exaggerate, inequalities of several kinds. It’s been obvious for a long time that they are not the pot of gold once imagined.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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