How Current School Reform Policy Maintains Racial and Economic Inequality
6. Charter Schools: Demystifying Whiteness in a Market of “No Excuses” Corporate-Styled Charter Schools
The proliferation of charter schools across urban communities of Color is often celebrated as an equity measure that provides more educational choices for students and families. However, the kinds of choices represented, and the actors who structure them, challenge fundamental claims of a “diverse” market of options. Indeed, researchers warn that charter schools increasingly represent a franchised industry of replicated schools subsidized by a small but powerful bloc of largely White venture philanthropists and private foundation leaders (Scott, 2008, 2009). Frankly, when children and families of Color seek alternative choices outside of district schools, they will likely encounter charter schools that are privately coordinated and hierarchically organized by regional and national management organizations that offer a branded “package” of practices (White, 2014). In this chapter, I focus on what these practices are, the beliefs of educators and school leaders who structure them, and the relations of power they signify. In doing so, I argue that assumptions about the equitable nature of charter schools must confront the troubling patterns of White privilege they have rendered, including social and cultural dimensions of racial inequality that maintain barriers to culturally inclusive and responsive teaching inside schools.
While the basic legal definition of a “charter” has not changed over the years—they are legislative contracts granted by public authorizers at state and district levels that permit autonomy from district rules in exchange for accountability—the forces mobilizing for charter schools have shifted dramatically. In its early...
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