Recess Blog

Op-Ed: Charters and Race

By Rob Schroeder
January 31, 2018

Federico Waitoller, PhD, associate professor of special education, offers this graphical image in a recent blog post:

A graphical image showing where charter, magnet and closed schools are located based on levels of poverty and gentrification.  The map indicates charter and magnet schools tend to be located in areas of gentrification, while closed schools are congregated in areas of extreme poverty.

Those striking results set up his narrative, in which he argues that charter schools are an ability and racial project associated to the production of urban space.

Janet perceived charter schools as saviors coming to Black areas to “fix” Black student so that they can get to College. By the way, Janet’s son was in early elementary grades. The deficit discourse about black communities is clear-cut. Indeed, the large majority of charter schools in urban areas market themselves as beacons of academic and disciplinary rigor and a path to college for low-income students. Offering flashy educational opportunities for families that had far to few, if any.  A brochure from an elementary charter school in Chicago stated its how as, “how to best support our students as they grow and prepare to compete with their peers in college preparatory high schools and four-year colleges, ambitiously pursue career opportunities.” Charter schools target specifically certain areas of the city of Chicago affected by gentrification or by poverty and school closures (see maps in Figures 1 and 2). They become a “spatial fix” for the kinds of neighborhood in which Janet’s leave. They are associated to process of urban space and economic development. On the one hand by trying to revive certain area of the city that are prime for real state investment and in the other hand by producing subjects (mostly black students) that are disciplined and trained to contribute to the market economy.

Read the full op-ed.

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