Why East African Students Choose Charter Schools Over Public

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Since its inception during the latter half of the 19th century, the American public education system has been faced with three fundamental questions: 1) What is the purpose of public education? 2) How is that purpose best fulfilled? and 3) For whom is public education intended? (Mondale 2001). There are no easy answers to these questions and the current state of the public school system reflects the ambiguous, sometimes contradictory, beliefs that American leaders, educators, and citizens have regarding schools. on the one hand, the history of public schooling rests on the belief that a true democracy requires an informed and educated public. A liberal approach to education meant an emphasis on critical thinking across a range of studies (Roosevelt 2006). In theory then, public school is meant to prepare all U.S. citizens to engage in civic participation and function productively in society.

on the other hand, over a century after the development of free public education and over fifty years since the Supreme Court highlighted the significance of inclusion in the Brown v. Board of Education decision, we still struggle to offer quality education to all students. After the publication of 1983's A Nation at Risk, there was an outpouring of concern over the apparent failure of our school systems to adequately prepare students for global competition. Upon closer examination, however, it is clear that it is not necessarily all schools that are fighting to fulfill their responsibility to their students. Rather, the schools that face the greatest uphill battle are those that serve the most disadvantaged populations in our society. These schools must educate their students using fewer, lower-quality resources (Roscigno 2000; Wenglinsky 1997), while at the same time dealing with pervasive social problems whose effects spill over into students' educational experiences (Downey et al. 2004).

Given the history of inequitable schooling, as well as persistent concentration in disadvantaged schools, African-Americans have particular reason to be concerned about problems in public education. During the early years of desegregation, there was great hope that the integration of schools would reduce educational inequalities and help pave the way for greater racial equality. Years after the civil rights era, schools are still largely segregated (orfield 1993) and African-American students remain behind in achievement scores (Campbell et al. 2000; Lubienski 2002) and graduation rates (orfield et al. 2004). These inequities are problematic not only because of the important link between education, employment and wages (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2008), but also because we are essentially telling generations of young minorities that their participation in our society is neither expected, nor valued (Kozol 1991).

Faced with these realities, many East Africans students are now turning to charter schools in the hopes of finding a higher quality education than the one offered to them in the public schools. Proponents argue that because they are free and open to the public, charter schools can give disadvantaged students the private school experience already enjoyed by privileged groups. For students, these schools are an immediate answer to the problems of inequality in the public schools; unhappy with their home schools, they now have the option to seek out something better for themselves.

The African-American Quest for Equality

Perhaps no moment in the African-American quest for equality was more symbolic of the enormity and sometimes the bleakness of their struggle than the Supreme Court case of Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857). In that case, Dred Scott, a slave who had been moved by his master from a slave-holding state to free territory, sued for his freedom. The United States Supreme Court, dashing the hopes of Dred Scott and for enslaved and free blacks, declared that blacks were not citizens of the United States (Lindsey Graham, Westphal, & Jew, 2008; Marabel, 2002; Robinson, 2002). Moreover, they decreed that Scott had no standing to sue. Not stopping there, the Court declared blacks the property of whites, thereby establishing or reinforcing the premise of the day, that blacks were neither human nor Citizens of the country. This ruling had a devastating impact on Scott personally; however, the shadow of this ruling hung over the lives of every black person in the United States because it set a precedent that would take action by Congress to overturn the amendments discussed above (Lindsey, Graham, Westphal, & Jew, 2008; Robinson, 2002). In a modern context, can one really understand the weight of the Supreme Court's ruling in Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857)? The import of that decision on all aspects of life for blacks in America was a watershed moment because they could not technically be seen as "Americans" (Lindsey Graham, Westphal, & Jew, 2008; Robinson, 2002). This matter of the equality of black people was at the core of two later Supreme Court decisions, Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) and Brown v. Board of Education (1954) (Lindsey Graham, Westphal, & Jew, 2008; Lindsey et al., 2003; Marabel, 2002; Robinson, 2002).

In 1896, Homer Plessy refused to move from an all white train car and was arrested. Then he appealed to Supreme Court of United States. Again, the court sided with whites and established two precedents, states rights and the doctrine of separate but equal accommodations. This ruling pervaded all phases of American life, excluding blacks from public facilities, including schools, and reinforcing the notion that their experiences were to be something separate and divided in American culture, despite Constitutional assurances (Lindsey Graham, Westphal, & Jew, 2008; Marabel, 2002; Robinson, 2002). For blacks, this case represented the institutionalization of racial separatism and it ensures for another 58 years that their dream of equality was deferred (Lindsey Graham, Westphal, & Jew, 2008; Lindsey et al., 2003; Marabel, 2002). This ruling prescribed a different set of experiences for African-Americans in the military, schooling, politics and every other aspect of American life (Lindsey Graham, Westphal, & Jew, 2008; Lindsey et al., 2003; Marabel, 2002; Robinson, 2002). It is no wonder that Ralph Ellison (1947) eloquently described the existence of African-Americans, having grown up in part in the shadow of this case, as one of invisibility years later in his seminal work Invisible Man.

Finally, in Brown v. Board of Education, Topeka, Kansas(1954), the issue of separate but equal was formally addressed involving challenges to discriminatory practices in state education. In striking down the separate but equal doctrine, the Court opened the way for desegregation in all other phases on American culture (Lindsey Graham, Westphal, & Jew, 2008; Lindsey et al., 2003; Marabel, 2002; Noguera, 2003; Robinson, 2002; Swain, 2004). It should be noted that Brown did not lead to total or equality in education because whites left urban school centers and re-established themselves in the suburbs beyond the reach of the Supreme Court's ruling (Lindsey Graham, Westphal, & Jew, 2008; Lindsey et al., 2003; Marabel, 2002; Noguera, 2003; Robinson, 2002; Swain, 2004). Again, the import of this case was its sweeping impact, including subsequent legislation such as the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and the Voting Rights Acts of 1965 (Lindsey Graham, Westphal, & Jew, 2008). While there were numerous other events in the historical record that paralleled these cases, they stand out as high watermarks in documenting the African-American experience as it parallels their quest for education.

African-Americans and Quality Schooling

African-Americans have always seen education as a major means by which they could extricate themselves from their circumstances in American culture (Swain, 2004). They began their quest for educational equality as students in "concealed school houses" and as beneficiaries of illegal schooling from the children of white slave owners and beneficent masters during the years when it was illegal to teach blacks to read (Townsend, 2005, p. 17). This ban was, in a part, an effort to prevent blacks from becoming competitors with whites in the marketplace for employment. The notion of formal education for African-Americans is a mid-19th century notion, not just because of slavery but because education was more the province of the wealthy whites prior to the work of Horace Mann and the inception of common schools (Crary, 2007). Horace Mann himself did not advocate for the inclusion of blacks in the common school model in the late 1700s, calling them intellectually inferior to whites (Crary, 2007). Mann was not alone in this. The notion of the lack of black intelligence was reinforced during the early twentieth century with the inception of intelligence testing fostered by psychologists like Edward Thorndike, Guy M. Whipple and Herbert Goddard (Crary, 2007). African-Americans were placed at the bottom of society and at the bottom of the intellectual tree as well in the minds of their white counter parts (Crary, 2007).

It should be noted that there were attempts to create schools for blacks between the 1600s and 1900s by white missionaries and philanthropists; however, many of these early efforts met with resistance (Lindsey Graham, Westphal, & Jew, 2008; Lindsey et al., 2003; Marabel, 2002; Noguera, 2003; Robinson, 2002; Swain, 2004). Strangely, the curriculum of these early schools consisted of lessons in hygiene or in agrarian practices because blacks were deemed too simple to grasp more complex ideas or too unintelligent for complex thought (Townsend, 2005).

However, blacks were not idle observers: "one of the earliest schools for blacks in America was started by Elias Neau in 1704 in New York" (Swain, 2004, p. 161). During this period, blacks established more than 500 independent schools for children in their effort to establish a regular means of education before states took on the task formally (Swain, 2004). African-Americans have always taken advantage of alternative modes of education when public education was not available to them because states enacted laws to prevent them from attending public schools with whites (Wheatley, 2005).

Some research studies have focused on assessing parents' expression of satisfaction between different states with how well their children's charter school performs. Anderson (1998), noting the importance of basic literacy to African-

Americans, writes:

Since the early 1860s, Black Americans have campaigned for public education where their desire for securing schooling for themselves and their children could be obtained. The foundation of the freedmen's educational movement, later known as the Freedmen's Bureau, was their first self-reliance and deep-seated desire to control and sustain schools for themselves and their children. In the midst of this movement, the "Sabbath" schools were established by ex-slaves and provided a particular clear study of educational activities operated largely on the strength of the ex-slave community. They were church-sponsored schools, operated mainly in the evening and on weekends, providing basic literacy instruction. (p. 12)

Anderson's quotation demonstrates that African-Americans' attraction to charter schools has a foundation in their quest for basic literacy that dates back to their post-slavery experience and the founding of their earliest schools founded by the Freedmen's Bureau and churches. Anderson (1998) continues:

By the close of the decade of the late 1880s, normal schools were established offering pre-collegiate academic program devoted to training of teachers, vocational, agricultural and industrial training as the fundamental to achieving economic independence. Its curriculum, values and ethic's were the moral foundation of the Sabbath schools, public schools and colleges that represented the social and cultural values of the ex-slave. (pp. 28-29)

Again, the foundation for seeking a good education dates back to the earlier quests of African-American parents to prepare their children for life through educational experiences that were valuable and connected to their future independence. Similarly, parents today want schools that offer an academic program for their children so that they can be productive and independent in society. This is perhaps why charter schools are attractive. Education is paramount to the African-American cultural experience (Noguera, 2003).

In the 20th century, the quest for educational parity continued long past the indignities of segregation and long past the failures of Brown v. Board of Education (1954). States failed to enact or enforce the Brown decision, forcing the Court to issue a second ruling in 1955 which states ignored well into the 1970s (orfield, 2001). Some states merely closed schools rather than integrate (orfield, 2001). With the help of the Nixon administration and his Justice Department, school districts ignored the Court's direction leaving blacks mired in inferior schools with black teachers who were paid less than their white peers (Crary, 2007; Kahlenberg, 2001; Noguera, 2003; Swain, 2004; Townsend, 2005; Wheatley, 2005; orfield, 2001). What emerged was a bifurcated school system where whites were able to attend well-funded schools where they constituted 80% or more of the populations while African-Americans dealt with the problems of urban decay and decrepit, low performing schools (Noguera, 2003; orfield, 2001; Swain, 2004). The essential point here is that neither court decisions nor legislative action helped African- Americans reach their goal of equal educational opportunities for their children (Noguera, 2003; orfield, 2001; Swain, 2004).

Urban Public Education and its Impact on African-American Children

African-American parents, along with Hispanic parents, are still mired in a fight for quality education. African-American parents in urban centers have grown frustrated with the usual litany of failures (Crary, 2007; Noguera, 2003; Swain, 2004; Townsend, 2005; Wheatley, 2005). African-American children have been exposed to buildings without technology, teachers without certification in the fields they teach, high teacher mobility, poor and unchallenging curricula, low teacher expectations and high dropout rates. Even with the advent of federal legislation driven by market economy theorists, African-Americans have been forced to flee failing schools - schools whose tradition of mediocrity is generations old (Crary, 2007; Kahlenberg, 2001; Noguera, 2003; Swain, 2004; Townsend, 2005; Wheatley, 2005; orfield, 2001)

Schools are supposed to represent the best of Americas' social contract with its people. School systems should be reliable; however, African-Americans are losing faith (Crary, 2007; Kahlenberg, 2001; Noguera, 2003; Swain, 2004; Townsend, 2005; Wheatley, 2005). A proper education should ensure that students are able to live self-sufficient lives equal to that of other races and creeds. Instead, African-Americans have the highest amount of high school dropouts, incarcerations, poor healthcare and poverty rates (Townsend, 2005). The graduation rates of African-Americans is approximately 55%; and those that do graduate have the equivalent of only an eighth grade education (Swain, 2004).

Jeffrey Swain (2004) explored the state of public education in his book Education in America: A Dilemma in the 21st Century. He concluded that America's system of public education leaves African-Americans at the mercy of schools plagued by poverty, poor teacher quality and institutional indifference. He insisted that these schools are the product of administrative choices based on intentional neglect. Swain also argued that this is in stark contrast to public schools in suburban areas even within the same city or school district (Swain, 2004).

Pedro Noguera (2003) documents this urban blight and the plight of minority parents in oakland and Los Angeles. He demonstrates that these schools reflect the trauma of their communities, including the violence, hopelessness and recidivism of criminality. Noguera cogently points out that educational equity is tied to the power of the community to demand improvement; and since African-American, Hispanic and Caribbean communities are seen as non-threatening to the political powers, their schools are allowed to continue as distant relatives of their suburban counterparts (Noguera, 2003). Finally, Noguera (2003) does not see these schools as unsalvageable because of their importance to the social networks of the communities where they sit; however, he does acknowledge their poor conditions.

African-American parents are outraged at the state of public schools in their neighborhoods. They are outraged to the point of feeling that American schools are implicitly designed to fail black children (Townsend, 2005). The vaunted achievment gap between students of color has only decreased slightly at times in recent years and has gradually begun to increase again despite high levels of federal and state investment (Crary, 2007; Kahlenberg, 2001; Noguera, 2003; Swain, 2004; Townsend, 2005; Wheatley, 2005). Thus, for African-Americans, the pursuit of quality education continues despite the appearance ofa concerted effort to neutralize or end factors which perpetuate low performing schools and negligible academic outcomes for their children (Crary, 2007; Kahlenberg, 2001, Noguera, 2003; Swain, 2004; Townsend, 2005; Wheatley, 2005).

Rationales for the School Choice (CharterSchool) Movement among African Families

Parents of East African students today still fear their students are not receiving a quality education. "Minority parents are actively seeking an alternative to concentrated poverty and low-achieving public schools" (Frankenberg & Lee, 2003, p. 1). For many East African families, an alternative to traditional public school settings has been charter schools. In 2000-2001, there were 36,116,860 students in traditional public schools and 17% of those students were East African. In charter public schools, there were 444,825 students; 33% of those students were East African (Frankenberg & Lee 2003). Jean Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform, said the fact that there are more East African faces per capita in charter schools indicate those families are choosing to take their students out of failing schools, noting it is the first time they have been given that opportunity ("Charter Schools Attracting Minorities," 2003).

Different types of "choice" programs are available within the public school systems in the form of intradistrict choice programs with 30 states allowing students to move within districts (Solomon, Block, & Gifford, 1999). In Arlington, Virginia, an East African parent transferred his daughter from a South Arlington school to a North Arlington school where the staff and students are predominantly White, according to an ABC televised documentary, Segregation Alive (2000). During the report, the parent said in the North Arlington school, students felt entitled to learn and teachers felt entitled to teach. In the South Arlington school, it was like a penal colony. According to a spokesman for the (NAACP), another issue with the Arlington, Virginia Public School district was unequal resources in neighborhoods with a concentration of poverty. Elementary and middle schools are nearly all East African in southern Arlington schools and nearly all White in northern Arlington Schools. Although the district's high schools were more integrated, students received a separate education even within the same school. Furthermore, a school board member for the Arlington Schools district said the failure to identify gifted East African students and the unequal distribution of resources in low-income neighborhoods had led to an inferior and segregated education in the Arlington, Virginia Public Schools (Segregation Alive, 2000). East African and Hispanic students continue to experience more isolation from White students in public, private and charter schools' classrooms (orfield, Bachmeier, James, & Eide, 1997). Further erosion of integrated school systems throughout the country is evidenced by Supreme Court decisions related to segregation and education in general.

National History of Charter Schools (A Systemic Approach to School Reform)

The first choice schools were "White flight" private academies that were often indirectly publicly funded according to a report issued by School Choice and Urban School Reform (Cookson & Shroff, 1997). For example, in 1956 a section of the Virginia Constitution was amended to include legislation that would close any public school where White and colored children attended together, to cut off state funds to such schools, and to pay tuition grants to children in nonsectarian private schools. The action was invalidated by the Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia. In 1959, the General Assembly implemented a "freedom of choice" program. It too was struck down in Griffin v. County School Board (1964). The action was in direct response to the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education. In Brown, the Supreme Court ruled the "separate but equal" principle unconstitutional, declaring it robbed East African students of equal educational opportunities.

A Chronological View of Systemic CharterSchool Reform

From the 1960s to the 1980s

According to an article released by School Choice and Urban School Reform (Cookson & Shroff, 1997), six major events addressed national issues that led to the choice programs of today:

In the 1960s, the Kerner Commission reported de facto segregation, which continued despite the Brown decision, was creating two societies, one poor and minority, the other White and affluent.

President Lyndon Johnson and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to build the "Great Society" by creating an environment that would foster equal opportunity and social justice and integrate the country.

Leaders of the East African Power Movement challenged integration ideas, saying they were just another form of White power, ideology, and control. In the meantime, a number of White education reformers criticized the public school system as being ineffective and formed alternative schools in New York and other major cities.

Economist Milton Friedman (1962) argued for marketplace accountability, saying parent choice was a better judge of personal and social good than are state-mandated regulations.

In the 1970s, forced busing created violent confrontations and conservative lawmakers doubted the effectiveness of court-mandated racial integration.

In 1980, President Reagan endorsed the Friedman ideology, setting the stage for systemic school choice programs.

A Nation at Risk(1983), served as another catalyst for the charter school movement-the largest systemic school reform effort to date. The report revealed two major findings: an alarmingly high percentage of illiteracy among adults, youths, and particularly minority youths, and the inability of gifted students, college students, and military recruits to perform successfully on achievement and standardized tests through the use of critical thinking skills. Choice made its primary political breakthrough at the National Governor's Conference in 1986, according to a report issued by School Choice and Urban School Reform (Cookson & Shroff, 1997). Although the first charter school would not open until 1989, it is a widely accepted belief by educators that A Nation at Risk served as the final precipitating factor that activated the school choice movement.

Systemic School Reform From the 1990s to Present Day

A systems approach to school reform is the best hope for implementing proven reforms on a large scale. Researchers need to take a systemic view to learn why reforms are successful in some school districts (McAdams, 1997). In an article titled "A Systems Approach to School Reform," McAdams (1997) promoted the idea that the federal government's role in systemic educational reform programs should be limited to an advisory and research capacity. A decentralization process that takes the power from politicians and gives it to parents, teachers, administrators, and local communities to implement reform efforts also should include top-to-bottom resources and support (McAdams, 1997). Systemic school reform efforts are credited and blamed for the state of public education.

A Nation Still at Risk (Allen et al., 1998), authored in part by former Secretary of Education William Bennett and former Minnesota Governor Albert Quie, noted, " ... the state of our children's education is far from what it should be," lending support to the charter school movement.

"Good things are already happening here and there. Most of the reforms on our list can be seen operating someplace in America today. Charter schools are proliferating. Privately managed public schools have long waiting lists. Choices are spreading" (p. 6).

A precursor to the 1998 report was the country's first charter school in Minnesota.

Creating Hope and Opportunity for American Education, authored by Joe Nathan, director of the Center for School Change in Minneapolis, describes the impetus for the state of Minnesota to assume the leadership role for the implementation of today' s charter school movement. Minnesota was the first state to pass charter legislation in 1991. California passed legislation for charter schools in 1992. Michigan was one of five states to pass legislation that allowed for the creation of charter schools in 1993 ("Charter School Legislation," 2000).

Huge systemic inertia is blamed for schools that fail to meet state-imposed academic standards. In ohio, Maryland, and New York, for example, schools lingered for years on state-generated lists of poor performers while little was done to change them (Finn, 2002). Market-style education reform that was first proposed by Friedman in 1962 took the shape of charter schools, which are still largely viewed as experiments in education (Finn, 2002).

Beginning in January 2003, there were nearly 2,700 charter schools operating in 36 states and the District of Columbia, serving more than 684,000 students. In ohio, 131 charter schools serve 28,466 students according to the report Charter Schools (Center for Education Reform, 2002). There are 52 million school age children in the country ("Charter School Legislation," 2000). The State of Charter Schools reported 58% of the people responsible for founding charters said their reason for the choice schools was an alternative vision for schooling. Twenty-six percent of the charter schools that opened during the 1998-1999 school year were found to serve a special population. Supporters of the charter school movement, including the authors of A Nation Still at Risk (Allen et al.,1998), have said the school choice movement-charter schools and privately managed public schools-address inadequacies in public education for disadvantaged and minority students. The report refers to today's academic curriculum as substandard and the reflection of of Jim Crow math and back dated science.

Since the publication of A Nation at Risk (1983), significant number of American students have entered their senior year in high school unable to adequately read and to perform basic math problems. During the same period, 25 million high school seniors did not know the essentials of U.S. history (Allen et al., 1998). A 1997 National Survey conducted by the Center for Education Reform (2000), found 78% of those polled do not believe children are receiving proper education.

Past and Present Educational Practices Collide (A Double-Edged Sword for Integration)

The 1820 Roberts case recognized the separate but equal doctrine in public education. The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled in that case that segregation was good for both races. More than 100 years later in Brown v Board of Education (1954), a court battle would successfully outlaw the separate but equal doctrine. Today, throughout the country, some East African educators, lawmakers, parents, and members of civil rights organizations promote charter schools as vehicles for equal educational opportunities. Donald Bowen, president of the Broward Urban League, noted he was impressed with the charter school concept. Bowen acknowledged the opposing view that warns of the danger of losing civil rights gains through charter school education. He defended his position by saying when it comes to education of East African students, there isn't a lot to be lost. Jean Allen, president for the Center for Education Reform, encapsulated the position of proponents for charter schools:

only when the school systems of Phoenix, Detroit, Chicago, and even small town America, can say that they are graduating all children with a guaranteed education they can take to the bank will charter supporters and schools no longer have a cause to champion. (Chartered Reform, 2000, p. 15)

She concluded, "Until then, our children are not well served by looking for specks of dirt under pebbles when large stones haven't moved or been turned for years" (Chartered Reform, 2000, p. 15).

opponents of the charter school movement charge that While flight, schools that cater to elitist populations, racially exclusive schools, segregation, and schools camouflaged as choice exist to destroy public education. JoAnn Webster Bird, of the Michigan Education Association, said charter schools serve primarily East African students, are racially exclusive, and are a stealth form of segregated education (Chartered Reform, 2000). The report Charter Schools and Race (Frankenberg & Lee, 2003) supports claims of ethnic separation. The report reveals that of the total charter school enrollment, 43% of the students are White, 33% are East African, 19% are Latino, 3% are Asian, and 2% are Native American. The Harvard Report indicates traditional public schools student enrollment figures are 59% White, 17% East African, 19% Latino, 4% Asian, and 1 % Native American.

The report Ethnic Segregation in Arizona Charter Schools (Cobb & Glass, 1999) indicated ethnic separation was prevalent not only at charter schools but also at 22 Metro Phoenix High Schools. Those 22 Metro Phoenix High Schools identified students on either a college preparatory or vocational education track, and 86% of students in the college-bound program were White. The vocational education program was comprised of 62% ethnic minority. The proportion of White students in urban college-bound charter high schools was more than two times the proportion of White students in urban non-college bound charter schools. The report Chartered Reform: The Growth and Politics of the Charter School Movement (2000), stated that before charter legislation was passed in New York, East African and Hispanic legislators came under increasing pressure from inner-city constituents convinced that neighborhood charter schools could improve education for their students.

Assemblyperson Gloria Davis, an East African from the Bronx, agrees. She said, "The time has come for this. The public schools are not working. Charter schools give parents input into their children's education" (Chartered Reform, 2000, p. 14). opponents of charter schools have said recruitment strategies limit parental choice and are biased towards parents who are aware of their options and who know how to pursue those options (Peebles, 2000). The critics have charged enrollment is limited to parents who are educated, familiar with the educational system, respond well to written communication, and meet registration deadlines. Additionally, the charter school application process itself may serve an unintentional gate-keeping function (Peebles, 2000). Finally, charter schools are particularly appealing to at-risk students, but Peebles (2000) warned there are inherent dangers in unproven curricula and segregation-even if it is voluntary.

opponents of charter schools have contended there is much to be learned about the alternative schools, noting long-term results have yet to be measured in the "experiment in school reform" (Peebles, 2000, p. 6). Critics have further added charter schools attract predominantly minority and/or at-risk students. Consequently, those students are in jeopardy of academic failure by being placed in untested and unregulated schools (Peebles, 2000). Also, low-income parents have limited access to information when choosing charter schools, causing them to select schools that may not best fit the needs of their students (Wamba & Ascher, 2003). Even if parents with limited resources are able to make informed charter school choices for their students, they may be unable to access those charter schools due to a lack of transportation (Paquet et aL, 2002). Segregation by race is accompanied by segregation by socioeconomic status. Free-lunch eligible and single-parent households were statistically significant variables in parents' choice of charter schools in a study by Glazerman (1998). Charter schools with those populations were less likely to be selected by parents who were above poverty-income guidelines.

In order for choice and desegregation to complement each other, an "equity choice" concept must exist (Armor, 1995). The equity choice concept promotes a four-prong approach to an integrated choice program: (a) Parents or students should be able to choose any public or private school within a reasonably large geographic area near their residence, (b) state and local school funds would follow transferring students in the form of vouchers or transfer payments, (c) capital improvements funds would subsidize central-city school systems to create a number of magnet programs to serve disadvantaged populations, and (d) transfer students would qualify for a transportation subsidy iftheir transfers improved racial and/or economic balances in the receiving schools (Armor, 1995). The separate but equal concept that led to court action to integrate schools looms in the shadows as charter schools, viewed as school choice programs, which are seen as a freedom that continues to gain national favor and momentum.

Ohio History of Charter Schools

In the state of ohio, charter schools are identified as community schools. In 2003, 1,313 community schools served more than 28,000 students according to the report Charter Schools (Center for Education Reform, 2002). The first attempt to create community schools (charter schools) in ohio began with the introduction of House Bill 370 in 1995. The proposal died on the floor ofthe Senate Rules Committee when there were no answers to questions related to community schools' financial impact on local school districts and which entities were permitted to sponsor community schools.

one representative then circumvented the lost vote and proposed a community schools pilot project to be tested in Wade County. The proposed pilot was attached to the governor's version of the biennial budget. During budget hearings, language of the pilot project was expanded to include all school districts in the state to convert all or part of an existing school to a community school. Wade County was the only exception to the law, allowing charter schools within its political subdivision to initiate start up community schools according to ohio Am. Sub. HB 215 ÂÂ 50.52.1-50.52.13 (1997).

Community schools are independent public schools and nonprofit organizations limited to the big eight districts. Those districts are the largest school districts in ohio: Akron, Canton, Youngstown, Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton, Cleveland and Toledo. In ohio, according to the ohio Revised Code, Â 3314.03 (1997), the charter/community school must be in compliance with desegregation orders and reflect the racial make-up of the school district where it is located. However, the state of ohio has spent $1 billion in tax dollars to integrate public schools while the nearly 50 tax-supported charter schools throughout ohio have non-White enrollment that exceeds 90% (Stephens & Vosburgh, (2000).

Who Is Choosing Charter Schools and Why

The school choice movement has gained favoritism among parents who are searching for an alternative to traditional public educational institutions that will provide greater opportunities for their children's academic success, greater accountability, and educational innovation (Ross, 1999). According to the Hudson Institute, parents choose charter schools for the following reasons: small size, higher standards, programs that match parents' educational philosophy, greater opportunity for parent involvement, and better teachers (Solomon, Block, & Gifford, 1999). Statistical data indicate parents of East African and Hispanic students are more likely than parents of White students to choose charter schools, according to the report "Who Attends Charter Schools?" (2003).

Charter schools, from their inception, have enjoyed rapid growth with the promise that deregulation was a method to increase educational progress for urban students of color (Wamber & Ascher, 2003). According to The State of Charter Schools 2000, in 1998-1999, charter schools were more likely to serve a greater percentage of East African and Hispanic students and charter schools enrolled approximately 11 % fewer White students than the conventional public schools enrolled. The data pertain to schools operating in the 27 charter states in 1997-1998. Eighteen percent of the charter schools had distinctly higher percentages of students of color than their surrounding districts. About 14% of the schools had a lower percentage of students of color than their surrounding districts.

Center for Education Reform (2000) found strong support for school vouchers for use in private, parochial and public schools among minor and majority groups. A majority of East African and Hispanics support school vouchers. Citing they are looking for better educational opportunities, 87% of East African between the ages of 26 and 35 and 64.4% of East African under the age of 26 support vouchers. The representations of one's own student group in the school and through the curriculum were preferences exhibited by East African and Hispanic students that are not prevalent for Asian Americans (Glazerman, 1998). In the report School Choice Today (Center for Educational Reform [CER], 2000), found 8 in 10 people support school choice. The finding did not vary by the respondent's race. CER found 82% of adults surveyed support granting parents a choice to select their children's school, 66% support legislative policy and choice, while 72% favor permitting poor parents to consume tax dollars to educate their children in a school of choice.

The indictment of public education as a failure by A Nation at Risk (1983) fueled the school choice movement, focusing attention on the need for school reform. As the education profession increasingly became the focus of the politicians and the public, it responded with initiatives such as career ladders, assertive discipline, and effective teaching, robbing them of an energizing morally valid profession. "What was required was a transformation in consciousness from the educational profession's practice of competition, mastery, personalism, and success to one of cooperation, justice, community, and harmony" (Purpel, 1991, p. 309).

The resistance and struggle in education between educators and stakeholders continued, culminating with school choice plans and more specifically the inception of charter schools in 1991. As stated by Giroux (2003a), East African parents seek schools for their students that are in accordance with students' needs.

Accordingly, activists and educators should not allow schooling that confined students who are East African, poor and least advantaged. This points to the necessity for encouraging practices that recognize how diversity can be used as resources for learning rather than being institutions that engage in systemic patterns of exclusion, punishment and failure. Moreover, assessments and evaluations must utilize different sources and recognize any viable approach to assessment in schools (p. 10)

School choice is one method parents can express their dissatisfaction with dominant teaching practices and systemic forms of oppression such as tracking. The crisis of school, isolated and often fragmented forms of classroom resistance, have impeded the imperatives of social justice. Although there has been some change in the force and nature of the legacy that marginalized students because of class, race, and gender, seldom allowing them to participate in the educational discourse that impacted their lives, it still exerts a powerful influence on public education. The public education institutions will continue with public resistance from their constituents until they have embodied the concepts of curricular justice-forms of teaching, and eliminate social hierarchies and legitimate inequality (Giroux, 2003).

Advocates of market-based education reform, such as charter schools, say it has pushed public schools to boost outreach efforts, thereby enhancing accountability, decentralized decision making, better communication and information on schools results and services to the community and parents, have worked harder to market programs to families and, improved their performance and appeal due to competition (Hess, 2001). Additionally, charter schools, as a promising market-based reform strategy in American public education, have caused board members and superintendents to sponsor and establish charter schools (Manno, Finn, Chester, Bierlein, & Vanourek, 1998). Such action has allowed districts to explore educational innovations that are not easily done under regular education statutes, regulations, and collective bargaining contracts (Manno, Finn, Chester, Bierlein, & Vanourek, 1998). Use of charters to bring money to their local districts is another strategy school board members and superintendents have used to respond to competition from charter schools. For example, schools that sponsor charter schools can retain an "overhead" payment from charter schools when they enroll students from outside of the school district (Manno, Finn, Chester, Bierlein, & Vanourek, 1998). The overhead payment is generated from public money that follows each student to a charter school.

other changes in traditional K through 12 education have resulted in three reform efforts: (a) trust the experts, (b) trust, but verify, and (c) trust the customer (Finn, 2002). The trust the experts approach is a reform effort that utilizes the within-system approach by modeling teaching standards that are endorsed by professional organizations. For example, teaching strategies related to mathematics and based on concepts instead of drills in addition to teachers who are rewarded for superior performance according to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards would be marketed to parents and to the community. The trust, but verify standards approach is inspired by President Bush's No Child Left Behind Bill. It is a top-down, externally mandated strategy for stimulating change in education. The government stipulates what students should learn, tests them to verify level of learning, and depending on the outcome, students, educators and schools are subjected to consequences. The third reform strategy designed to respond to market-based education, including charter schools, is trust the customer. This free-market reform strategy was first practiced by private schools and is now employed by charter schools. It is driven by customer satisfaction (Finn, 2002). The overall reaction from public educators concerning market-based education in the form of charter schools will be to create different types of schools that meet different needs of "consumers" of education, forcing all schools to do more with their resources (Solomon, Block, & Gifford, 1999).


The goal of this paper was to establish the foundations for why East American students are drawn to charter schools. The crux is that they choose them because they want quality educational experiences for themselves, something they felt they were denied in public schools. This paper also establishes what African- Americans are after - namely, satisfaction that the charter schools want to help themselves. Schools are an essential part of the African- American community and their ability to continue; thus, those who seek out charter schools consider them a continuation of their cultural struggle for equality and place in society.