ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Education leaders say the so-called school choice movement is leading to a re-segregation of public schools.
As state funding for charter schools is rapidly increasing, Eyewitness News learned that in
Orange County most charter schools lack economic and racial diversity.
Sixty years since the Supreme Court struck down "the separate but equal doctrine," there's concern that the school-choice movement is leading parents to choose a segregated environment for their children.
“I think it does a disservice to our young people," said State
Sen. Geraldine Thompson.
She knows firsthand the impact of segregated schools.
“Until I went to college I’d never been in an integrated setting," Thompson said.
Thompson is concerned about data that shows the rapidly expanding charter-school sector is much more racially isolated than traditional public schools.
“They cream from the best performing students, or in order to justify the for-profit corporations that run these schools, they target low-income students under the guise of giving them choice," Thompson said.
Orange County school board chair Bill Sublette says the county's charter schools are concentrated in either very high poverty areas
or upper-middle income areas with no in-between.
“The map speaks volume when you look at it," Sublette said.
“You start almost a death spiral in that neighborhood public school, where fewer and fewer upper middle class kids go to that school and it leaves behind an oasis of poverty
Sublette is also concerned about students attending very high-poverty charter schools like those at the failed Imani Elementary.
“Their kids were coming home every day happy because their children weren't being challenged in school,” Sublette said.
Some 92 percent of the students were not reading at grade level, records show. In Florida, enrollment in charter schools is up 700 percent since 2000.