The editorial staff weighs in on the possible implications on charter schools and the evidence that they promote segregation based on socio-economic status.
Newark Charter School was founded with the mission of providing an educational alternative for students and parents in Newark. As a public school, it must uphold that mission for all students, regardless of their backgrounds. Equal opportunity access is the only way to ensure the school is benefitting the community as a whole. It is cause for concern when the demographics of Newark Charter’s student body point to the conclusion that is not the case.
The majority of students served by Newark High School are low-income African Americans or Hispanics. The majority of students served by Newark Charter High School are whites that are not low income. Whether or not it was intentional, Newark Charter High School has sifted out higher-income white students from the general population of Newark High School. Barriers to entry for low-income students like uniform fees and giving preference to those living within a 5-mile radius have without a doubt played a role in homogenizing the student demographics of Newark Charter.
For families already struggling to provide for basic needs, the prospect of paying for a new school wardrobe would be daunting. Providing embroidered specific shirts, dress shoes and dress pants for one or more quickly-growing high school student is a cost that would have to be accounted for by a parent thinking of entering their child into the charter school lottery.
Before the rollout of new legislation requiring charter schools to provide lunch programs, students who relied on free or reduced priced lunches served at school were essentially barred from attending. By not providing these programs, charter schools––including Newark Charter––excluded low-income students.
The impact of these policies is obvious to even a casual observer, which is why it is disturbing that the administration of Newark Charter didn’t seek to make the school more accessible to all students, regardless of socioeconomic background.