Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Apartheid in Paradise

It has nearly risen to the level of a truism – denied by some – that school choice is slowly producing a divided public school system. Where charter schools flourish, segregation along racial, ethnic, and wealth lines follows. We are rapidly evolving into two school systems: one for those who aspire to be the future 1%, and one for the inevitable 99%. Actually, the percentages are more like 30% of the white, middle and upper-middle class in one system (of charter schools, private schools, and public schools chosen through open enrollment) and 70% in the other system. And as always, Arizona – on account of its aging white population and burgeoning Hispanic population – is leading the way to the future with its unregulated charters, tuition tax credits, empowerment scholarships and open enrollment policies. Earlier I estimated that 40% of the students in Arizona public schools have exercised "choice" in one form or another. And the elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction avails himself of money from the Koch brothers to make 15,000 robo-calls to poor families urging them to apply for state tax money to "buy excellent education in the free market." But he hardly could have done otherwise after having accepted nearly $30,000 in donations to his campaign for State Superintendent from school choice interests.

And so we have the case of the Scottsdale (AZ) Unified School District. Scottsdale, occupying the northeast corner of metropolitan Phoenix, is a town of 225,000 people with a north-south axis of about 30 miles and an east-west axis of about 10 miles. But the Scottsdale Unified School District (27,000 students strong) incorporates nearly all of that area in the city and most of the neighboring town of Paradise Valley to the west. The southern portions of Scottsdale are lower to lower-middle class economically, and most of the town's Hispanics and American Indians live in the south. Neighboring Paradise Valley is for the rich: 96% white; and multi-million dollar homes of residents like Muhammed Ali, Shaquille O'Neal, Mike Tyson, Charles Barkley, Glen Campbell, Stevie Nicks, Dick Van Dyke, Alice Cooper, Hugh Downs, Dan Quayle, Sandra Day O'Connor, and Charles Keating.

Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) has been bleeding about 2% of its student population in recent years. According to administrators, the loss is the gain of charter schools and private schools; and there are several – Notre Dame Prep, Christ Lutheran School, Veritas Prep, Basis Scottsdale, Primavera Online, Pardes, King David, and many others. Next year Great Hearts Academies plans to open two new charters in Scottsdale. In a recent enrollment study undertaken by the SUSD it was learned that the district's capture rate (i.e., percentage of eligible students who attend SUSD schools) for students living in Paradise Valley was 43%. For students living in south Scottsdale, the capture rate was 95%.

1 comment:

  1. Not to be argumentative, since I'm sure that the balance has grown larger, but I would bet that the capture rate in Paradise Valley was never that high. Non-charter Montessori schools, Phoenix Country Day, Brophy/Xavier and the other high-end private schools around the valley have always sapped those students off. I would be interested to know how much it has changed, though, and what proportion who were paying for their kids schooling are now sending them to charter's instead.