NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 25, 2007

Opponents of school choice claim white parents apply to good schools at a higher rate than minority parents, leaving larger concentrations of white students at some schools, and minorities packed into schools elsewhere.  To rectify this, they say we need a system of racial balancing, says Paul E. Peterson, professor of government at Harvard University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

In reality, says Peterson, minority parents are quite willing to look for options, illustrated by the fact that charter schools serve a higher percentage of minorities and disadvantaged students than traditional public schools:

  • According to a Department of Education survey, 33 percent of charter school students are African-American, as compared to 18 percent in traditional public schools.
  • For Hispanics, the proportions in the two sectors are 15 percent and 13 percent, respectively.
  • Nor are the well-to-do crowding out the economically disadvantaged; some 54 percent of charter-school students are income eligible for the subsidized lunch program, as compared to 46 percent of those in public school.

But what if parents prefer to send their child to a school that is racially unbalanced?  Is the evidence clear that desegregated schools are so educationally desirable they should be forced on families, even if they choose otherwise?  It isn't.  Scholarly studies -- both good and bad -- have produced so many conflicting findings that nothing is known with any certainty about the impact of attending a desegregated school.

In sum, the route to racial balance is better pursued by parental choice and fair school policies than by granting entitlements to one group over another.

Source: Paul E. Anderson, "School Choice and Racial Balance," Wall Street Journal, July 25, 2007.

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