National Press Club

Panel Says America's school systems fail the test of racial equality

August 24, 2012 | By Bob Webb |

A five-member panel of educational experts concluded at an Aug. 23 Newsmaker that the nation has failed to achieve racially integrated schools.

Housing patterns are a major reason, said Alex Medler, vice president for policy and advocacy of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. "Housing is one of the most segregated things in America. Choice of schools comes by where you live."

Mary Filardo, Executive Director of the District of Columbia's 21st Century School Fund, said she "works largely with urban issues and school choice continues to be an issue. We look at student assignments -- should parents control or should policymakers control? do we want the next generation?" She said that a generation could be lost.

Panelists agreed that while charter schools, such as some in DC, may be good,others are not. They noted that some Charter schools are all or predominately white, others all or predominately black.

Gary Miron of Western Michigan University, said 1.9 million students are in charter schools.

He emphasized that the American people must think of "the best interests of all students." He deplored the inequities many students still face. Miron also said
school choice aims at helping schools become competitive, thus improving all.

Kevin Weiner, director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado, said for-profit schools are not a solution. He cited research that showed some are of poor quality.

Adam Schaeffer, policy analyst for the Center for Educational Freedom at the Cato Institute, termed school vouchers government funds for what he said are "government schools."

When asked in an interview about the public school systems of Finland and South Korea, identified in a recent study as the world's best, Miron said he'd been to Finland where the system accepts only the best teachers.

"It's hard to get a job as teacher in Finland," he said. But he said Finland had also borrowed some ideas from the U.S. Moreover, he observed that Finland and South Korea have largely homogenous populations.

Weiner and Miron are contributors to a new book, "Exploring the School Choice Universe: Evidence and Recommendations," just released.