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Teachers union official: Charter schools in Colorado “a segregation tool”

By | March 28th, 2013

Tony Salazar, executive director of the Colorado Education Association - the union that represents 38,000 teachers and others in the state - told that charter schools in Colorado have been used as ”a segregation tool for affluent white children.”

Salazar’s barbed comment reflects the left’s intent to discredit school choice as discriminatory, when the real battle is about providing quality education for all children, as documented here, here and here by Michael Q. McShane, a research fellow in education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute and a former schoolteacher.

We interviewed Salazar on March 26 after a panel discussion in Denver that followed the screening of “United States of ALEC”, a purported expose of the American Legislative Exchange Council.

We asked Salazar about the day’s news in Indiana, where the state Supreme Court upheld school vouchers, which Salazar said is “part of the agenda to defund public schools.” Regarding the recent Colorado Court of Appeals decision that upheld Douglas County’s Choice Scholarship Program, Salazar said, “My hope is that it gets overturned by the higher court.”

In answer to questions about the growth of charter schools in Colorado, Salazar said that the CEA supported the initial law in 1992 to serve “at-risk children in poor neighborhoods” but that “all the restrictions” have since been stripped away.

“…Really, what’s been unfortunate is that there’s been no intentional look to see how if the kids in charter schools are actually performing better than the kids in traditional schools,” said Salazar, at 3:47 of the video above. “In fact, the evidence shows that it’s kind of mixed. Some schools that aren’t performing well at all. But that doesn’t seem to matter, we’ve still been growing the charter school movement here in Colorado.”

“The unfortunate thing in Colorado is that it’s been used as a segregation method…The original intent to serve at-risk, low-income children through the years was really not meant in this state, it was meant to be a segregation tool for affluent white children, a lot of them in the suburban districts. And that’s unfortunate, because I don’t think that was the intent of the law when it was first passed.”

Is there any basis to Salazar’s claims?

A June 2012 analysis of Denver Public Schools enrollment data by Alexander Ooms, a senior fellow at the Denver-based Donnell-Kay Foundation and a board member of the Colorado Charter School Institute, found that segregation is no more prevalent in charter schools than in typical public schools.

“So, are public schools in Denver segregated?” Ooms wrote. “Yes. Are charter schools any more segregated than traditional schools? No. Much like other demographics, charter schools in Denver reflect the public school system.”

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