Academic journal article Northwestern Journal of Law and Social Policy

Centric Charter Schools: When Separate May Be Equal

Academic journal article Northwestern Journal of Law and Social Policy

Centric Charter Schools: When Separate May Be Equal

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Brown v. Board of Education remains one of the most notable Supreme Court decisions in American history.1 The 1955 landmark decision declared it unconstitutional to operate segregated public schools. The Court held that racially divided schools were inherently unequal and intrinsically violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. 2 The Court later held school boards immediately responsible for "elucidating, assessing, and solving" the problem of discrimination in public schools.3 Despite this seemingly momentous change of law that overruled nearly sixty years of Plessy v. Ferguson precedent,4 the face of American public schools remained distinctly divided by color.

Since Brown, the Supreme Court has decided countless cases and repeatedly set new precedent to combat segregation in public schools. 5 Although some schools and communities successfully desegregated over time,6 much of America remains where it began, and some communities and cities stand even more divided.7 Despite valiant efforts to educate minority students, public schools with predominantly minority populations still greatly underperform schools with primarily White schools.8

Because equal institutions did not develop organically, school boards and city governments sought alternative methods to reach underserved populations.9 Charter schools provide one such solution and have emerged rapidly in recent years. 10 Charter schools implement creative methods to attract underserved populations and use specialized curriculum to educate students.11 Some educators have taken the charter school concept one step further and developed centric charter schools.12 These centric charter schools deliberately attract only members of specific races or cultures, which results in homogenous student bodies and culturally tailored teaching methods.13 Contrary to history, these intentionally segregated schools do not carry a stigma, but rather are often viewed as a creative solution to a persistent problem. 14 Centric charter schools use segregation as a tool to create a setting where students can flourish.15

Not surprisingly, the centric charter school movement faces some pushback. The ramifications of centric charter schools raise numerous constitutional questions.16 Critics of the schools argue that public schools continue to suffer from the effects of segregated school systems, and that centric charter schools promote a renaissance of ideas better left in the history books. 17 They claim that Brown demanded the immediate desegregation of public schools, and that America is now unconstitutionally encouraging schools to resegregate.18 On the other side, proponents maintain that the new system produces promising results for minority students who face otherwise bleak futures. Brown specifically intended to eliminate the inferiority felt by minorities as a result of segregation,19 and that is precisely what these schools aim to do.

Around the time of the Civil Rights Movement, the Congress mandated that "separate" not define American public schools.20 In the modern context, this Comment argues that the Brown Court would have believed that centric charter schools uphold the spirit of Brown because they provide opportunities for marginalized populations to compete with the majority. However, this Comment further argues that current racial demographics complicate the constitutional question. America is not as Black and White as it once was; in fact, in many areas minority populations now constitute the majority.21 In these new minority-dominated contexts, centric charter schools must be careful they do not unconstitutionally separate competing minority populations by inadvertently discouraging other minority students from enrolling.

Part I of this Comment describes Brown, its progeny, and its failure to desegregate America. Part II outlines the origin of the charter school movement, how charter schools operate, and the emergence of centric charter schools. …

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