QUEST: The west Little Rock charter school has the highest percentage white enrollment of local charters. Facebook

An in-depth report here on evidence of segregation in charter schools from the nonpartisan Hechinger Report (also the basis of an NBC TV report last night).

Some of the tactics that lead to segregation are worse than others. Lack of transportation, for example, is a frequent if somewhat benign barrier, except economically. But other practices in some places seem aimed at discouraging minority students, particularly at a school highlighted in Georgia.


In all, the report found, based on 2015-2016 statistics, 115 charter schools with white enrollment 20 percentage points higher than the school district in which it is located. It found 747 charter schools with higher white enrollments than any conventional public school in the districts in which they are located.

Other studies have shown that the segregation runs the other way, too, with many virtually all-black charter schools.


The Little Rock experience isn’t quite so extreme. Several charters are predominantly black, as many around the country are. The Little Rock School District is 17.8 percent white and 62.8 percent black. The whitest charter in the city of Little Rock, which sits just outside the LRSD boundary in the Pulaski County School District, is the Quest middle school. It is 55.8 percent white and 28.1 percent black, according to state Department of Education figures. The Pulaski School District is 43.1 percent white and 42 percent black. Estem in Little Rock is 32.4 percent white and 53.3 percent black. LISA, with multiple campuses, is 23.3 percent white and 44.1 percent black. Academics Plus, whose main campus is in Maumelle in the Pulaski District, is 71.3 percent white and 19. per cent black. Hispanic and Asian students make up most of the remaining percentages (almost a third of the enrollment at LISA).

The Hechinger report includes a related article on how the federal government is allowing school districts to get around Brown v. Board of Education, which ended “separate but equal” segregation by law. As I’ve written, Arkansas has systematically reworked school assignment law and state Board of Education policy to effectively promote legal resegregation. As the article notes, there’s a strong negative correlation between minority enrollment and test scores.


Splinter school districts are one tactic to resegregate, the article notes, a movement underway in Pulaski County. Jacksonville has separated and groups in Maumelle and Sherwood hope to do the same.

The articles mention another factor at play in Arkansas — segregation by economic class. The experts say nothing lifts poorer children academically like exposure to kids of higher income status so the trend isn’t helpful. From an earlier Hechinger report:

Rich families are increasingly pulling away from poor ones, and sending their kids to different schools. At the same time, more families are living in poverty. According to a February 2016 paper published by Stanford’s Center for Education Policy Analysis, income segregation between different school districts increased 15 percent between 1990 and 2010. Within large districts, the segregation of students who are eligible and ineligible for free lunch increased by about 30 percent during the same 20 years.

And here’s the rub: this increase in poverty is more pronounced in minority schools. That is, the poverty rate in predominantly minority schools is rising faster than the poverty rate in predominantly white schools, according to Reardon’s calculations.

This new income segregation is now exacerbating racial achievement gaps.

The state compiles percentages on students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, a status based on family income and thus a yardstick for poverty.

The Little Rock School District poverty percentage, according to the state, is 67.4 percent. Of the charter schools with a significant number of white students, the percentages are: Quest, 21.8 percent; Academics Plus, 27.8 percent; eStem, 40 percent, and LISA, 52.7 percent.


The charters that are nearly 100 percent minority are also nearly 100 percent from families of lower income.