Why do Idaho charter schools have 10% fewer Brown students than White?

By Travis Manning

On Monday, January 16, our nation celebrated the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a charismatic albeit imperfect human being.

Born on January 15, 1929, on the eve of the Great Depression, King was a man vested in freedom for all Americans, especially Blacks: freedom from segregation, freedom from bigotry, freedom from racism.

In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court declared, in Brown v. the Board of Education, that establishing separate public schools for Black and White students was unconstitutional. This historic, unanimous decision (9 – 0), declared that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”

Brown overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896 which allowed for state-sponsored segregation, a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus to a white woman. King, a Baptist minister and growing force in the South, led the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955, sparked by Parks. In 1957 he became the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a powerful, grassroots force that fought for Black freedom and civil rights.

In the 1960’s, the term “colored” still had an entirely different meaning from now. If you were “colored,” it meant you drank from a different water fountain, ate in a different part of the restaurant, and watched a picture show from the nosebleed section of the theater.

Today, surprisingly, there is a movement afoot to allow for “separate educational facilities” in our schools. And it’s important that Idaho citizens are reminded, more than 50 years after Brown, of the potential ramifications of “separate educational facilities.”

King understood the importance of freedom and desegregated schools and the value of communities and ethnicities assimilated into one, beautiful melting pot.

Idaho does not have many Blacks, only .6 percent of the state’s population – but, Idaho does have many Brown. The 2010 Census reports the Hispanic population in Canyon County, for example, is 23.9 percent.

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One component of “separate educational facilities” could be charter schools. Inadvertently, charter schools could undo gains made for minorities, if charters are not totally, operationally transparent.

The Idaho State Department of Education cites that in 2007 state charter public schools had 3.78% Hispanic students and 92.82% White students. Whereas, their public school counterparts had 13.78% Hispanic students and 81.9% White students.

Why do Idaho charter schools have 10% fewer Brown students than White?

Is this “White flight” from Idaho’s public schools?

Couched in the option of so called “school choice,” there is potential to regress into a political and cultural status once held decades ago.

Segregation was once legal, a conviction that celebrated oneness and sameness in the name of so called freedom and opportunity.

Segregation was, however, choice gone awry.

So what is really meant by “school choice”?

Are our Brown brothers and sisters as aware of the same “school choice” options as our White brothers and sisters?

What would Dr. King say about so called “school choice”?

Travis Manning is Executive Director of The Common Sense Democracy Foundation, an Idaho citizen think tank, and can be reached at Manning_Travis@hotmail.com.