Charters for the wealthy and white

Over at the Texas Observer today, Patrick Michels highlights how amid local efforts to expand charter schools, SA donors are courting a charter company “with a Record of Serving Wealthy White Students.”

The so-called “Choose to Succeed” plan to draw $50 million out of local donors hopes to build some 145 charter schools in the area, projected to serve 80,000 students. The effort, led by George W. Brackenridge Foundation chair Victoria Rico, claims to have already raised $18 million.

In its mission statement, the group laments how billions from philanthropists “have disappeared into public school districts with no aggregate impact,” along with the “highly bureaucratic and politicized nature of districts run by elected boards.”

Democratically elected boards. God forbid.

But while adding to KIPP and IDEA schools that already operate in town (both are Texas-based charter chains), “Choose to Succeed” wants to draw in four out-of-state charter chains to San Antonio. The two that have already won approval to open their first San Antonio schools next fall are BASIS Schools and Great Hearts Academies. It marks Great Hearts' first venture outside Arizona.

The Observer points out how most of Great Hearts schools in Arizona are clustered in wealthy communities with mostly white and Asian students. Only one serves students with limited English proficiency or students from low-income families. (Notably, Michels writes, school trustees in Nashville rejected a Great Hearts expansion this year over concerns the chain's schools foster segregation). By operating that one inner-city campus, though, Great Hearts has been able to draw from the pot of private funding offered by the Charter School Growth Fund.

There's reason to worry Great Hearts might follow that same track in San Antonio, propping up charters in wealthy pockets of the city where wealthy school reformers are more likely donate to the cause. On its application to the Texas State Board of Education, Great Hearts states all five of its prospective Texas campuses would be in Alamo Heights or Monte Vista. -- Michael Barajas


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