Paul Harvey was a well-known radio broadcaster with the ABC Radio Networks. Toward the end of World War II, Harvey began incorporating a series of bits called “The Rest Of The Story” in his broadcasts.
Harvey would introduce a different topic in each bit, spicing up each story with quirky narration and little-known facts. He would close each show with his signature phrase: “And now you know the rest of the story.”
Let’s take a page from Paul Harvey and talk about a piece that NBC just ran on charter schools and segregation.
Originally produced by the Hechinger Report, the June 17th story accused some communities of using charter schools to keep out underrepresented students. One school mentioned in the piece is Lake Oconee Academy, a charter school in Greensboro, Georgia.
“Nestled among gated communities, golf courses and country clubs, the school felt like an oasis of opportunity in a county of haves and have-nots, where nearly half of all children live in poverty while others live in multimillion-dollar lakeside houses,” the story read.
The imagery here is compelling, but NBC and Hechinger aren’t telling you everything you should know about charter schools and segregation.
As author Robert A. Heinlein explains, “The first way to lie artistically is to tell the truth — but not all of it.”
The piece accomplishes that by recognizing a hard truth: America’s public schools are more segregated now than they were 40 years ago. However, when it comes to charter schools, NBC and Hechinger leave out the rest of the picture.
It Doesn’t Add Up
For starters, the piece doesn’t acknowledge any non-school related causes of segregation. Policy analyst Richard Rothstein argues that housing policies, not school choice, are the leading causes of segregation:
“School segregation is primarily a problem of neighborhoods, not schools. Schools are segregated because the neighborhoods in which they are located are segregated. Some segregation can be ameliorated by adjusting school attendance boundaries or controlling school choice, but these devices are limited and mostly inapplicable to elementary school children, for whom long travel to school is neither feasible nor desirable.”
I recognize that there are some who argue it’s not as simple as housing policy, but come on. NBC doesn’t even give it a mention here.
You should also consider where NBC got its information. The Hechinger Report, which has faced criticism in the past for its anti-charter bias, says it compiled data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to run this hit piece on the nearly 750 schools like Lake Oconee Academy.
As the Center for Education Reform reports, the NCES doesn’t actually house individual or school-level data. It uses estimates that “do not commonly capture the schools of choice that children might attend.”
Well, that sounds foolproof.
But beyond all that, there’s an even more important angle that this NBC piece conveniently leaves out. There are a lot of high-quality public charters out there that have seen promising results for minority students, and that’s exactly why so many families are speaking up on their behalf.
The reality is that our traditional school systems have excluded and underserved Black and Brown students from the very beginning, and now, charter schools are helping to create opportunities for those students and give them the lift they need. Castigating those same opportunities with the broad brushstroke of “segregation” is misguided.
Pieces like this only serve to fit the agenda of those who argue that we should just leave things alone; that our public schools are good enough as they are. All of this, in spite of the fact that achievement gaps still persist and our Black and Brown students are still chronically underserved.
If you truly care about fixing those issues, don’t buy into inflammatory junk like this. You know the rest of the story now.
Photo adapted from Eric Holcomb, CC-Licensed.