In most charter schools in Connecticut, more than 90 percent of students are racial and ethnic minorities. This is despite a state goal to provide an integrated learning environment, and let students and teachers interact with people of other racial, ethnic and economic backgrounds.
That's not happening at eleven of Connecticut's 17 charter schools, according to Robert Cotto, a consultant for the group Connecticut Voices for Children, who co-authored a report, "Choice Watch: Diversity and Access in Connecticut's School Choice Programs."
"Nationally," Cotto said, "the data shows that in school choice programs, when we give people the individual choice to kind of choose the school, what often tends to happen [is] we get kind of resegregation."
Some charter schools and magnet schools avoided that by having integration goals, actively recruiting from people of various communities and helping them get to school. Cotto said the problem is that most charter schools don't do this, even though both white and minority students benefit from an integrated environment.
For example, one study found that a diverse learning environment made undergraduate students more likely to think about the experience of others and participate in civic and political activity. Another found that it makes students more self-confident and open to diversity.
Cotto said that's why charter schools need quantifiable integration standards. "If the state continues to create charter schools without any sort of integration standards," he said, "our concern is that in the long run, it limits the access to opportunities and resources that those children, particularly black and Latino children, will have."
Some charter schools might want to serve mostly minority students, but Cotto's group recommends that before a school can do that, they should ask the state for a waiver to make sure they're giving their students all the services they need.
The report also found that most public schools are integrated in terms of having students from a range of economic backgrounds, but that magnet, charter and technical schools are also less likely than traditional public schools to enroll special education or English Language Learner students.
In an emailed statement, Kelly Donnelly, a spokeswoman for Connecticut's Department of Education pointed out that public schools of choice have "created high-quality options for thousands of Connecticut families:" and that they "are part of the solution—and are just one part of our larger, comprehensive education reform efforts.”