Diane Ravitch on School Choice: From Segregation Academies to Charters
Cindy Hyde-Smith won her race for Senate last week in Mississippi despite having joked about a “public hanging.” Mississippi was once known as the country’s lynching capital.
Hyde-Smith’s schooling offers context for her comment, which is consistent with her past support for the Confederacy. According to the Jackson Free Press Hyde-Smith was educated at a segregation academy and years later, as a parent, sent her daughter to another segregation academy. Meanwhile Gov. Phil Bryant, who initially appointed Hyde-Smith to her Senate seat, attended a similar school.
These schools were created because “white southerners did not want to desegregate their schools” in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision, education historian and author Diane Ravitch told me in an interview for On the Ground. “That’s the origin of the school that Cindy Hyde-Smith went to.”
“The most notable thing about the South’s segregation academies isn’t that they were racially segregated,” Prof. Noliwe Rooks explained in a New York Times op-ed. “What is notable is that taxpayer dollars financed these all-white schools at the cost of simultaneously creating poorly funded all-black public-school systems in the South.”
The taxpayer-supported white exodus from public schools in the wake of Brown fueled the “school choice” movement. Today that movement is going strong thanks to a more recent iteration of “choice,” charter schools, which the NAACP has called for a moratorium on. “These days when people who advocate for charter schools are told of the history of school choice they get very upset and they deny it,” said Ravitch. “But that is the truth.”
Photo credit: APB Speakers