Charter schools are kind of like Beyoncé and kale.

When I was in high school, a guy from my Algebra II and Chemistry class dated Kelly from Destiny’s Child.

Their first single hadn’t come out yet when he brought in an autographed copy of the album cover. “This is my girlfriend! This is my girlfriend! Look!” He pointed excitedly.

Since they weren’t famous yet, we smiled politely and offered hollow congratulations.

He was Greek so we (incorrectly) assumed that he wanted us to know his girlfriend was black.

She was beautiful, but Chemistry was hard. This was an unnecessary distraction.

Less than a week later “No, no, no” dropped. The music video played on repeat EVERYWHERE.

Now, he was king.

They even went to our high school prom together two years later. It was rumored that she even came to his graduation a few weeks after that, even though they must have been on tour.

Although it makes no sense now (probably then either), it’s one of the reasons I’ve always felt close to Beyoncé– even though I have an unnatural hatred for her. Pretty hurts.

Charter schools are kind of like Beyoncé and kale.

First, they filled a void.

We grew tired of broccoli. Popeye and the reign of spinach had long since passed. We needed a new leafy green to take center stage, one that could do for us what Brussels sprouts and turnip greens couldn’t do. Kale was right on time.

Beyoncé served a niche that, at the time, was largely ignored. She was unassuming and fearless– completely confident in herself and the role she needed to play.

And then there were charter schools.

Depending on your social (or political) circle, school choice has become a dirty little word. It implies that you’re anti-public education and pro-privatization.

It implies that you want to treat schools like businesses: run under a presumably superior, evidence-based, data-driven, efficiency model.

Second, they (unwittingly and unintentionally) segregated us into diametrically opposed camps.

Superfoods are on the rise, and kale’s been a heavy-hitter. Health professionals and gluten-free folk alike claim that kale is no better than your garden-variety vegetable. The accolades and praise are unnecessary and undeserved.

Kale is for hipsters. Hipsters are inherently polarizing.

During Beyoncé’s rise and the simultaneous disbanding of Destiny’s Child, there was frustration and speculation among interested peers. Many claimed that Beyoncé’s lighter skin (i.e. proximity to whiteness) contributed to her success. Many even claimed that her family (who helped create, manage, and style the group) promoted and encouraged this colorism.

Beyoncé is oversexualized. She makes people like me nervous.

And then there are charter schools.

Much like Beyoncé, charter schools are accused of contributing to the racialization of people of color. The argument is that charter schools re-segregate students based on race and ethnicity, and effectively sell and market this re-segregation as “quality” education. (More on that later).

Third, their greatness is heavily debated and contested.

Beyoncé has a unique quality to her voice that I actually appreciate. I respect her professional journey if not her stylistic and lyrical choices. I’ve heard some people say that she simply can’t sing.

And then there are charter schools.

Relatively speaking, since their historical tenure is quite brief, there isn’t enough statistically significant data to confirm their superiority. There isn’t significant data to present a compelling case that they outperform other public schools.

Undeniably, there are even some charters that perform considerably worse.

Fourth, their professional tenure has surpassed critics’ and scholars’ expectations all over the world.

Charter schools are kind of like Beyoncé and kale.

 

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