Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

More than one-fifth of California charter schools have discriminatory admission policies such as illegally excluding students for having low grades or requiring parents to donate money, according to a report released Monday by the ACLU of Southern California.

According to the report, 253 of 1,200 charter schools reviewed in the study employed the discriminatory practices, which also included expulsion of students who fail to maintain strong grades and discouraging immigrant students by requiring information about the immigration status of the students or their parents.

“We hope this report brings to light practices that prevent charter schools from fulfilling their obligations to all students who seek access to a quality education,” said Victor Leung, a staff attorney at the ACLU of Southern California. “The report should make it clear to all charter school authorizers and operators that they must play on a level playing field and cannot cherry-pick the students they enroll.”

According to the report, state laws authorizing the operation of charter schools required them to “admit all pupils who wish to attend,” regardless of academic performance, immigration status or other factors.

“The idea behind charters was never to create private academies with public funds,” according to John Affeldt, an attorney for Public Advocates. “Charter schools, like regular public schools, need to be open to all students. Admission requirements and processes that limit access or discourage certain kinds of students have no place in the public school system.”

Jed Wallace, president and CEO of the California Charter Schools Association, said the study identified only a small number of charters that employ “clearly exclusionary practices” based on academic performance. But he questioned whether other admission standards should be considered discriminatory.

“While we do not agree with the ACLU or Public Advocates that all essays, interviews and requests for student documentation for enrollment are per se discriminatory or exclusionary, CCSA will encourage our members to revise the language of their policies concerning essays and interviews, and to better describe the options available to families for enrollment documentation to ensure that there is not even a perception of bias or discrimination in admissions and enrollment processes.”

— City News Service

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.