May 05, 2013

Whites Flock to Private Schools; Minorities More Likely in Charters

Maria Jaime holds up a University of New Haven T-shirt as seniors at Uplift Education charter schools announce where they will be going to college at college signing day at the Dallas Convention Center. Uplift operates public charter schools across Dallas and Fort Worth. Photo by Ron Baselice/Dallas Morning News.


By Sara Fatima Dhanji and Kelli Ainsworth
For InvestigaTexas and The Dallas Morning News

The search for a way out of underfunded and underperforming public schools has led hundreds of thousands of Texas students into an alternative education.

They generally have ended up in private schools, charters or home schools.

And school district records from Dallas, Harris and Travis counties show whites are more likely to go to private schools while black and Hispanic students enroll in charters.

Throughout the South, private schools were a go-to destination for white students after court-ordered desegregation that began in the 1950s.

Today, about 57 percent of students in Texas private schools are white, 23 percent are Hispanic and 6 percent are black, according to data the schools voluntarily submitted to the National Center for Education Statistics.

With private schools out of reach for many low-income students, charter schools are seen as a free alternative if they can get in.

Charter schools are funded by the state but independently operated. Statewide, blacks and Hispanics make up 77 percent of charter enrollment.

“What we are seeing is increased racial isolation in schools,” said Maureen Costello, who leads the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Teaching Tolerance” project.

Dallas’ population is roughly 30 percent white. But whites account for less than 5 percent of students in the Dallas Independent School District.

Lakewood Elementary School, in a relatively affluent East Dallas neighborhood, is the only DISD school with a sizable majority of white students — 74.7 percent.

Some minority parents also say they are opting out of public schools and seeking alternatives.

Marian Williams removed her daughter only 30 days into sixth grade from a public middle school in Round Rock in Central Texas.

Williams, who is black, believed that the school wasn’t challenging her daughter academically.

Her daughter, now in eighth grade, goes to a charter school in Austin.

“I just said that’s unacceptable, that’s just not gonna work for me,” Williams said. “I just knew she wasn’t going back, and if I had to drive 50 miles to get her to school, that’s what I was going to do.”

 See the full report by Sara Fatima Dhanji and Kelli Ainsworth at

Key Findings:

Since the Texas Legislature authorized charters in 1995, enrollment has skyrocketed to about 154,000 students to more than 500 charter schools.

Statewide, 54 percent of charter school students are Hispanic, 23 percent are black and 16 percent are white.

In Dallas County, about one out of three charter schools has a student population that is at least 80 percent of a single race.

Editor’s note: This article is part of a special report on resegregation and disparity in Texas public schools. The rest of the report includes articles on magnet schools, Hispanic students, state funding and crime in schools. The report is also available at The Dallas Morning News.