Arizona Charter Schools Often Ignore Latino Students and English-Language Learners

Categories: News

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Pablo Iglesias

Twenty years ago, Arizona became the second state in the nation to allow charter schools to operate in the public education system. In honor of the anniversary, New Times is taking a hard look at charters in Arizona. The first story in the ongoing series examined how charter schools — both nationally and in Arizona — "push out" kids with disabilities ("The New Segregation," May 15, Amy Silverman). Today, we explore how charters in Arizona tend to operate in white, affluent neighborhoods, leaving out Latino students from poor areas. — Amy Silverman


Arizona charter schools have largely ignored Latino students and English-language learners from poor communities.

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Once Norma Diaz's alarm clock blares shortly before 6 a.m., her modest South Phoenix home turns into a madhouse.

She cracks open her eyes, peels off her blankets, and calls out to her seven sons to wake up and get ready for school. Within minutes, the boys, ages 6 to 18, are vying for the single bathroom in the tidy home.

The sounds of morning fill the flat-roofed stucco house — car doors opening and slamming, engines firing up — as the neighborhood awakens. The homes are weathered, and most of the front yards are sparsely landscaped, but even the few patches of grass are neatly trimmed.

The boys brush their teeth and comb their hair as Mom calls out, asking if they're almost ready. Roberto, Norma's husband, is prepping for a long, hard day of landscaping.

Norma juggles making breakfast with packing her husband's lunch and helping the younger boys get dressed. Some days it seems impossible. If they're running short on time, Norma tells her youngest son that breakfast is going to have to wait a few minutes until his brothers are dropped off at school. The cherub-faced 3-year-old, Jesus, doesn't seem to mind.

Belts? Check. Ties? Check. Shirts tucked in? Check. Everyone's homework signed and accounted for? Check and check. They're ready to fly out the door.

That's when things get really complicated, as Norma and Roberto Diaz struggle to deliver six kids to four different school campuses.

Three of the children attend the Phoenix Collegiate Academy, a charter school about three miles away. Norma or Roberto drive Jose, 17, and Juan, 15, to the Academy's high school campus, and Alejandro, 13, to its middle school campus.

The oldest, Francisco, 18, attends South Mountain High School, and the two younger boys, Luis, 8, and Angel, 6, go to C.J. Jorgensen School in the Roosevelt Elementary School District — within walking distance.

Norma is convinced the daily sacrifice of shuttling her children to and from different campuses is worth it and will give them a greater chance of graduating from college. With her husband still at work, she has to make sure they finish their homework so they don't fall behind Phoenix Collegiate Academy's rigorous academic program.

When her sons were younger, that sometimes meant walking across the street to ask a neighbor to explain a homework assignment written in English. Now, she says, the older children can translate. In fact, she laments that her sons are losing their Spanish fluency.

When Phoenix Collegiate Academy expands next year to serve second- and third-grade students, Norma will be poised to transfer her youngest sons from Jorgensen to the Academy.

She wants all her sons to have better opportunities than she did.

"I got a scholarship from my elementary school in Mexico so I could keep studying past sixth grade. I was so excited. I wanted to go. But my dad said no," she says in Spanish, lowering her voice and eyes. "He said that women are supposed to stay at home, and the men could go and study. He wouldn't let me go."

Diaz helped her mom tend to the house until she turned 16.

"Then, I had to go work as a servant for this woman," she says. "I had to clean the house. I had to work in the fields, cutting corn or pulling beans. The house was about two hours away by bus and by train, so I stayed [at the woman's] Monday through Friday, but on Saturday I was allowed to go home and visit my mom."

Her servitude lasted seven years.


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62 comments
welcometoparadise
welcometoparadise

last week it was tards, this week mexicans. if next week's story is about a dearth of negroes and gaylords, I'm going to buy a charter school, move in and live there.

downtownbrown
downtownbrown

But if a charter school started up that only taught in spanish and excluded english speakers, it would be heralded as a break through in diversity.

Mark Foster
Mark Foster

Because that is the purpose and plan behind charter schools. To educate only the affluent while segregating out the poor.

marialopez
marialopez

terrible article, misinformation, and poor quality.  author should be fired from newtimes.  look at her past work and it is always the same misinformation and racial representation. 

Kyle Holschlag
Kyle Holschlag

So much misinformation in that article and these comments, it's really a shame. Some charters aren't so great, however there are many that are doing better things than a lot of public schools with less money.

ipolitics123
ipolitics123

"If choice, by itself, were the mechanism for improvement, Arizona would know it by now."


Choice only helps if you make the right choices.   If you make bad choices, you are going to have problems.  

Tony Morales
Tony Morales

This is actually something I'd be interested in reading in fact, the 1st page is well written and captivating however, the realization that you spread the piece across SEVEN pages caused me to immediately lose interest. Oh well, you got ONE page click to bump your stats....

HerePiggyPiggyPiggy
HerePiggyPiggyPiggy

I think government schools are absolutely necessary.  I mean, without the VA, who would treat the vets.... after 5 or 6 months that is.  And yes, without the government setting standards there would be no quality at all.  I just wish the government would get into the car making business.  The Toyotas and Hondas I have owned really don't have that lasting appeal of the Yugo.  And I can't tell you how I hate it when Amazon sends my purchases free of charge via Fed Ex or UPS.  I mean, I really didn't need that stuff the VERY next day!  I would have been happy waiting for it for, I dunno, a couple weeks or maybe a few months if they had send it using the government provided postal service.  And the anticipation that it may never come due to being lost by the postal service makes finding it in a battered and broken box on my doorstep all that more exciting!  


For sure, we should have government schools.  Just look at what a great job they're doing!  I mean, that's why people CHOOSE to send their kids to charter schools when there's a perfectly good government school right around the corner from them - they know their kids are just not good enough to attend such a fine institution of higher learning so they are choosing a lower quality so that their kids won't keep the government school students back.  

Jerk Cook
Jerk Cook

Well since they are Charter and not Public than I don't see anything anybody can do about it. sad I know.

Lucia Perry
Lucia Perry

It's part of their privatization mania. No quality control. White Flight, too. But religious schools are like the madrases we seem to fear.

Marco Cruz
Marco Cruz

lol get a real job and move out the hood fool. i have zero respect for people who cant help themselves....dare i even contemplate how and where this woman and her husband ended up in south phoenix and where they originated from. last time i looked, charter schools were not designed to cater to a particular breed of student. whats even more fucked up, i see dozens of asian kids who come from families who are here illegally, and who attend school, but they manage to grasp the english language perfectly. i am sure their parents did not expect US schools to cater directly to their needs just because of their skin color and origin. is the state really going to single out charter schools and magically produce teachers who will teach strictly in or focus mainly on mexican students who speak spanish? fuck, i hope all races from other nations have that same kind of commitment at US public school that mexicans get. and since its the latest fad, this is racist.

armandocdll81
armandocdll81

ICE ought to pay the Diaz family a friendly little visit. Just sayin'

Kenny Benally
Kenny Benally

There is however an official language for the State of Arizona. "It was approved by the state's voters, making English the official language of the state of Arizona. Proposition 103 would replace the existing provision of the Constitution of Arizona with a new provision establishing English as the official language of this state."

Ira Dalton Bohm-Sanchez
Ira Dalton Bohm-Sanchez

Corey, whether or not you have kids in public schools, you reap the benefits or failings of their educations. That's why.

john043012
john043012 topcommenter

Well at least the taxpayers haven't been burned yet by the Diaz family hopefully the parents take some time and learn English I suggest they start watching sesame street it seems to help babies begin to comprehend words

James P. Krehbiel
James P. Krehbiel

Are we surprised by the quality of charter schools? They are ongoing myth perpetrated by Arizona politicians.

Kyle Hague
Kyle Hague

Kenny... apparently you've never checked because the United States has never had an official language. Also-- "American English" is not a language. Its a dialect.

Kyle Hague
Kyle Hague

don't worry-- once they're 18, they won't get ignored by the Phoenix New Times weekly mugshot column. They love giving lots of attention to minorities.

Robert Seiler
Robert Seiler

Kenny you are correct, they need to learn English, also when you mentioned moving to Mexico.

Adrian Betti
Adrian Betti

Post another bikini beans one. I love when the girls get all worked up hahaha

Joe Thomas
Joe Thomas

We all benefit from an educated society.

Gentle_Fern
Gentle_Fern

What kind of irresponsible people have as many kids as the Diaz parents did? No wonder they live in such squalor.

Nadine Mathenia
Nadine Mathenia

It shouldn´t be the teachers problem to keep other children behind just to teach English basics to some, thats the families job not the teachers.

Heather Jean
Heather Jean

Corey Billesbach, because public schools are for the public good ("inclusive"... or at least that's how they should be) whereas private schools are not (exclusive).

Corey Billesbach
Corey Billesbach

I would totally agree with this if people were able to opt out of paying taxes for schools when sending their children to private schools, homeschooling or not having children. Why should people have to pay for two different schools if they are only using one or none at all?

Heather Jean
Heather Jean

Charter schools ignore many students who require extra assistance since they are less profitable & so hurt their bottom line. Pretty much outlines what's wrong with charters & why they shouldn't get 1 dime of public $$$

Kenny Benally
Kenny Benally

How was I being racist? I'm Native American BTW. I learned English and I know Navajo. Look up my last name and its origin if you don't believe me. All I was saying is if the children want to have a fighting chance, learn the official language of this country. It only makes things easier. Take me moving to Mexico for example, I'm not gonna move down there and whine that I'm not getting a fair shake because I'm not fluent in Spanish. I'm gonna adapt and learn Spanish to better my chances at making a living down there. That's what I meant about adapting to your environment.

Niki Toland
Niki Toland

Most Americans cannot speak proper English.

Steven Glansberg
Steven Glansberg

Kenny Benally you're rite this is United States. But Native & Spanish been here long before ENGLISH. Plus this is about the children being neglected. Keep your bias or racist comments to yourself

Kenny Benally
Kenny Benally

Last time I checked, Arizona was part of the United States where the Official language is AMERICAN ENGLISH.

Chad Riekena
Chad Riekena

You should do an article about that coffee shop....... I can't delete you!!!!

Chad Riekena
Chad Riekena

Is it next to the coffee shop with bikini girls...

Steven Glansberg
Steven Glansberg

This is Arizona You should know Spanish by now Ignore the idiots above me

Kenny Benally
Kenny Benally

Gotta adapt to your environment. You're not in Mexico anymore.

Cris Cross
Cris Cross

If they knew english maybe it would be different

belial
belial

@markie19 No! I am the one true prophet, and you have blasphemed this morning.

Gentle_Fern
Gentle_Fern

@ipolitics123 Choices like have more kids than you or the environment can adequately sustain for example. 

john043012
john043012 topcommenter

@ Marco Cruz We are told by writer's who sympathize with the illegals  the main reason Mexican adults living here cant  learn English are because, busy working and rearing their offspring . I think it all comes down to culture Asians have a different perspective on achieving success

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

Golly Jim, you really are as stupid as you appear in your picture.  

john043012
john043012 topcommenter

The worlds commerce is done in English if you want to succeed in life knowing English certainly helps . The Diaz's Norma and Roberto are at least encouraging their children to get threw school but they are a pathetic pair when it comes to their own grasp of reality.

john043012
john043012 topcommenter

Its their mission statement

john043012
john043012 topcommenter

@Gentle_Fern Fact is they would have never had that many in their country with the life preservers that we throw them its not rocket science as to why they have so many kids

john043012
john043012 topcommenter

In most school district's where they have a large concentration of these kids the budgeted monies that where put aside for after school activities were transferred to the additional education costs associated with teaching English to illegal immigrant children now parents are responsible to pay additional money for their children's extra curricula activities.

john043012
john043012 topcommenter

Oh you must mean the Queens English . You need to jettison yourself to 2014

john043012
john043012 topcommenter

Hey Steve are you a graduate of the public school system ?  if so it proves a point

HerePiggyPiggyPiggy
HerePiggyPiggyPiggy

Rite.... and caveman was before that.  Can't we have instruction in grunts and wild gestures?  It's for the children....


I think we need the Derek Zoolander School for Kids That Can't Read Good and Want to do Other Stuff Good.  

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