[Joanne Jacobs (guest-blogging), December 4, 2006 at 11:46am] Trackbacks
Desegregation before education

In Louisville and Seattle, students may be denied admission to neighborhood schools on the basis of race in order to integrate schools. The Supreme Court is hearing arguments today on the two cases. AP reports:

The Bush administration is siding with parents against the school districts, arguing the policies are an unconstitutional, albeit well-meaning, "racial balancing" without a compelling justification. "A well-intentioned quota is still a quota," the administration said in a brief submitted on the Kentucky case.

Civil rights advocates say it's impossible to achieve "diversity" without taking race into account in school assignments. And they're probably right. The question is whether integrating school enrollments is so great a benefit that it overrides everything else.

In Louisville, the average bus ride is 45 minutes. Some students get on a bus at 5:35 am for a 90-minute ride. That's got to make it harder to learn.

In Seattle, 10 percent of students "were denied the school of their choice because of their race," AP reports.

"We stand for all the school districts in this country that believe Brown v. Board of Education still applies," said school district lawyer Shannon McMinimee.

"Communities are still segregated, either by the history of racism in America or by current circumstances like the affordability of housing. This is about what a school board can do to remedy the effects of past segregation," McMinimee said.

I thought Brown was about assigning black kids to their all-white neighborhood school instead of sending them across town because of their race. Silly me.

Seattle public schools recently declared valuing individualism and planning for the future are examples of racism. In response to critics, the district's equity and race relations director retracted the statement but went on to declare the failure of melting pot or color-blind mentality.

Sometimes, integration supports education, but not necessarily. My book, Our School, is about a San Jose charter school, Downtown College Prep, that's 90 percent Mexican-American. The school recruits students who earned D's and F's in middle school -- ninth graders average fifth-grade reading and math skills -- and focuses intently on teaching them the basic and advanced skills they'll need to succeed in college. The school works because it's not diverse. Most students share a set of educational challenges, such as a limited English vocabulary. They buy into a single mission: Prepare for college.

In Cross X, the story of a successful debate team at a nearly all-black Kansas City high school, author Joe Miller describes a school that's given up on educating students. Even the star debaters who are quoting Foucault in national debate competitions graduate without being taught college-prep writing or math skills. In a court-ordered desegregation scheme starting in 1985, Kansas City schools received $2 billion over 12 years to create programs that would lure suburban whites into inner-city schools. Some of the money created a massive and hugely inefficient district bureaucracy, Miller writes. The rest paid for lavish physical facilities, thousands of computers and magnet programs designed with no regard for the interests or needs of urban black students. Teachers weren't trained to develop courses for the special programs to which they were assigned. When the court ended the plan in 1997, the schools were more segregated than ever and test scores were just as low. That's what happens when getting the ideal racial mix becomes a higher priority than educating the students you've got.