News Roundup- Late July: Local Stories, Housing Policy and School Choice

This was an exhausting week in non-school segregation news, so this roundup is offered in the interest of keeping tabs on local developments and new research that has come out in the background of all the health care insanity this month. There were a few interesting articles from my hometown of Boston, so I’ll start there –

State/Local Stories-

  • Boston:
    • Boston Parents Schoolyard News (@SchoolyardNews) – a new, parent-run news site – has a short, informative article about race/class differences in Boston’s exam schools. As noted in the early July roundup, a report came out recently detailing enrollment differences between the district’s 3 exam schools and the district as a whole. The Schoolyard News article covers a recent neighborhood meeting held to discuss the report. Quick background from the article: “in 1998, a federal court ruled in Wessmann v. Boston School Committee that racial preferences in exam school admissions were discriminatory against white students. Since then, the percentage of Black students at Boston Latin School has plummeted.”
    • The Globe has a troubling piece about discrimination experienced by Black students who are part of the area’s Metco program, a voluntary desegregation program that buses students from Boston and Springfield to (relatively) nearby suburbs. One student explains: “Political views and views on race separated us a lot” and the story notes several disturbing incidents of overt racism. This kind of story reminds me how important it is for desegregation efforts to pay close attention to things like culturally relevant pedagogy and staff diversity. Metco has been limited on this front due to a very tight budget, limited state funding, and recent changes in program leadership. This kind of story is also a reminder of how important it is to have a federal DOE that is genuinely committed to protecting students’ civil rights.  
  • Mississippi:
    • A recent lawsuit in Mississippi “[seeks] a declaration that the state has violated its duties under the law of 1870” (the state constitution) to provide “a uniform system of free public schools.” It was filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the state is supposed to respond soon. I’ll track any updates.
  • North Carolina
    • A recent study of North Carolina school boards found thatDemocratic school board members in North Carolina reduced school segregation more than non-Democrats by revising attendance boundaries” and that “electing just one Democratic school board member leads to reduced racial segregation in schools.” Here’s a detailed summary from Salon. 
  • New York
    • This is in the very early stages, but the NY State Board of Regents is considering using its ESSA plan to promote school integration (which sounds great, but has a ways to go still). This is separate from the more widely-publicized NY City School Diversity plan. Recently, the Board invited students from the Epic Theatre Ensemble and IntegrateNYC4me to talk about the effects of segregation on their schools. This article has a short, engaging summary of students’ testimony, which is especially great because student voice can too often be missing from the conversation about school integration. 

Housing Policy-

  • This article from Vox.com (@alv9n) was a really engaging and informative read. It offers a detailed overview of the relationship between housing and school segregation since Brown, using EdBuild’s recent report on school successions and Richard Rothstein’s new book on the history of racial discrimination in housing policies. It also uses a lot of cool graphics (I guess these are called cartoonxplainers) to make straightforward illustrations of complicated policy topics.
  • Here’s a recent summary of an Urban Institute report (the Costs of Segregation) highlighted in an earlier news roundup. There’s a lot of great benefits outlined in the article and full report, but here’s what jumped out the most to me: if black-white segregation in Chicago dropped to what is currently the nationwide median, the region could benefit from higher incomes (increase of 12.4%) and education levels (83K more adults completing a bachelor’s degree) and fewer homicides (drop by 2 per every 10K people).
  • And, a maddening update from the Trump Administration – Westchester County, NY recently won approval to essentially ignore the FHA’s requirement to “affirmatively further fair housing” in its zoning. This was an 8-year process that included 10 rejections from HUD. During this time, the county’s stated strategies for fair housing, included “fair housing posters, attending award ceremonies, and participating in panel discussions.” This nonsense was finally approved by Lynne Patton, a former party planner for the Trump family who now is the head of HUD’s region 2. Here’s fantastic coverage, as always, ProPublica. 

Parents Opting-In-

The next two articles highlight the importance of work being done at Integrated Schools to develop a workbook to help parents navigate the process and relationships associated with opting their children into integrated schools.

  • This blog post includes a short summary of charter research in Pennsylvania (see post here) and the recent UCLA Southern Schools report. Erica Frankenberg, an author on both reports is quoted as saying “parents and communities can be convinced of the benefits of integrated classrooms” and “there is no need to see diversity and quality as trade-offs.” 
  • Meanwhile, research from Perpetual Baffour  “shows that reporting favorable views of integration can demonstrate a “superficial tolerance” of integration. But sending one’s own child to an integrating school is a much greater challenge: It requires a person to acknowledge—and maybe uproot—deep-seated stereotypes about families with low incomes and education.”

School Choice-

  • NAACP charter statement: As you may have seen, the NAACP released a report on charter schools. For me, the biggest takeaways were: opposition to for-profit charters and support for districts to be the only authorizers of new charter schools. I would have liked to have seen more attention to school segregation, but it is in there a bit, and it’s an important statement nonetheless. Here’s a good summary in the Washington Post.
  • Vouchers and school segregation: A recent report from the Center for American Progress details the racist history of school vouchers. There’s a lot of useful information here, for example: “By 1969, more than 200 private segregation academies were set up in states across the South. Seven of those states—Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana—maintained tuition-grant programs that offered vouchers to students in an effort to incentivize white students to leave desegregated public school districts.”
  • AFT vs. school choice advocates: Then, things got heated. Following the release of the CAP voucher report, Randi Weingarten (AFT President) referred to school choice programs as “only the slightly more polite cousins of segregation,” which led to a number of articles harshly critical of the statement. Here’s Weingarten’s article in the Huffington Post, coverage in US News, and backlash from the National Review, the 74 and even the Oklahoman. I’m including all these here for any readers who want to dig into this in more detail.

My quick take – I don’t think it was a great choice of words, but I found that the backlash was unfair/inaccurate in responding to what they claim was an unfair/inaccurate statement by Weingarten. The National Review article references a literature review that focuses only on 8 total empirical studies of vouchers and school segregation and claims that 7 found vouchers had a positive impact. (Note: there’s been many more and results have not been good.) Of course, this review was published by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. I’ve seen this referenced elsewhere, and it drives me nuts every time.

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