News Roundup – Early Fall, Part 1: School resegregation and district secession

I took some time off of the roundup posts, and tons of stuff happened: it was the 60th anniversary of the Little Rock Nine, there was a new documentary, new podcasts and books, lots of great “misc” articles that would otherwise be the main stories in a slower roundup. Oh, and yeah- there was also a special issue of the New York Times Magazine on race and American education.

So, I’ve split this roundup into two posts. The first part covers the Little Rock Nine anniversary, the NY Times Magazine and articles related to each – lots of coverage of resegregation and secession (or, when a majority White communities splinter off from larger/more diverse districts). The second part, out later this week, will include all the new resources, misc, and under-the-radar kinds of articles that I’ve collected from late-August til now.

60 years after Little Rock and School Resegregation

It was September 1957 that nine Black students were prevented by the Arkansas National Guard from integrating Little Rock Central High School. On September 25th, they made it inside with the help of soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division, who were called to action by a reluctant President Eisenhower. There were many articles about the anniversary, however most were not very good. For example, I saw more than a few with a headline like “Decades after Little Rock Nine, school segregation lingers.” Lingers?! Sounds a friend who came over and then stayed maybe a little too long. I understand why it’s portrayed this way in dominant media sources, but that of course doesn’t make it any less horribly inaccurate.

Strangely enough, I thought the best two articles came from UK media – The Guardian and The Week. The Guardian spends a little more time on the events of 1957, while The Week brings in more from the present, including school district secessions (see below) and it draws from an all-star roster of school segregation researchers.

In light of the anniversary, a number of local media outlets took a look at school resegregation in their communities, including stories in Rockford, IL, Memphis, TN, Racine, WI, St. Louis, MO, two stories from Richmond, VA, and a series from Enid, OK. Most notable among these:

  • Florida – Gary Orfield and Jongyeon Ee released a report last month on resegregation of Florida’s schools. As described in this Washington Post story, their research found that intensely segregated schools (>90% non-White) doubled between 1994-2014. Their report found that Leon County, FL was one of the most segregated in the state – this article highlights key findings specific to Leon County, and this one describes the reaction of those in the community.  
    • Very much along these lines, this article has a good discussion about how Florida’s school choice policies have accelerated school resegregation, and this short podcast (20 mins) focuses on how Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarships, specifically, contribute to school segregation across the state. And, here’s a related piece about how a similar program (Scholarship Tax Credits) was taken from the ALEC playbook and passed recently in Illinois.
  • Indiana – This article describes major problems with Indiana’s largest-in-the-nation school voucher program, and this follow-up boils it down to five primary issues. In a related piece, the Huffington Post takes a good, close look at Indiana’s school vouchers, illustrating that they essentially function as they were intended back in the 1950’s: as a way out for White kids. If you’re looking for concise and informative background reading on this, I highly recommend these posts from the School Matters blog.

NY Times Magazine: Education Issue

I know readers may be familiar with this already, but I wanted to include short blurbs for each article and related links for those who want to dive deeper. Any one of the articles here could easily be material for a standalone post and each have offshoots that adds great insight/perspectives onto the original piece. This article does a nice job of weaving together the themes from the issue in a sort of personal reflection. But, this summary and my summaries of course can’t do it proper justice. I mainly just want to keep track of everything here. If you find anything interesting, I highly recommend checking it out in full.

There’s a short “Education by the Numbers” piece that includes figures on demographics, resources, and achievement as well as segregation, and there’s an interesting piece about the business behind the expansion of AP classes in low-income majority Black and Latinx schools. But, these are the articles that caught my attention the most:

  • “Michigan Gambled on Charter Schools. It’s Children Lost” – Mark Binelli. This piece is a nice complement to earlier NY Times coverage of the chaos of Detroit’s charter experiment. It outlines false promises of charter expansion across the state, notes how banks and hedge funds stand to profit from charter expansion, and pays close attention to the role of the DeVos family in creating this mess.
  • “The Way to Survive It Was to Make A’s” – Mosi Secret. This article looks at the experiences of Black students who were among the first to integrate elite Southern prep schools. As you may have seen, it was also the subject of a This American Life podcast that came out last month, called Essay B.
  • “The Resegregation of Jefferson County” – Nikole Hannah-Jones, recent winner of the MacArthur “Genius” Award. This was the big one. It takes a close look at the Gardendale district secession, but really there’s so much to say. If you want to dive into this, here’s everything I could find that was related:
    • A short video (5 mins) where NHJ talks about the piece on Democracy Now. And, if you like, here’s the extended cut (20 min) from that interview.
    • In honor of her MacArthur award, the NY Times put together this “best of” compilation of NHJ’s coverage of race and school segregation. And, CityLab has a short interview, following the announcement of the award, where she discusses the myths of segregation.    
    • short segment (12 mins) on NPR’s the takeaway where UNC law professor Erika Wilson talks about school district secession in general. Gardendale, deservedly, gets a lot of attention, but this piece reminds us that there’s been 47 secessions since 2000 and 71 total attempts, all across the country, as outlined recently in this report from EdBuild.
      • And, the secessions keep coming, sadly. Just last Monday, the Gulf Shores City Council (in Alabama) voted to break away from the larger Baldwin County School System.
    • This short piece from the Southern Poverty Law Center tells the story of Gardendale from the perspective of UW Clemon, a lawyer who successfully argued the case that brought integration to Gardendale…in 1971, and then found himself fighting to stop secession in 2017.
    • Writing in The Nation, Emmanuel Felton offers his own thorough and engaging look at the people and events that led to Gardendale’s secession, noting all along the federal government’s role in supporting all of this. As he notes, “With Trump in office, it’s probably only a matter of time before the number of federal desegregation orders drops again, possibly to zero.” That’s just a horrifying, hard truth to swallow. Felton also recently discussed the piece on a short (16 mins) segment for Educate.
    • Lastly, Integrated Schools has great summaries of the Nikole Hannah-Jones piece and Emmanuel Felton’s article in The Nation. As noted there, if you were outraged at the virulent display of White supremacy in Charlottesville, you should be at least equally concerned with its manifestations in school secession.

One thought on “News Roundup – Early Fall, Part 1: School resegregation and district secession

  1. Pingback: News Roundup, Early Fall – Part 2: Resources, NHJ Media, Youth Organizing and More! | School Desegregation Notebook

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