District-Making and Charter Schools: “Localism” and “Choice” = Segregation

by Courtney | March 9, 2016

Two articles today talking about how middle class (mostly white) parents find their way to middle class schools. This from redqueenla talks about the segregation generated by charter schools. This, from Erika Wilson’s forthcoming article in Cornell Law Review outlines how boundaries have been drawn to form middle-class school districts. Two different ways to achieve the same segregationist end. While one uses “localism” and the other “choice,” both employ language that denies the classist and racist consequences(?)/intentions(?).

Some excerpts:

“The problem arises from the conceit that these particular highly touted choices can be mutually exclusive without penalty. And it is by virtue of this pretense that they are, that exclusivity is excused and empowered… The institution of school “choice” affirms a virtue of exclusion. To lean toward Charters is is to revere a future we already rejected in the past, when segregation was named as something wicked and ruled unconstitutional.” (redqeeninla)

“Affluent and predominantly white suburban municipalities in the South are … seceding from racially diverse county-based school districts and forming their own predominately white and middle-class school districts. The secessions are grounded in the race-neutral language of localism, or the preference for decentralized governance structures. However, localism in this context is threatening to do what Brown v. Board of Education outlawed: return schools to the days of separate and unequal with the imprimatur of state law.” (Wilson, emphasis added)

Oh, the creativity of those who create ‘legal’ mechanisms to foster racism/classism.

But I can also understand it… sort of. From a bird’s eye, our national segregation is shameful and awful and prejudiced and gruesome. But at the microlevel of parenting decisions, things get a bit murkier. Sometimes these decisions are downright bigoted but many other times, sure. But I don’t think all of them are based in

I mean, when your kid snuggles on your lap and begs to hear Goodnight Moon yet again, how do we think of anything other than what is BEST for her? I have heard over and again the laments of parents who bemoan the crappiness of PovertySchool but, well, in between feeding the dog and getting the bills paid and caring for ailing parents, they just need to know that their kid is okay. How can we take care of the country when we can barely take care of our own kids? MiddleClassSchool gives us security.

So there is a bigger system of cultural crazy we can blame – the sense of risk and uncertainty about the future, that everySINGLEthing about childhood is high stakes, and the ways we define a “good” school. But maybe we need to rethink this sense of risk and vulnerability (see more here) and what makes a “good” education (see more here).

These are the conversations so many of us are having (join us here or here).

And while this segregationy redistricting and chartering is happening, there are also many of us who DO want integrated schools, who ARE working on behalf of our own kids and our neighbors kids. And I also think (blog post on this coming soon!), that things are about to change. Weirdly, I am fairly optimistic…


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