This week Alvin Chang at Vox published a fascinating infographic article on school segregation and how school districts could mitigate segregation by fiddling with attendance zones.
The fun (but no, not really fun at all…) interactive piece invites you to look up your own district to find out how residentially-zone schools increase (usually) or decrease (not usually) school segregation. What are things like in your district?
In the Leave-Readers-with-a-Task (or What-Does-This-Have-To-Do-with-You) section, Chang suggests electing school board members who care about integration. He cites recent research showing that registered Democrat board members tend to draw attendance zones that reduce segregation.
But then the article quite starkly also draws on research revealing what we all might guess: as schools serve increasing numbers of students of color, white families leave. But lest we want to blame housing segregation for our ills, we also have to face the fact that white families living in diverse neighborhoods opt out of their zoned public school and enroll their children in private or charter schools. So, the other task really, is to opt in to integrating/integrated schools.
At least — at the very least — make an effort to consider these schools!
This week, we also found a deep dive into San Francisco choice program which can be, minus the particulars for SF, applicable in many places…
Mc Allen, who works in the choice office of SFUSD writes: “In many ways, the ‘choice district’ assignment system reinforces racial isolation. White and wealthy families choose to list majority white schools and choose not to list primarily African-American schools… parents are CHOOSING to keep the schools segregated.”
This I think we all know… that choice most often leads to segregation. The reasons *why* this is the case, well, we will leave you to ruminate on for the moment (ummmm racism? classism? narratives around good/bad schools [that are founded on racism?]? how we talk about ‘good parenting’? opportunity hoarding?….)
But what we appreciated in this article was how Mc Allen talked about winning and losing….
“The application process is widely know and referred to as “The Lottery” and parents are often heard to speak in terms of having “Won” or “Lost” when they receive their placement letters. Families who have opted to enroll in independent or parochial schools sometimes describe their experience as having “lost the lottery” when they were not assigned to the school of their choice… The rhetorical impact of the term “Lottery” enforces a narrative of winners and losers, and devalues and disparages those schools which are racially isolated as inherently undesirable and inferior. Further, we expect most entrants in lotteries to come away with nothing, and very few to get what they hoped for. This is extremely misleading, as the majority of applicants receive their top choice, and only a small percentage were assigned to a school they did not list at all. This inaccurate impression discourages families from engaging in a process perceived as not only difficult, but also futile.”
Yes. It’s not just the *facts* of the system that matter — it’s how we talk about them.
And guess who has the power to change that? YOU DO.
If you’re up for a long read, peruse the brief presented to the US Commission on Civil Rights. the Public Education Funding Inequity in an Era of Increasing Concentration of Poverty and Resegregation (alternatively, check out a brief bit of coverage by PBS)
As we celebrate MLK day, take a moment to think about this Martin Luther King quote: “Segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority.” What does this mean to you?
Our fight for integration today cannot replicate the brutality of the past; we cannot put the responsibility of integration on the backs of kids who are already enduring racist and oppressive systems. Let us honor the memory of MLK and the Little Rock Nine by standing up and carrying forward… one family at a time, one community at a time. It may take awhile, but it’s way past time to start.