Having just returned from the Network for Public Education conference in Oakland and the National Coalition on School Diversity conference in NYC, we can say for certain that the movement for school integration is burgeoning. There is much work to do and we are grateful for all of your help in spreading the message of meaningful integration and our work at Integrated Schools!
We are getting more and more requests to support individuals and groups working locally toward integration — if you’d like to be involved, reach out!
A few important stories to share with you that have surfaced in the last few weeks. This first one should give you nightmares. It details the story of a homeless Black mother, Tanya McDowell, who was jailed for sending her son to a privilege-segregated school that was, according to the court, out of her zone. Jail. For ‘stealing‘ PUBLIC education. For impinging on the privilege of the privileged. Jail.
And this is not anomalous. “The desire to keep poor, non-white children out of wealthy schoolhouses has even spawned new businesses. Districts in Florida, Pennsylvania, California, and New Jersey that did not want to spend the money to hire full-time investigators have contracted with companies promising lower-cost ways of verifying student addresses. With names like VerifyResidence.com…”
Anecdotally, we’ve never heard of white parents being sent to jail for faking addresses to get into “better” schools for their kids. Are we wrong — has this happened? — or is this straight-up racism cloaked in opportunity-hoarding protectionism?
Read more of this Salon story by Noliwe Rooks here.
For those who aren’t in privilege-segregated districts, leveraging (and working hard to get) the “Gifted” label for our kids can be another form of segregation. Dr. Alison Roda recently published a report showing that White parents who pay for gifted test prep are “symbolic of being a good parent in the system.” Conversely, parents of color did not “view a G&T placement as giving their children extra advantages in terms of test scores or future schooling opportunities” and had much different ideas of what makes a “good parent.” Read the recent Chalkbeat article here. And <<teaser>> we are in talks with Dr. Roda to join us for an online webinar/chat soon to talk about gifted education and school segregation; stay tuned!
To leave you with a bit of hope, that there are many of us who refuse to plumb the depths of privilege to secure ‘every last advantage,’ we recently came across this 6-part series (start here) written by a Seattle mom. This post in particular, A Tale of Two Kindergartens: Everyday Life in Segregated Schools, might resonate with some of you as you are making choices for your own rising kindergartners. The author, who has enrolled her son in a global-majority-segregated school after much deliberation, “compares notes” with a friend whose child attends a privilege-segregated school. The results may surprise you (yet another reason to take the Two Tour Pledge!).
However, stories like this can leave us a little nervous about the “Hidden Gem” narrative that often circulates in our little world of school integration advocacy. On one hand, there truly ARE many global-majority-segregated schools that are doing impressive, herculean work and are staffed with brilliant and dedicated teachers. The concern around these places is that they can quickly become targets for school gentrification if we aren’t careful… that white and/or privileged families can ‘discover’ the riches and (even with good intentions) displace the families who were there first. Similarly, not all global-majority-segregated schools are equally shiny; limiting ourselves to the Hidden Gems among them compromises the larger goal of meaningful integration and de-concentrating poverty*. This is not meant as a critique as much as it is a caution to us all in how we talk about our kids’ schools and the ones we are touring 🙂
Finally, a surprising moment of encouragement comes from some late night conference-hotel-room-news-bingeing. I was watching a discussion of John Kelly’s response to Congresswoman Wilson regarding GoldStarGate when a news anchor/commentator on MSNBC did something utterly fascinating; Lawrence O’Donnell linked Kelly’s “empty barrel” name-calling to segregation!
“John Kelly,” who attended segregated schools in Boston, O’Donnell says, “never sat beside a student like Frederica Wilson in his elementary school… Desegregation came very painfully to the Boston schools long after John Kelly finished high school. And the pain of desegregating Boston schools was visited entirely on the students who looked like Frederica Wilson. And the stones that were thrown at their buses… all came from that culture that John Kelly grew up in.” It’s worth your time to watch the whole segment.
Regardless of how you feel about this Gold Star story, Trump and this administration, MSNBC and the “liberal media”, etc., join us in appreciating the deep context here. When folks talk about school segregation, they tend to be already talking about school or segregation. We find a little light in a conversation that locates the long-ranging impact of school segregation in stories far afield…
*right. ‘de-concentrating’ is not a real word.