Monday, September 12, 2016
A School District on the Brink of Collapse: Educational Opportunity at the Intersection of Race, Poverty, and Geography
For the past few years, Pennsylvania's education system has stood at the brink of disaster in some shape, form, or fashion. First came the state's decision to retreat from its new school funding formula and impose new cuts. Then came stories of completely upside down budgets, with public schools bleeding money to brick and mortar charter schools. Those were followed with rampant corruption and a federal indictment of a virtual charter school operator. Mixed in was the story of a Philadelphia girl who fell ill and died on a day when no nurse was present at school due to funding cuts. This brought national attention on the state's policies. This past school year did not look much better. It started with no state education budget. As late as March, the state was still flirting with finishing the school year in the same position--with no school budget. Along the way, there were stories of unpaid teachers, shuttered pre-kindergarten programs, extended winter breaks to save money, and the potential collapse of entire school districts.
The Erie School District was one of those districts pushed to the brink. Its superintendent indicated that the small district might be forced to dissolve itself and allow its students to be subsumed by the much larger neighboring suburban districts if the state did not pass a budget and adopt a more equitable funding formula. The state passed a budget and tinkered with the funding formula, but neither was substantial enough to change the underlying reality in Erie. According to NPR, it still is far from having the resources it needs and is considering dissolution:
Erie's schools have been pushed to the brink after six years of deep budget cuts, and he believes the children in the city's district — which predominantly serves students of color — are being systematically shortchanged.
That's in part because urban school districts in Pennsylvania face a particularly brutal logic.
They serve the poorest, most needy students. Yet, when it comes to state funding per pupil, most of them don't make the top of the list.
Even though Erie is one of the most impoverished districts in the state, and has one of the highest percentages of English language learners, the district currently receives less per-pupil funding from the state than hundreds of other districts.
Excluding pension costs, per-pupil spending in Erie is less than it was in 2008-09.
. . . .
The issue in Erie is even more complicated because of Pennsylvania's education funding policies. For most of the past 25 years, the state has distributed money without a rational, student-based formula.
So although Erie is one of the state's most challenged districts, the state sends more money per-pupil from its main pot of cash to most other districts in the county — including wealthier ones, with less pressing needs, that already have an easier time raising local funds.
"The differences between the resources we have in the county compared to in here are just shocking," said Brian Polito, chief financial officer for Erie Public Schools."
Polito used to have a similar job in North East, a rural district in Erie County. Drawing a comparison, he says last year Erie spent $6,000 dollars on its 18 libraries.
"In the school district that I came from, we had three libraries and our budget for library resources was almost $40,000."
It's examples like these that has Millcreek parent Genene Mattern completely supporting the stand that superintendent Jay Badams has taken on closing the city's high schools.
"People need to get mad. People need to get loud, because the more you just sit and let it happen, I think the more they figure, 'well, they're okay with that,'" she says.
The Erie district did receive a modicum of relief in the state budget that recently passed, including a $3.4 million boost in basic education funds, and a one-time $4 million dollar emergency supplement.
But the systemic issues will persist, and Erie's finances are slated to be in the same straits by the end of the school year.
Talk of dissolving Erie's district, however, is causing a lot of uneasiness in surrounding districts. They are predominantly middle-income and white, while Erie is predominantly poor and minority. Some of the concerns are more explicitly related to race, while some others hearken back to the facially neutral but coded language that opposed busing during desegregation in the south. The problem, they would say, is not race but the difficulties children will face when they attend something other than a neighborhood school. NPR also asks: "Would Erie's crisis even be happening if it was a majority white district?" This question, however, may be best directed at state policy than just local politics.
The unfortunate situation in which Erie's school children find themselves is the sad story of race, poverty, and geography in American schools. Geography is highly determinate of educational opportunity and probably even more so in most northern locales, where school districts are much smaller. The smaller we draw district lines, the higher the capacity to wall-in or wall-out particular neighborhoods. As a practical matter, districts become far more homogeneous than an overall county's or region's demographic population. In other words, small districts increase racial and socio-economic isolation. When this isolation is coupled with state policy that largely bases education funding on local property taxes, it produces highly unequal resources between districts. In other words, the districts become segregated and unequal. When this occurs, state level funding solutions become politically more difficult. The education world has been divided by race, class, and resources and there is little incentive for the "haves" to agree to plans that would send more resources to the "have-nots." In other words, the suburb votes are stacked against urban school districts.
The only apparent solution for districts like Erie is to cut through the structural morass of inequality and blow up the system--to, in effect, say we reject district lines, we reject inequitable funding systems, we reject a system that leaves inner city children to fend for themselves. We give up, and the state and its suburban school districts must now find a way to integrate us into its flawed system. No wonder those who control the levers of power are so upset in Erie. They should be upset in Harrisburg too.
Monday, August 29, 2016
In a Rare Case, School District Does Not Use Demographic Change As an Excuse to Give up on Integration
In 1970, the United States brought suit against the Tyler Independent School District in Texas. That lawsuit initiated what would become nearly a half-century desegregation case. Last week, both the United State and the school district agreed that the district had reached unitary status, meaning that it had eliminated the vestiges of discrimination to the extent practicable. The district court then entered an order closing the case.
For those that have read this blog before, you might expect a series of critiques to follow news that a court had relieved a district of its desegregation obligation, but based on the court's description of the facts, this one appears to be the real deal. The court explained that "the number and percentage of Hispanic students enrolled in TISD schools has risen dramatically since 1970, from 0.6% to 37.1% in the 2007-08 school year to 45.7% now." This is normally the type of fact that precedes the conclusion that demographic shifts have overwhelmed a district's desegregation efforts and, thus, it cannot be held accountable for current segregation patters. In fact, this was the exact line of reasoning in Freeman v. Pitts, in which the Court held that DeKalb County, Georgia, no longer needed to pursue integration in student assignments.
The district court in the instant case, however, did not have to go there because
[a] review of the parties’ statistical report, Joint Motion at 6-7, and the recent Compliance Report, reveals that there are few schools in any of the grade-level categories that reflect either a higher or lower percentage of student enrollment by race. None is significant when viewing the TISD enrollment statistics overall. Further, as the parties point out, of the eight categories of enrollment showing a somewhat higher or lower percentage compared to the averages for TISD overall, four of them reflect schools that are proceeding under one or the other of the Court’s two most recent attendance zone modifications approved in conjunction with the construction and opening of new or renovated schools. . . . These coincide with four of the five highest variations from the average, none of which is concerning.
. . .
Here, the enrollment statistics convincingly reveal that TISD has achieved the desegregation goal for student assignments in its schools at all levels. Further, having reviewed the statistical compilations from the last several years of TISD’s Compliance Reports, the Court finds that TISD has maintained this student assignment status and operated as a unitary system during that period.
First, assuming no egregious inequalities were papered over, credit is due the school district for taking steps to maintain integrated schools for an extended period of time, notwithstanding significant demographic changes in the district. Second, that this district had the capacity and commitment to do so begs the question of why the United States Supreme Court and lower courts have been so quick to absolve other districts of their obligations. As I have argued elsewhere, the mere instance of demographic shifts is entirely irrelevant to the question of whether a district has carried out its affirmative obligation under Green v. New Kent County to eliminate the vestiges of discrimination root and branch. The question of whether the district has discharged its duty should always precede the question of demographic shifts. Otherwise, a district acting in less than good faith could just stall in its desegregation efforts in hope that inevitable demographic shifts will eventually relieve it of its duty. Unfortunately, far too many districts seemed to adopt this route over the decades.
Third, demographic shifts raise causal questions, but demographic shifts are not dispositive on those questions. Demographic shifts might be a result of a district's student assignment policies themselves, might account for only a portion of segregation, might have produced segregation only because the district failed to act, or might have been the dominant cause of current segregation. Too often, however, courts have jumped to the last conclusion without giving any serious attention to the other possibilities. In effect, the occurrence of demographic shifts has acted as an affirmative defense for districts, placing the burden of proof on plaintiffs, which, of course, is counter to the doctrine articulated in Keyes v. New Kent County.
Fortunately, the Tyler Independent School District appears to have cut through all these legal questions and loopholes by simply doing the right thing.
Friday, August 26, 2016
EdBuild has released a report of what it calls the most segregated schools in the country. The goal of the study was "[t]o explore how school district borders isolate the neediest students [by] conducted[ing] an analysis of each of these boundaries across the country." It found that
A typical school district border in the United States separates a pair of districts whose student-age poverty rates differ by seven percentage points. The difference between the 50 most segregated neighbors ranges from 34 to 42 percentage points: an average that is more than five times the national mean. Among the 50 pairs, the wealthier school districts have a poverty rate of just 9 percent, while their neighbors average 46 percent— 400 percent higher. This means that wealthier peers enjoy a poverty rate that is less than half the national average; whereas their neighbors enroll over 150 percent more impoverished students than the average US district. The 50 higher-income areas are also far smaller enclaves of wealth– their schools serve 15,000 less students on average. Additionally, the average homes in the wealthier districts are worth $131,000 more than their neighbors’. Because local funds for education are tied to property wealth, high-poverty districts are not able to generate as many funds locally. In fact, even though several of the 50 high-poverty districts tax themselves at a higher rate than their neighbors, they generate $4,500 less per student from local taxes. The 50 most segregating borders are found in only 14 states. Ohio contains nine, more than any other state. Alabama has seven. New York and Pennsylvania each contain six. Twenty-nine borders, almost 60 percent of the top 50, are located in the Rust Belt region. States with countywide school districts, like those in the south and the west, are almost entirely absent from the list.
The five most-segregated were the following:
- Detroit Public Schools - Grosse Pointe Public School System: Difference in School-Age Poverty of 42.7 percentage points
- Birmingham City School District - Vestavia Hills City School District & Mountain Brook City School District Difference in School-Age Poverty of 42.3 & 42.0 percentage points
- Clairton City School District - West Jefferson Hills School District Difference in School-Age Poverty of 41.7 percentage points
- Dayton City School District - Beavercreek City School District & Oakwood City School District Difference in School-Age Poverty of 40.7 & 40.3 percentage points
- Balsz Elementary School District - Scottsdale Unified School District Difference in School-Age Poverty of 40.3 percentage points
The reports concludes that
When the Supreme Court established that desegregation orders could not be enforced across district boundaries, it significantly reduced the possibility of achieving meaningful integration. And because America relies so heavily on local property taxes to raise funds for education, the inability to cross district boundaries institutionalizes income segregation and contributes to vast funding disparities among public schools. In this report, we highlight the worst examples of socioeconomic segregation across school district borders as illustrations of a problem that can be seen all across the country. These divisions are harmful for all students, but especially for those who reside on the wrong side of these borders. There you will find 26 million children living within high-poverty school districts, effectively trapped by impermeable borders, while greater educational opportunities often are being enjoyed by their better-off peers right next door. The fact, too seldom acknowledged, is that district boundaries themselves compound the inequalities that our public schools were intended to conquer. In present day America, we allow invisible lines to determine the fate of our youngest and most vulnerable citizens. While many focus on policies that will bring more resources into these underserved districts, very few question why these lines exist in the first place. Our wealthy are consigning lower-income students to a lesser caste by cordoning off their wealth and hiding behind the notion of “local control”. We’ve created and maintained a system of schools segregated by class and bolstered by arbitrary borders that, in effect, serve as the new status quo for separate but unequal.
Thursday, August 25, 2016
Lawsuit Revisits the Question of Education As a Fundamental Right Under the U.S. Constitution, But Is There More To It Than That?
Plaintiffs in Connecticut have filed a new lawsuit against the state challenging the "inexcusable educational inequity and inadequacy" in its school "that prevent inner-city students from
accessing even minimally acceptable public-school options." The complaint argues that these problems are a result of:
First, Connecticut has instituted a moratorium on new magnet schools (Conn.
Gen. Stat. § 10-264l(b)(1); Public Act No. 09-6, § 22 (Spec. Sess.); Public Act No. 15-177, § 1), despite the fact that a large majority of Connecticut’s magnet schools consistently outperform inner-city traditional district schools.
Second, Connecticut’s arcane and dysfunctional laws governing public charter
schools (Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 10-66ee(c)-(d), 10-66bb(a), 10-66bb(g)) prevent high-performing charter schools from opening or expanding in the State, despite the fact that Connecticut’s few charter schools consistently outperform inner-city traditional district schools.
Third, Connecticut’s inter-district Open Choice enrollment program (Conn. Gen.
Stat. §§ 10-266aa(c), 10-266aa(e), 10-266aa(f), 10-266aa(g), 10-266aa(h)) penalizes school districts that accept students from inner-city school districts, thus dooming the viability of the very program ostensibly designed to provide Connecticut’s students with quality public-school options.
As a remedy, plaintiffs ask:
for a simple declaration that would have immeasurable benefits for many thousands of children: By forcing Plaintiffs and thousands of other students to attend public schools that it knows are failing, while impeding the availability of viable public educational alternatives through the Anti-Opportunity Laws, Connecticut is violating students’ federal due process and equal protection rights. Connecticut should be required to take any and all steps necessary to ensure that neither Plaintiffs nor any other students within its borders are forced to attend a failing public school.
The case is a hard one to pigeonhole. On the one hand, it attempts what I and others have long advocated for: a reconsideration and overturn of San Antonio v. Rodriguez. As the Connecticut Mirror reports,
Forty-three years have passed since the U.S. Supreme Court narrowly ruled in the landmark San Antonio v. Rodriguez school-funding case that education was not a constitutional right and that the disparate spending on education for students from low-income neighborhoods was not a violation of the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.
"The time has come for the federal courts to recognize a federal constitutional right to some minimal, adequate level of education. We felt Connecticut was a very good place to bring it," said Theodore J. Boutrous, one of the attorneys representing the seven student plaintiffs from low-income families.
Boutrous told reporters during a Wednesday conference call that the Rodriguez decision "left open the possibility that a claim like ours could succeed" since that case focused on school funding disparities while this lawsuit focuses on the limited options students have to leave failing schools.
. . .
Experts observing this case say a lot is at stake.
On the other hand, the case takes a factual angle in making out this claim that sounds a lot like free market thinking in education. Moreover, Students Matter, the group that has lead the constitutional challenge to teacher tenure, is backing the case. As a factual matter, the case would appear to be about student choice. It holds up the interdistrict magnet schools created as a result of the Sheff v. O'Neill litigation, which are designed to further integration, as important models for improving educational opportunities for minority student, but argues those type of magnets are not the only viable option. More charter schools, it argues, could create similar options to escape currently unconstitutional traditional public schools. In this respect, the plaintiffs are trying to, in effect, piggy back off of the success of Sheff.
My initial response is that there is a big gaping hole in this use of Sheff magnets. Sheff magnets are an integrative cure to a segregative injury. It is not clear that charters are a proportional or analogous remedy to anything, nor did I notice any indication that these charters would follow the lead of Sheff magnets. With that said, the complaint follows up its charter school claim with the suggestion that the state expand inter-district magnet opportunities, which is consistent with Sheff.
On the whole, however, these limited opportunities are evidence that the plaintiffs say shows that the state is failing to offer even a minimally adequate education, which Rodriguez indicated might be protected. The big question for me is what the plaintiffs really want. Is it to right the wrong of Rodriguez or to dress up a charter school plea in language that sounds appealing to a lot of civil rights advocates that might otherwise be adverse? I do not know enough about the key players in the case to have a firm opinion, but the prior constitutional challenge to teacher tenure offers some hints. What I am confident of, however, is that danger lurks if issues as weighty as Rodriguez are in the wrong hands.
Thursday, August 11, 2016
A few days ago the New York Civil Rights Coalition sent a letter to Moraine Valley Community College to
call your immediate attention, and to request your formal response, to the Chicago Tribune August 4th piece, and in other media, about a college course at Moraine Valley Community College reportedly exclusively for black (African-American) students.
Especially concerning to us are quotes attributed to college publications and officials that explain and seemingly justify the racial restrictions on enrollment in the required college course, “College: Changes, Challenges, Choice.” According to published reports and the Chicago Tribune piece, a catalog of course listings Note specifies that registration to a section of the aforementioned course is “limited to African-American students.” The piece quotes the college’s assistant director of communications, Jessica Crotty, as explaining that the course, which meets for 8 weeks, is required to be taken by students in their first year. The catalog describes the course as one that “provides [the student] an opportunity to assess your purpose for college, assess your study strategies, set college and career goals, examine your values and decision-making skills, and develop an appreciation for diversity.”
In explaining and, arguably, defending racial restrictions on some sections of the course, Ms. Crotty is quoted as saying: “Sometimes we set aside sections for specific populations, including veterans and older students.” (Emphasis added). Ms. Crotty added, and I quote: “Students feel comfortable and are more likely to open up because they’re with other students who are like them.” (Emphasis added),
I find it strange indeed that a course that purports to guide and develop students’ “appreciation for diversity” employs racial separatism and segregation as acceptable and effective means for teaching that “appreciation” for diversity. Most shockingly, I find it incredible and disingenuous on the part of any educational institution and/or higher education official to equate offering courses in racially restrictive ways to that of clustering students in focus groups that are not themselves categories prohibited by law or regulation.
Worse, we are shocked and appalled by the notion that racial segregation can be argued for, much less justified, on the premise that statistical data or “social science evidence” may exist somewhere that allegedly supports the college’s policy and/or practice of restricting or conditioning enrollment in a course of study in any academic program by race or skin color. Such argumentation obscures and defies everything we know about the wrong-headedness of classifying and treating students differently by reason of their “race”, and separating them by race and/or skin color in the academy.
Separation or segregation by race defies state and federal laws, and Supreme Court decisions that prohibit differential treatment of black students or of other students because of their skin color or groupings that are premised and justified by stereotypes about their racial group.
Tell me, please, that these media reports are errant.
Tell me, please, that Moraine Valley Community College is not actually segregating students in academic courses by race and/or skin color, in ways that separate them from their peers of other skin colors and in ways that bar any student from enrolling in a course designated for students of a particular race only.
In explicit terms, it is not sufficient for the college to offer psychobabble rationalizations for reprehensible racial classifications and legally and morally suspect groupings. We find it especially abhorrent for a college to project and invoke the bogus argument that any principled or singular objection to classes and courses for blacks only is itself a manifestation of [whites’ and others’] hostility or racism towards blacks. That’s racial and sheer idiocy. Rather, the grouping of black students in a course designated only for “them” is the practice of racism; it is the same as the college decreeing that sections of a course will be restricted to students who are “white/Caucasian,” and, therein, justified in the guise that students of a certain skin color supposedly feel more comfortable in discussing sensitive matters with peers of ‘”their own kind.”
Classes for “whites only” and/or classes for “blacks only” are one and the same—sheer racism. Such racial restrictions violate every tenet of equal protection under the law, and of academic integrity—notably the open pursuit of knowledge. I need not recount here or remind you what the federal and state laws require and prohibit. Indeed, Moraine Valley Community College’s web site and mission statements make clear that its leadership and trustees are keenly aware of the legal framework and guidelines for avoiding discriminatory policies and practices: “It is the policy of Moraine Valley Community College not to discriminate on the basis of race, color…” or “conduct in its educational programs, activities or employment practices” discrimination based on race, color. Thus, we cannot abide the alibis and excuses offered by any official or spokesperson for a community college for registering students—or barring students’ registering or enrollment to any academic offering—on the basis of any student’s race or skin color.
The mocking of the law and the sheer arrogance implicit in decision-making based on race and skin color “differences” are at hand. Any policy or effort that restricts enrollment to a college course on such objectionable and prohibited racial grounds—is profoundly obvious and disturbing. Such racial discrimination raises troubling and substantial questions about the college’s commitment to state and federal law—indeed to the rule of law—and to its commitment to the open pursuit of knowledge which is a fundamental of the academic experience and mission. To defy the law and regulations and academic principles in such a flagrant fashion suggests the lowering if not outright abandonment of rigorous standards of the college’s accreditation. That is why we are addressing this open letter to the college’s president and to the president of the Higher Learning Commission, the college’s accrediting authority. We are also copying this letter to the Chair of the Board of Trustees, because it is our belief that the trustees share responsibility for upholding the law and for fulfilling the college’s academic mission without compromise with fads and racist shenanigans.
With confidence, we are of the opinion that a self-respecting board of trustees and Higher Learning Commission will promptly recognize and act on their duty to intervene and to correct any violations of law and public policy and to remedy any diminution of academic standards. The imposition of any racial qualification or restriction on any student, of any race, to enroll in any college course because of his/her race or skin color, cannot stand. The objection to such race-based restrictions must by definition take exception to any purported rationalization that the affected or excluded racial group will not contest the racial classification. Likewise, we are not impressed with the argument that the affected minority group or the excluded members of other racial groups may “opt” to enroll in alternate courses that do not have the racial restrictions.
Let us be clear; racial segregation as offered or practiced by a community college is objectionable on legal and educational grounds. That there are some blacks, and whites, who advocate such restrictions on course enrollment, matters not the least bit to us. In our view, racial restrictions and qualifications for a course are improper classifications and are evidence of discrimination per se, in purpose and effect. As my mentor, Dr. Kenneth B. Clark, the social psychologist, observed while he was alive—in objecting to the then fashion of separatist fads that were sweeping some college campuses, commented:
“In 1954 [when the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed enforced segregation in public education] it would have been the consensus in the black and white liberal communities that white racism would have gained its greatest triumph had it been able to persuade its black victims that segregation was not only acceptable but desirable in itself, and that the justification for this separatism was color alone.’
Segregation by race then and today is not acceptable; and it is not desirable.
Higher education leaders should express the strongest opposition and outrage over this latest fad and manifestation of racism—that of stereotyping, steering, and segregating students by their “race” and/or skin color into separate courses and classrooms.
If these reports that I have described to you have any ring of truth to them, we urge you to rethink and remove all racial restrictions and qualifications for course-taking at Moraine Valley Community College, forthwith.
The College President, Sylvia Jenkins, immediately recanted, indicating that the "decision has been made to remove all racial restrictions and qualifications for course-taking at Moraine Valley Community College." If winning were only that easy in other instances.
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
New Study Confirms the Role Race Plays in School Choice, But Past Experience and Common Sense Offer a Solution
A recent study of school choice by Steven Glazerman and Dallas Dotter reveals the lingering cold-hard truth that race still matters far too much in parents' decision of where to send their child to school. In their paper, Market Signals: Evidence on the Determinants and Consequences of School Choice from a Citywide Lottery, they find that:
- Parents trade off school demographics and academic performance with distance when choosing schools.
- Parents tend to prefer schools where their children have at least some peers of the same race or ethnicity, but some parents also prefer a diverse school to a homogeneous one.
Preferences vary by race, income, and grade level.
- Simulations suggest that parent preferences, if allowed to dominate school assignment (with no capacity constraints), translate into more racial and economic integration and higher enrollment in high-performing schools.
This last point bears further explanation. The study finds that current school choice is heavily influence by race, but race preferences are not linear. Rather, there are tipping points, at which a school becomes too heavily one racial groups and parents of that group appear to prefer more diversity. The problem in DC is that the system lacks the controls and choices to bring this diversity interest into play. In simulations, however, the study finds that school choice could improve integration. In particular, they assume a world in which the district closed more low performing schools and increased capacity in higher performing schools.
As a side note, this appears to be the exact opposite of what DC has done over the past decade. A lawsuit by special education and minority students in federal district court alleged that DC had closed numerous low performing schools but simply lumped those students into larger low performing schools. Higher performing schools and white families had been almost completely unaffected by school assignment closures and policies in the DC. See more here.
Regardless, this new study, coupled with what half a century of social science has demonstrated about the negative effects of concentrated poverty in schools, confirms why the various choice programs proposed at the federal and state level are such a bad idea. For choice to improve educational opportunity, policy makers have to be far more careful about the context in which they apply it.
The million dollar question is how we might make race matter less in choice program. The answer may be surprising to some: consciously consider race from the outset. Controlled choice plans that account for race and place caps on racial and poverty concentrations have proven extraordinarily effective in creating and maintaining integration. And, as detailed in In Defense of Voluntary Desegregation, once districts achieve some level of demographic balance in the earlier years of a choice program, parents are then forced to begin making school choice based on factors other than race. In other words, race cannot factor in a parent's school choice because demographic are consistent across all the schools they might consider. Within this context, geography, academic programs, and other relevant factors will weigh more heavily. In this way, schools consideration of race is actually the way to make race no longer matter.
Monday, July 18, 2016
elow is the press release on this crucially important bill:
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge (Ohio-11), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce, on Tuesday introduced the Stronger Together School Diversity Act of 2016 to promote diversity in schools. The bill builds on President Obama’s FY 2017 Stronger Together budget proposal, and consists of a voluntary program to support the development and expansion of new and existing community-driven strategies to increase diversity in America’s schools. In June, Murphy joined U.S. Education Secretary John B. King Jr. at an event in the U.S. Capitol to discuss the opportunity for increased diversity in schools and communities to drive positive student outcomes in school and in life.
An April 2016 Government Accountability Office report found that the number of socioeconomic and racially segregated schools is increasing, negatively impacting students nationwide. The data shows that poor, segregated schools receive fewer resources, offer students fewer educational opportunities and take more disciplinary actions. Expanding socioeconomic and racial diversity in schools will reverse these troubling trends and help future generations of students receive the education they deserve. In fact, students from low-income households who attend diverse schools are nearly 70 percent more likely to attend college than students from low-income households who attend high-poverty schools. TheStronger Together School Diversity Act of 2016 provides planning and implementation grants to help school districts find voluntary local solutions, implement new strategies, and expand existing diversity initiatives.
“Diverse schools help students. That’s the bottom line,” said Murphy.“We’re introducing this bill because districts need the resources to enact voluntary measures that will make schools more diverse and reduce the economic and racial isolation that sadly exists in places like Hartford and Bridgeport. Looking back, some of the proudest moments in our nation's history have come when the federal government prioritizes racial integration in our schools. That’s why Washington cannot sit on the sidelines as racial and socioeconomic divisions in our schools get worse and our kids’ schools suffer.”
“Brown v. Board ruled more than 60 years ago that ‘separate is not equal,’ yet it is obvious that many schools are suffering from the effects of “de facto” segregation,” said Fudge. “As Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education, increasing diversity in staff, resources, and student populations in our public schools is a top priority. That’s why I am pleased to be the House sponsor of The Stronger Together School Diversity Act of 2016. This bill will help bring parity of access and resources to schools across the nation, provide a platform to address inequities within our current education system, and help give all of our students a chance to succeed.”
“Today, diversity is not a nicety but a necessity,” Secretary King said.“Diversity is critical, not just for some students, but for all of our students. There are communities and neighborhoods and schools all over this country where educators, parents, and students understand this and are pushing for more diversity in their schools. The legislation introduced by Senator Murphy and Congresswoman Fudge will support and expand these efforts.”
Philip Tegeler of the National Coalition on School Diversity said,“School integration isn’t just important for academic achievement, although the evidence on achievement is very strong. Bringing children of different backgrounds together also helps to reduce racial prejudice and teaches children how to live and work together across racial and class lines. This bill is an important step toward reversing the trend of resegregation of our public schools that was recently documented by the Government Accountability Office, and it will provide funding for cities and towns that have recognized the importance of bringing their communities back together. What is unique about this bill is that it relies on substantial financial incentives to encourage progress on school integration.”
The Stronger Together Diversity Act has been endorsed by the National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, the National Urban League, National Women’s Law Center, National Coalition on School Diversity, Association of University Centers on Disabilities, Magnet Schools of America, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Poverty & Race Research Action Council, Civil Rights Project - UCLA, National Council of Jewish Women, and Girls Inc..
The Stronger Together School Diversity Act:
- Authorizes $120 million to provide planning and implementation grants to support voluntary local efforts to increase socioeconomic and racial diversity in schools.
- Supports school districts, independently or in collaboration with neighboring districts, as well as regional educational authorities and educational service agencies.
- Grants could fund a range of proposals, including (but not limited to):
- Studying segregation, evaluating current policies, and developing evidence-based plans to address socioeconomic and racial isolation;
- Establishing public school choice zones, revising school boundaries, or expanding bussing service;
- Creating or expanding innovative school programs that can attract students from outside the local area;
- Recruiting, hiring, and training new teachers to support specialized schools.
Friday, June 24, 2016
Harpalani On Fisher II: The Fishing Expedition is Over: Victory for Affirmative Action in Fisher v. Texas
Vinay Harpalani (Savannah) shared his take on Fisher II below, which he writes "was the clearest victory for affirmative action" since Grutter and now gives universities clearer guidance on how race may be evaluated in admissions policies.
The Fishing Expedition is Over: Victory for Affirmative Action in Fisher v. Texas
Vinay Harpalani, J.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Law, Savannah Law School
Thursday’s decision in Fisher v. Texas II came down exactly 13 years to the day after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2003 ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger—which created the basic legal framework for affirmative action in university admissions. And more than eight years after Abigail Fisher filed her lawsuit against the University of Texas at Austin (UT), alleging that its race-conscious admissions policy was unconstitutional, the case is finally over—she lost. Fisher was truly a fishing expedition: a weak case that went to the Supreme Court once before, only to be remanded to the Fifth Circuit and then reargued before the Court. The one issue that Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion and Justice Samuel Alito’s dissent agreed upon was that there was no need for another remand. While both Justices brought up that possibility during oral arguments in December, everyone now thought that it was time to end this fishing expedition.
Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion affirming UT’s use of race was surprising. He had never before voted to allow a race-conscious policy, and he dissented in Grutter, which upheld the University of Michigan Law School’s holistic admissions plan. I expected him to strike down UT’s plan on narrow grounds, and even in the event of an affirmance, I would have expected a ruling that further narrowed the scope of race-conscious university admissions. But Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion did not do that. It pretty much affirmed the current Grutter-Fisher I framework for race-conscious university admissions.
In fact, the ruling today really helps universities—it gives them a more detailed blueprint on how to justify their race-conscious admissions policies. The Court’s Fisher I decision in 2013 made it clear that in order to meet strict scrutiny, a university must demonstrate that its use of race is necessary: that no “workable race-neutral alternatives” would achieve the same educational benefits of diversity. However, Fisher I did not give further guidance on how universities should do this: it merely remanded the case for proper application of this standard.
In Fisher II, however, Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion discusses how UT met this standard. He notes that UT “‘conducted months of study and deliberation, including retreats, interviews, [and] review of data.’” The majority opinion also referenced UT’s overall demographic data, its classroom data on minority enrollment, and its anecdotal evidence that minority students “experienced feelings of loneliness and isolation” on campus. Everything UT did can serve as a template for justifying race-conscious admissions; universities can now surmise that if they gather and present data similar to UT’s evidence, their policies can survive a legal challenge. Justice Kennedy did note that UT’s “program is sui generis” because of Texas’s Top Ten Percent Plan. Nevertheless, this model will still be very helpful to universities across the nation.
Thursday, June 23, 2016
This morning, the Supreme Court in Fisher v. Texas upheld the long contested admissions program at the University of Texas. In an opinion by Justice Kennedy, the Court reasoned that the consideration of race was narrowly tailored, meaning that it was necessary, that without it a critical mass would not be achieved, and that the University had considered race neutral alternatives. One of the most telling lines to me, however, was "[t]hat race consciousness played a role in only a small portion of admissions decisions should be a hallmark of narrow tailoring, not evidence of unconstitutionality." As I have long emphasized, the very limited role that race plays in Texas admissions was the point that was getting lost. In the overall scope of things, race plays a role across a very small number of applications and, within those applications where it does play it role, it is considered alongside several other factors. In other words, it is a factor within a factor within a factor.
Only by ignoring the larger scope and narrowing one's view down to the precise instance in which race plays a role can one offer a reasonable argument that Texas's use of race is inconsistent with what the Court previously sanctioned in Grutter v. Bollinger. I argue here that race plays a smaller role in admission decisions at Texas than it did at Michigan in Grutter. Thus, what Fisher was really about was an attempt to reverse Grutter itself. But that could be achieved only by elevated form over function (i.e. making the question of whether race was considered more important than the question of how it was considered). Unfortunately, form has consistently triumphed over function in most recent race cases, which is why many have been so concerned about the final outcome in Fisher over the past few years. That form did not triumph in Fisher today is victory not just for Texas or diversity, but for the more realistic assessment of race cases before the Supreme Court in the future.
The case may also signal a shift for Justice Kennedy. In the past, Justice Kennedy has held out the theoretical notion that he approved of race conscious action, but he had never upheld an actual plan. This led many commentators and scholars to muse that he was toying with litigants, presenting himself as progressive in theory by staunchly conservative in practice. Today, Justice Kennedy proved them wrong. Then again, maybe this decision is just the productive of a perfect storm in which only 7 justices decided the case, Justice Scalia is no longer on the Court, and Justice Kennedy's role as the swing vote may be nearing its end.
Get the full opinion here. See the pertinent parts of the Court's syllabus below:
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
New Federal Study Finds Increase in School Segregation and Recommends More Aggressively Federal Action
Yesterday, on the 62nd anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report on school segregation titled Better Use of Information Could Help Agencies Identify Disparities and Address Racial Discrimination. The study found that
The percentage of K-12 public schools in the United States with students who are poor and are mostly Black or Hispanic is growing and these schools share a number of challenging characteristics. From school years 2000-01 to 2013-14 (the most recent data available), the percentage of all K-12 public schools that had high percentages of poor and Black or Hispanic students grew from 9 to 16 percent, according to GAO's analysis of data from the Department of Education (Education). These schools were the most racially and economically concentrated: 75 to 100 percent of the students were Black or Hispanic and eligible for free or reduced-price lunch—a commonly used indicator of poverty. GAO's analysis of Education data also found that compared with other schools, these schools offered disproportionately fewer math, science, and college preparatory courses and had disproportionately higher rates of students who were held back in 9th grade, suspended, or expelled.
While detailing and commending the various efforts the Departments of Education and Justice have taken "to identify and address racial discrimination against students," the GAO recommends that the Department of Education "more routinely analyze its civil rights data to identify disparities among types and groups of schools and that Justice systematically track key information on open federal school desegregation cases to which it is a party to better inform its monitoring. In response, both agencies are considering actions in line with GAO's recommendations."
I might, however, note a more important recommendation that is beyond the purview of the GAO report: the Elementary and Secondary Education Act should require districts to track their own demographic data and report any year-to-year increases in racial isolation and hold them accountable for any increases that were the result of state or district policies. This would eliminate the question of de jure versus de facto resegregation and instead make the question one of whether the district caused the resegregation. Resegregation caused by the state or district should come with consequences. Moreover, given the ESEA's original intent to give the federal government leverage to force desegregation and to address the needs of students in concentrated poverty, this change to the ESEA is common sense, not radical. For a full explanation of this proposal, see here.
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
After Fifty Years of Failed Policies, A Federal District Court Finally Orders District to Desegregate
Chalk one up to the principle that Constitution imposes an affirmative duty on school districts to dismantle segregation and that duty does to evaporate into the ether simply by the passing of years. A district that relies on evaporation can, at some point, finally be held to account. This is what the new decision in Cowan v. Bolivar stands for. But to appreciate the opinion's significance and not think the new order to desegregate is not crazy, one most know something of the history in the district.
On July 24, 1965, African American students sued the Bolivar County Board of Education and numerous of its members, alleging that the defendants “have pursued and are presently pursuing a policy, custom, practice and usage of operating the public schools of Bolivar County, Mississippi, on a racially segregated basis.” The district court agreed in 1969, "permanently enjoin[ing the district] from discriminating on the basis of race or color" and directing the district to “take affirmative action to disestablish all school segregation and to eliminate the effects of the dual school system.”
What followed was a long history of the district never taking that affirmative obligation seriously. Sixteen years later in 1985, the United States felt compelled to enter the case to pursue further relief for students. The United States alleged that the district had "actively pursued the . . . policies and practices [to] frustrat[e] the implementation of the Court’s [July 22, 1969] Order." Among the most egregious practices were allowing students to attend schools in zones outside of their residence, assigning faculty and staff to schools on the basis of race, and building new schools in locations designed to maintain those schools as 100% African American. The district court granted the United States intervention and another two and half decades of fighting with the district to desist from segregative practices and reverse their effect followed.
As late as 2011, the district court cited the district's “lack[ of] will to meaningfully integrate its schools.” To that day, according to the United States, the district continued to maintain schools that were all-black or nearly so, and assigned teachers to those schools that reinforced their racial identity. The best that appears to be said of the district was that it had developed magnet school programs that simply did not work. This is no surprise. In a community where school officials had resisted desegregation, why would the district expect parents to voluntarily desegregate the schools for the district?
Thus, nearly fifty years after the United States Supreme Court held in Green v. New Kent County that districts have an obligation to come forward with plans that work and "work now" to eliminate the vestiges of segregation, and that freedom of choice plans that do not work are unconstitutional, the federal district court in Mississippi has ordered Bolivar to take affirmative steps to redraw its attendance zones and finally bring integration to the district. More specifically, the district is to consolidate its high schools and middle schools. The court in Bolivar wrote:
In this case, the constitutional violation at issue is decades of state-sponsored segregation which existed at the point Judge Keady issued his initial order in 1969. The District has not cited, and this Court has not found, authority standing for the proposition that court-ordered desegregation plans that fail to achieve the desired desegregation absolve a school district of responsibility for remedying the effects of the initial state-sponsored segregation. To the contrary, the law is clear that, “[u]ntil [a school board] has achieved the greatest degree of desegregation possible under the circumstances the Board bears the continuing duty to do all in its power to eradicate the vestiges of the dual system.” Davis, 721 F.2d at 1435. Thus, where a court-ordered plan fails to achieve desegregation, a school district or board remains obligated “to come forth with a more effective plan.” Penick, 443 U.S. at 459–60. There is no dispute here that, in violation of the Constitution, the District has operated a dual system and that, as observed by Judge Davidson’s January 2013 order, the District has failed to achieve the greatest degree of desegregation possible under the circumstances. Accordingly, the District “bears the continuing duty to do all in its power to eradicate the vestiges of the dual system.” Davis, 721 F.2d at 1435. If the District fails to discharge this duty, this Court “has broad power to fashion a remedy that will assure a unitary school system.” Penick, 443 U.S. at 459. Put differently, Judge Keady’s implementation of attendance zones places no restriction on this Court in fashioning a desegregation remedy.
A tremendous amount of credit goes to the United States and this district court. The last decade has seen other desegregation cases dismissed under similar circumstances. School districts had learned to run out the clock on desegregation. After decades of never taking steps to eliminate segregation, they would argue that demographic shifts were now the cause of segregation. Even to the extent this claim might contain a nugget of truth, it is an odd thing to suggest a district's obligation to remedy segregation could vanish if the district stalled long enough for demographics in the district to change. Yet, this is exactly what some district courts have permitted schools to do.
I have always argued that the issue of taking affirmative steps to desegregate must precede any analysis of demographic shifts. Demographic shifts should become logically relevant only at the point at which the shifts overcome the affirmative efforts of districts. Both the U.S. Department of Justice and the federal district court firmly understood and appreciated this distinction. And from this perspective, the court really had no reasonable choice but to finally force Bolivar to desegregate.
Get the full opinion here.
Wednesday, May 4, 2016
U.S. Departments of Education and Housing Are on the Same Page: Desegregate If You Want to Cut Achievement and Opportunity Gaps
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has released a new report that comes out heavily in favor of coordinating housing and education policy to produce integration. The reasoning is simple and compelling: school and housing integration combined slash achievement gaps like nothing else. Speaking of such a policy in Montgomery, Maryland, the report emphasizes that "After 7 years, the public housing students at lower-poverty schools cut the math achievement gap with their higher-income peers in half, while the public housing students at higher poverty schools showed no relative improvement."
I am sure that I am beginning to sound like a broken record, but after decades of neglect, it feels like the stars are finally aligning around coordinated efforts and concerns to make a dent in segregation (or these are just the last hurrahs of an outgoing administration with nothing to lose). As discussed yesterday, segregation is coming under serious fire from the academic community, the Department of Education, and now HUD.
HUD's report is divided into five sections:
First, the report describes how school poverty is closely associated with children’s school performance, how neighborhoods relate, and how housing policies are an important complement to school choice programs. Second, the report details the current state of housing and school segregation, how the relationship between neighborhoods and schools creates a vicious circle, and how families choose homes and schools. Third, the report suggests how stronger institutional relationships and place-based initiatives could improve children’s school options. Fourth, the report proposes how affordable housing could be sited near opportunity schools. Fifth, the report describes housing mobility programs, including regional programs, and identifies how to help families with vouchers access opportunity schools as well as opportunity neighborhoods.
The report's major recommendations include:
• Coordinate school, housing, and transportation planning, including place-based programs. Sustainable, institutionalized processes could align related policies at all levels of government, providing a platform for coordinated strategies to support students attending low-quality, high-poverty schools.
• Build place-based housing-education partnerships. These partnerships can support low-income students and school improvement strategies. Also, school strategies such as magnet schools can complement place-based programs, enabling children in revitalizing areas to attend highquality, integrated schools.
• Encourage affordable housing development near high-quality schools. The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) Program, for instance, could provide a bonus for development located near high-performing schools, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) Section 8 Management Assessment Program could encourage PHAs to increase voucher use near high-quality schools.
• Support mobility at the regional level. Children often must move outside their current school district or PHA’s jurisdiction to attend higher-performing, lower-poverty schools and live in a lower-poverty neighborhood. Regional strategies can better match low-income families and opportunity areas. Promising regional strategies include regionally administered vouchers, regional project-based voucher pools, and regional waiting lists. The federal government could help with technical assistance, evaluation, waivers, and financial support.
• Consider schools when designating opportunity areas for housing voucher mobility programs, and be flexible when defining those areas. Only a subset of low-poverty neighborhoods provide access to low-poverty or highperforming schools; low-poverty neighborhoods do not guarantee access to high-quality schools. Communities could aim for high-performing elementary schools, such as those identified by local value-added performance measures. They could also avoid resegregating schools by considering schools’ economic and racial composition.
• Help families use housing assistance in opportunity neighborhoods and near opportunity schools. Mobility counseling can provide families with concise, understandable information on neighborhoods and their schools, including how those schools compare with the schools their children currently attend. The federal government can support more and higher-quality mobility counseling, better and simpler ways to provide families with their housing and school options, and more research on effective counseling. This support could include a voucher demonstration to provide access to both opportunity neighborhoods and opportunity schools. The federal government can also help communities encourage landlords in opportunity areas to participate.
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Rising Income Inequality Is Fueling School Segregation: Families with Resources Increasingly Buy Into Exclusive School Attendance Zones
It is shaping up as a bad month for school segregation--kind of. Secretary John King has been pushing for new integration policies. Sean Reardon and his colleagues released a new study finding that money alone cannot close the achievement gaps that segregation creates. And now, Ann Owens has delved into the sociological aspects of segregation and found that economic inequality itself is a source of school segregation, at least, among families with children. In Inequality in Children’s Contexts: Income Segregation of Households with and without Children, she finds that wealthier families without children are not so much of a problem for school segregation. But wealthier families with children make housing choices based on schools that intensify school segregation. In the current environment, they are predisposed to, in effect, buy their way into particular public schools. In other words, for them, the public school system is not so different from the private school system. The difference is that instead of paying tuition to the realtor, you pay it through your realtor.
On one level, this makes perfect sense, and families buying homes in "good" neighborhoods so that their children will attend "good" schools is not new. Owens' study, however, points out that the ability and incentives to exercise this type of choice have increased over time, and the results have become more glaring. With increasing income inequality, there are more clearly schools that some families do not want to send their kids to. At the same time, those same families have the purchasing power to go elsewhere, and they know where to go. Her abstract explains:
Past research shows that income segregation between neighborhoods increased over the past several decades. In this article, I reexamine income segregation from 1990 to 2010 in the 100 largest metropolitan areas, and I find that income segregation increased only among families with children. Among childless households—two-thirds of the population—income segregation changed little and is half as large as among households with children. I examine two factors that may account for these differences by household composition. First, I find that increasing income inequality, identified by past research as a driver of income segregation, was a much more powerful predictor of income segregation among families with children, among whom income inequality has risen more. Second, I find that local school options, delineated by school district boundaries, contribute to higher segregation among households with children compared to households without. Rising income inequality provided high-income households more resources, and parents used these resources to purchase housing in particular neighborhoods, with residential decisions structured, in part, by school district boundaries. Overall, results indicate that children face greater and increasing stratification in neighborhood contexts than do all residents, and this has implications for growing inequalities in their future outcomes.
The text of the article offers these findings:
- The increase in residential income segregation occurred entirely among families with children, for whom income segregation rose by about 20 percent. Among childless households—two-thirds of the population—income segregation did not change, on average. By 2010, income segregation between neighborhoods among families with children was twice as high as segregation among childless households. My findings reveal that the current narrative of an increasingly unequal metropolis in terms of income segregation is true only for families with children.
- My findings show that the relationship between income inequality and income segregation is twice as large among households with children, for whom income inequality rose more. Income inequality changed little among childless households during this time period, and households without children may have different residential concerns and spending priorities, so that income inequality is a less powerful predictor of income segregation. Among families with children, high-income parents may have become increasingly concerned about their children’s well-being, or they may have prioritized expenditures on residence in neighborhoods seen as advantageous for their children, and rising income inequality provided the resources with which to achieve these residential goals.
- [S]egregation is highest and has risen steadily between neighborhoods among affluent families with children. Growing income inequality and concerns about educational advantages for children may contribute to high segregation of affluent families. As the cultural norms around parenting and investments in children have intensified, spending on investments in children has risen among families at the top of the income distribution (Kornrich and Furstenberg 2013). My results indicate that real estate is another area where the class gap in investments in children has grown— income segregation between high- and low-income families with children has increased.
In her conclusions, she points out that school choice policies have done almost nothing "to overcome the role of neighborhood racial and income segregation in creating segregated schools [because] nearly all school choice plans operate within school districts." As a result, "they do not address the increasing economic homogeneity of school districts documented here." Her solution is to "consider new ideas in breaking the link between neighborhood residence and school attendance to thwart the increasing pace of segregation between neighborhoods, schools, and school districts among families with children." More particularly, policy makers should "redraw district boundaries to reduce the number and fragmentation of districts within [metropolitan areas]." She also points out that breaking the link between housing and schools may also have a positive effect on housing, as it could "reduce the capitalization of school quality into home prices, facilitating neighborhood income integration."
Monday, May 2, 2016
The past few weeks have included a bevy of data and new resources on school funding, segregation, and academic achievement. NPR developed a multi-week story on school funding, slowly and methodically teasing out its complexities. Last week, Sean Reardon and his colleagues released analysis of a new data set looking at academic achievement, school resources, and segregation. Both go an extremely long way toward documenting educational inequality and making it easily accessible to the average person. They come on top of a slow burning advocacy for integration at the state, local, and federal levels over the past few years. Finally, educational inequality and segregation are back in the mainstream conversation.
Reardon's new research, which is now dominating the most recent news cycles, makes an extremely important nuanced point worth emphasizing--a point the media could easily miss with all the fancy info-graphics and interactive charts showing just how unequal achievement is. Reardon and his colleagues state the following major findings:
- One sixth of all students attend public school in school districts where average test scores are more than a grade level below the national average; one sixth are in districts where test scores are more than a grade level above the national average.
- The most and least socioeconomically advantaged districts have average performance levels more than four grade levels apart.
- Average test scores of black students are, on average, roughly two grade levels lower than those of white students in the same district; the Hispanic-white difference is roughly one- and-a-half grade levels.
- Achievement gaps are larger in districts where black and Hispanic students attend higher poverty schools than their white peers; where parents on average have high levels of educational attainment; and where large racial/ethnic gaps exist in parents’ educational attainment.
- The size of the gaps has little or no association with average class size, a district’s per capita student spending or charter school enrollment.
This very last finding is a bombshell and could be used for good or bad. Some would use it to say money does not matter to educational outcomes. That simplistic conclusion overlooks two major points. First, there is plenty of research to demonstrating that money matters a lot when spent on the right things. Second, Reardon's point is not that money is irrelevant, it is that "racial segregation is inextricably linked to unequal allocation of resources among schools; and that policies that don’t address this will fail to remedy racial inequality. 'In sum, racial integration remains essential for reducing racial disparities in school poverty rates.'” This reminds me of an argument James Ryan made 17 years ago:
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Parents Allege Money Earmarked for School Integration Was Diverted to Charter Schools; Now They Want It Back
Plaintiffs in St. Louis, Missouri, have filed a very interesting challenge to recent charter funding practices. They allege that a local sales tax increase earmarked exclusively for desegregation remedies has been diverted to charter schools since 2006. The tax was originally passed in 1999 as part of a consent agreement in school desegregation case. The complaint alleges that the tax was properly spent from 1999 to 2006, but in 2006 it began being diverted to charter schools. The complaint is now asking that those funds be reclaimed for the traditional public schools and desegregation. As one might imagine, this is creating a huge division between families with students currently attending charters, as the remedy the plaintiffs seek would effectively bankrupt the charter system.
Whatever the merits of the complaint, it highlights another example of the ongoing tensions between creating new funding streams for charter schools at the same time that traditional public schools are being underfunded. For instance, Pennsylvania's newest charter funding scheme during the recession required local school districts, rather than the state, to reimburse charters, and the state set unreasonably high reimbursement rates. This nearly bankrupted Chester public schools and it caused Philadelphia schools to run significant deficits. In North Carolina, statutes allowed charter schools to tap into school districts rainy day funds. This meant that the money that districts saved for long term budget shortfalls could be spent immediately by charters. For more on the contrasting funding commitment to traditional public schools and charters, see here.
Monday, April 25, 2016
This year, the U.S. Department of Education's call for grant applications for the "Investing in Innovation Fund" returns the Department of Education to its roots and the original justifications for the federal role in education itself: school integration. Integration and diversity have been sidelined as a reform policy at the federal level for at least two decades, but in just a few short months, Secretary John King has put them squarely on the table. He recently asked Congress for new funding streams to promote education and, this week, has announced that applications that focus on "school diversity" will receive an "absolute priority" in this round of the Investing in Innovation Fund. Oh what a difference a new Secretary of Education makes, which cannot help but make wish for a rewind to the beginning of the Obama Administration and an alternate universe in which Linda Darling-Hammond had been name Secretary or John King got started earlier. Regardless, today is a good day for America's school children.
For those unfamiliar with the Investing in Innovate Fund, the "program is designed to generate and validate solutions to persistent educational challenges and to support the expansion of effective solutions to serve substantially larger numbers of students. The central design element of the i3 program is its multi-tier structure that links the amount of funding that an applicant may receive to the quality of the evidence 3 supporting the efficacy of the proposed project." The new statement on funding priorities state:
First, we include an absolute priority that asks applicants to focus their projects on student diversity. In parts of the country, America's schools are more segregated than they were in the late 1960s, including by students’ race and socioeconomic status. One-quarter of our nation’s public school students attend high-poverty schools where more than 75 percent of the student body is eligible for free and reduced-price lunch; in our cities, nearly half of all students attend schools where poverty is concentrated. In addition, almost half of all African-American and Latino public school students attend these economically segregated schools. Children raised in segregated communities have significantly lower social and economic mobility than children growing up in integrated communities, and States with socioeconomically segregated schools tend to have larger achievement gaps between students from low- and higher-income households. There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that socioeconomic diversity in schools can lead to improved outcomes for students from low-income households (compared to students from low-income households who attend higher-poverty schools). Moreover, research shows that students educated in diverse settings have shown a higher level of critical thinking and life skills.
Therefore, through the invitational priority, the Department invites projects with ambitious strategies that improve outcomes for high-need students by increasing racial and socioeconomic diversity in classroom or school settings. These projects could leverage approaches at the school, district, or regional level that encourage racial or socioeconomic diversity within classroom or school environments. Proposed strategies may range from new instructional approaches that impact socioeconomic integration and student achievement within schools (e.g., schools could improve participation of students from low-income households in advanced placement or “honors” coursework) or through redesigning district recruitment and admissions strategies to support and foster such diversity in schools. The Department seeks to invest in projects that focus concurrently on increasing diversity and school quality in areas where schools are acutely impacted by segregation while closing gaps in academic performance between socioeconomic and racial groups. The Department also encourages all applicants to carefully consider their evaluation design as the Department is keenly interested in developing a body of evidence on how classrooms, schools, and districts can better integrate their student bodies across racial and socioeconomic lines and produce outstanding outcomes for all students.
Let's hope states and districts respond with applications to take advantage.
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Genevieve Siegel-Hawley's new book, When the Fences Come Down: Twenty-First-Century Lessons from Metropolitan School Desegregation. It includes an afterword with Gary Orfield. The promotional materials offer this summary of the book:
How we provide equal educational opportunity to an increasingly diverse, highly urbanized student population is one of the central concerns facing our nation. As Genevieve Siegel-Hawley argues in this thought-provoking book, within our metropolitan areas we are currently allowing a labyrinthine system of school-district boundaries to divide students--and opportunities--along racial and economic lines. Rather than confronting these realities, though, most contemporary educational policies focus on improving schools by raising academic standards, holding teachers and students accountable through test performance, and promoting private-sector competition. Siegel-Hawley takes us into the heart of the metropolitan South to explore what happens when communities instead focus squarely on overcoming the educational divide between city and suburb.
Based on evidence from metropolitan school desegregation efforts in Richmond, Virginia; Louisville, Kentucky; Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina; and Chattanooga, Tennessee, between 1990 and 2010, Siegel-Hawley uses quantitative methods and innovative mapping tools both to underscore the damages wrought by school-district boundary lines and to raise awareness about communities that have sought to counteract them. She shows that city-suburban school desegregation policy is related to clear, measurable progress on both school and housing desegregation. Revisiting educational policies that in many cases were abruptly halted--or never begun--this book will spur an open conversation about the creation of the healthy, integrated schools and communities critical to our multiracial future.
Others also offer these reviews:
"When the Fences Come Down is the book that I myself would have written about the housing-school linkage, but Genevieve Siegel-Hawley has done it so much better than I could have. She masterfully combines a comprehensive review of scholarly literature about the housing-school nexus with case studies that highlight the key value of county-wide school districts covering both a central city and its suburbs in promoting racial and economic integration."
--David Rusk, Founding President, Building One America, and author, Cities without Suburbs
"Professor Siegel-Hawley's book is a direct challenge to current education "reformers" who think we can close the achievement gap by keeping low income children in separate, segregated schools. She uses real life examples to demonstrate how state and local leaders can work together to make housing and school integration a reality."
--Philip Tegeler, National Coalition on School Diversity
"Genevieve Siegel-Hawley uses the experience of four southern metropolitan areas to evaluate regional approaches to school desegregation and how they relate to changing patterns in housing segregation. This book contributes significantly to an area clearly in need of further research--regional approaches to school desegregation."
--Thomas Luce, Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity, University of Minnesota Law School
"When the Fences Come Down is a timely and well-considered contribution to the literature on desegregation in American schools. It promises to reframe the discourse on the topic so that educators and policymakers can look broader than a school and more acutely than the entire nation and instead settle their focus on a more appropriate unit of analysis--a region. Genevieve Siegel-Hawley looks squarely at issues that have heretofore been identified as important but have not received the scrutiny they merit as factors that may help us fully understand the conflicted legacy of Brown v. Board. Each chapter is rich with data, subtlety, and complex problems and solutions."
--Jeffrey S. Brooks, Monash University
Thursday, April 14, 2016
Minnesota is now the third state to entertain the theory that teacher tenure and seniority protections violate students' state constitutional right to education. Unable to locate the actual complaint, I have had to rely on the initial news reports of the claims, but three points seem pretty clear. First, the case is modeled on the lawsuits from California and New York and is being funded/coordinated by the same policy and media advocates. Second, according to the Star Tribune, it claims that "Minnesota laws protect teachers who should no longer be in classrooms, thus preventing thousands of students from getting a high-quality education." Or as one of the plaintiffs' attorneys in the case states, “This is a conversation about students’ fundamental right to an education and the laws that get in the way of that right.” Third, the lawsuit attributes achievement gaps between students to tenure. “When we look throughout the country at places where there are harmful teacher employment statutes and significant achievement gaps, Minnesota was one of the first states that popped up as a place that could use this kind of help,” said Ralia Polechronis, executive director of Partnership for Educational Justice.
From what I can tell, it also falls victim to all the same simplistic assumptions about teacher quality and equal educational opportunities. Unless plaintiffs unearthed new data and trends in Minnesota, the plaintiffs have no basis to believe that teacher tenure actually has a negative causal effect on educational opportunity. As detailed in The Constitutional Challenge to Teacher Tenure, 104 California Law Review 79 (2016), numerous different factors affect teacher quality and educational opportunity. Prior plaintiffs may marshaled almost no evidence that tenure has any causal effect on the quality of teachers who choose to teach and stay in a particular school, much less evidence that tenure is a significant factor in the quality of education a school offers. If tenure does not have a significant causal effect, it cannot support a constitutional claim. It is not enough to argue that tenure is bad policy. Good or bad, policies of this sort fall within the discretion of the legislature.
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
Matthew Delmont's book, Why Busing Failed: Race, Media, and the National Resistance to School Desegregation, is now available in paperback. The promotional materials offer this synopsis:
In the decades after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, busing to achieve school desegregation became one of the nation’s most controversial civil rights issues. Why Busing Failed is the first book to examine the pitched battles over busing on a national scale, focusing on cities such as Boston, Chicago, New York, and Pontiac, Michigan. This groundbreaking book shows how school officials, politicians, the courts, and the media gave precedence to the desires of white parents who opposed school desegregation over the civil rights of black students.
This broad and incisive history of busing features a cast of characters that includes national political figures such as then-president Richard Nixon, Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley, and antibusing advocate Louise Day Hicks, as well as some lesser-known activists on both sides of the issue—Boston civil rights leaders Ruth Batson and Ellen Jackson, who opposed segregated schools, and Pontiac housewife and antibusing activist Irene McCabe, black conservative Clay Smothers, and Florida governor Claude Kirk, all supporters of school segregation. Why Busing Failed shows how antibusing parents and politicians ultimately succeeded in preventing full public school desegregation.
Slate.com recently published a nice interview with Delmont. The following two exchanges were particularly insightful:
Jake Blumgart: Throughout the book you quote black activists or politicians who argue that busing is just a nice term for opposition to integrating our public schools. Why did the media fall so hard for the rhetoric of anti-integration activists in the 1960s and 1970s?
Matt Delmont: For two reasons. They had a very limited understanding of what was going on with civil rights in the North. Looking back at their coverage and how reporters talked about history afterward, they consistently thought of civil rights as a Southern story. They just couldn’t believe that school and neighborhood segregation could be intentional in cities like Chicago and Boston.
Desegregation is also really complex to get a handle on. To really get into the nitty-gritty reality of how these schools came to be segregated took a lot of research, more than most reporters or television journalists could do. Most places, especially television, would drop in for a day or two for the story and then fly back out. They were compelled by these anti-busing activists who were able to make really persuasive sound bites and visible protests that resonated powerfully. Anti-busing activists were really savvy in how they framed they story. The pro-busing side, the case they were trying to make, was much more complicated.
When we think of the relationship between TV and civil rights, almost everyone thinks of the 1950s and 1960s and the really positive role television played in bringing Little Rock, Selma, and Montgomery to a national audience. I think that’s largely a true story. Television news really forced Americans to confront what was going on in the Jim Crow South. But that same medium played almost the exact opposite role when it came to school segregation. It framed those anti-busing activists in a very positive light.
What was the nadir of school desegregation after Brown v. Board?
The 1964–1974 period is really what casts the die in terms of what’s possible for school desegregation. The reason I titled the book Why Busing Failed is because when I would tell people I was working on a book about the history of busing, most would shake their heads and say, “It’s too bad that policy failed.” I think after Boston it became very difficult to get people to think seriously about this as a politics that could succeed on a large-scale level. There were a number of school districts that had success with it, in part because they received less attention and things worked on a local level without it exploding the way that Boston did.
When asked about the future of school integration, Delmont's response is similar to the one voiced on this blog over the past two years: surprisingly, integration has returned as part of the national conversation. He pays special homage to Nikole Hannah-Jones' story on This American Life.
Daniel Kiel's response to the question is yes. In his new paper, No Caste Here? Toward a Structural Critique of American Education, Penn State Law Review, Vol. 119 (2015), he offers this perspective:
In his famous dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson, Justice John Marshall Harlan argued that in the United States, there was “no caste here.” Justice Harlan was rejecting the idea that American society operated to assign preordained outcomes to individuals based upon classifications, including racial classifications. This Article questions whether Justice Harlan’s aspirational assertion accurately reflects contemporary American education. Identifying: (1) multiple classification mechanisms, all of which have disproportionate racial effects, and (2) structural legal, political, and practical impediments to reform, the Article argues that the American education system does more to maintain the nation’s historical racial hierarchy than to disrupt it. This is so, the Article suggests, despite popular agreement with the casteless ideal and popular belief that education can provide the opportunity to transcend social class. By building the framework for a broad structural critique, the Article suggests that a failure to acknowledge and address structural flaws will preclude successful comprehensive reform with more equitable outcomes.
Download the full article here on ssrn.