You Can Bring a Student to the School…

…but can you give him equal access to education? Instead of fixing schools in poor neighborhoods former North Carolina Senator and 2008 Presidential Candidate John Edwards’ idea to increase the level of economic diversity in schools is to help families move elsewhere, along with busing inner-city students to the suburbs and creating inner-city magnet schools to attract suburban students into the city. The Supreme Court has repeatedly shot down districts who try to use race as the only factor in integrating schools. Due to the economic climate of the nation, they are now able to use economic status in its place and accomplish the same goal – but what does that mean for education system? Today’s post looks at some “solutions” to the lack of diversity in America’s schools and whether or not they are being fair to give all students equal access to education.

Racial segregation is still alive and well in America’s schools, and along with it is often economic segregation. In a recent post on Eduwonk, Andrew Rotherham mentions these ideas from Edwards, published on Politico. TeacherJay has long felt that the reason schools are so segregated is not necessarily due to a bigoted school board, or racist citizens wanting to keep kids of a different color from mixing, but rather that everyone would rather send their kids to the neighborhood school and, for the most part, people in this country still live in separate neighborhoods. (Of course, this begs the question of why schools in different neighborhoods are funded so differently, and for that TeacherJay will direct you towards Jonathan Kozol’s book, The Shame of the Nation.) But, is paying people to leave their neighborhoods in order to get a quality education really the answer? What kind of message does that send? Leaving a home, a community, is a difficult thing to do. Not everyone will be willing to do it – especially the students who are supposed to be the biggest beneficiaries – anyone remember having to be “the new kid” and make new friends? This plan is flawed and looks more like it is trying to pass the blame for failed integration efforts on to the families who elect not to move into other neighborhoods.

Busing? John, hasn’t this been happening for decades already? It doesn’t work! Edwards’ plan even calls for sending “additional resources”, a.k.a. money to schools who accept students from other areas. This reminds TeacherJay of those times when your kindergarten teacher would tell some of the more popular kids to play with the outcast of the clssroom. At any age, people see right through it and the outsider will never truly be integrated. Additionally, Edwards seem to be forgetting about the great distances and time involved with being bused to another part of the city – this article from CNN describes the journeys made by two students in Kentucky. These problems will exist whether students are being moved from the suburbs into cities or vice versa.

Rotherham’s assessment that vouchers are a good idea, is not something TeacherJay can agree with, although, he does move on to state that these ideas are merely “lifeboats” to keep kids afloat for a little while longer. Exactly! These initiatives will not fix the disparity that exists in the school system they will merely cover it up. Economically disadvantaged students from the inner-city would still be at a loss because their schools are simply not adequate. Busing them to the suburbs or even forcing them to move would only put them at the disadvantage of having to spend time on a bus when they could have been participating in extracurricular activities (or even after school tutoring programs s/he may be required to attend due to NCLB), or being an outcast student who is resented by classmates.

TeacherJay and Rotherham are in full agreement, however, that the way to progress is to make the inner-city schools just as good, if not better, than their suburban counterparts. The past 50 years have shown that it is nearly impossible to integrate schools based on race, and recent plans have failed at using income at the core of school integration efforts. Rather than shuffling the kids to the “best” schools, let’s bring quality education to the kids who need it!

As always, TeacherJay looks forward to your comments and suggestions.


One Response to “You Can Bring a Student to the School…”

  1. Tracy Rosen Says:

    I completely agree with your conclusion: “…let’s bring quality education to the kids who need it!”

    Shuffling students out to ‘better’ schools helps to reinforce the notion that inner-city schools or schools in ‘bad’ neighbourhoods are bad because of where they are. If the schools are ‘bad’, then the kids and communities must be bad too.

    Creating relevant, high-quality educational institutions in areas that have had historically irrelevant, sub-standard schools will have the effect of raising the relevance and quality of the communities and areas they are in.

    I really believe that.

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