Home > Uncategorized > A Sad, Insightful Story About Philadelphia Schools, Where Choice and Cuts Lead to Resegregation

A Sad, Insightful Story About Philadelphia Schools, Where Choice and Cuts Lead to Resegregation

December 30, 2015

Aaron Traister’s Fusion article, “Public Schools Are Still Segregated. These Parents Are Making It Worse” , is a lament for the decline of public education in Northwest Philadelphia neighborhoods which I recall were a bastion of integration in the early 1970s. Traister, a Roxborough parent activist, describes his efforts to persuade neighbors to attend the neighborhood school instead of the charter schools at an event that was billed as “…“mixer” for local schools and parents of children about to start kindergarten”. Traister saw it for what it was: a recruiting fair where charter schools with brand new facilities and mostly white and affluent students competed against neighborhood schools. Traister captured the difference between the twin this paragraph:

The charter on the other side of my neighborhood has a new $13.5 million state-of-the-art-building and “learning pond” on their campus. My children’s school has a drain in the playground that backs up and floods the basketball courts every time it rains.

Traister does an excellent job of capturing the feel of the neighborhoods in NW Philadelphia and he also does a good job of describing the inherent hypocrisy of parents who choose to live in the city but fail to support their public schools by “showing up”.

The hardest thing about the school conversation is that most parents aren’t thinking about race and class when they choose a school, everyone just wants to do what is best for their kid. But why do so many parents assume that what is best for their kid exists in a bubble that is too often separated by race and class? Why have we decided that what’s best for our kids is divorced from what’s best for the communities and larger cities they grow up in? To the point where we abandon our communities, or remove our children to exclusive schools outside our neighborhoods, in effect isolating them from kids who would naturally be a part of their world…

Everyone says the right things about the choices they make when it comes to schools, but to not acknowledge the fact that those choices have created a world in which schools are one of the last socially acceptable excuses for white flight and racial and economic segregation, is to not be completely honest.

I did have one criticism of the article: neither Traister nor the public school Principals he interviewed were hard enough on the political forces that created this situation. The playground that has water doesn’t drain is the consequence of budgets that are held hostage in Harrisburg. This underfunding leads to the disintegration of facilities, increases in class sizes, devastating cuts to programs and services… and all of this fuels the privatization movement in Philadelphia. What parent, given the choice, would send their child to a school with a playground that floods regularly when they could choose to send that child to a spiffy charter school?

The funding inequities contribute mightily to the resegregation of schools— and that connection cannot be understated.

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