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NY Times Editors Miss the Mark on Desegregation Editorial

June 26, 2017

Today’s NYTimes editorial praises several cities for their efforts to desegregate within their boundaries. Singling out Dallas’ recent decision to address the issue of segregation head on, the Times editors describe the efforts to address re-segregation as follows:

A growing number of school districts are refusing to accept segregation. One hundred school districts and charter school networks in 32 states, particularly in California, Florida, Iowa, New York, Minnesota and North Carolina, are promoting integration by taking socioeconomic status into account as they assign children to schools, according to a 2016 analysis by The Century Foundation. Just two districts were doing that 20 years ago. These districts typically go about this by redrawing attendance boundaries or creating magnet schools.

But what good is done by “redrawing attendance boundaries” within a school district like Dallas where 90% of the children qualify for free and reduced lunch and are minority students? And how does the creation of magnet schools help when most of the white residents in a city like Dallas are choosing to attend charter schools and/or private schools that are mostly white? Neither the Times article on the Dallas schools nor the editorial offer evidence that choice is helping with resegregation.

Here’s the sad reality of resegregation: the only way to reverse the trend is to appeal to the white residents who reside in those communities to enroll their children in neighborhood schools instead of relying on magnet schools. Given the choice between putting their children on a bus to go to a public magnet school across town that is “mixed” racially and demographically or taking their children out of a private charter school that is “competitive” and, consequently, less “mixed” racially and demographically, most parents will stay in the school their children are currently enrolled in. But if parents thought the school closest to their home was as well equipped and staffed as the schools in the nearby suburbs, they might consider enrolling in that school no matter what its demographics. Bottom line: the best way to accomplish resegregation is to provide robust programs for ALL children in ALL schools.

The editors failed to acknowledge the disparity in funding between districts and failed to point out the reality that boundary lines need to be redrawn between districts as well as within districts… but the editors were quick to criticize the Mayor for his failure to “name” resegregation as the major problem facing NY city schools. In future editorials I hope the NYTimes will advocate more funding for neighborhood schools, a consideration of redrawing boundaries between school districts, and full throated support for the administration in NY city schools when they DO make an effort to integrate the schools in the city.

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