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“Choice” is Returning to its Roots in Resegregation in Iowa

January 28, 2021

The title of Jeremy Mohler’s recent post In The Public Interest, “‘School Choice” is a Dog Whistle for Resegregation”,  tells the story of what has happened across the country for decades and what is happening today in Iowa. As described in many earlier posts on this blog, the roots of “choice” can be found in the South where some districts closed all their public schools and opened replaced them with academies where only White children could attend. Now, under the banner of school choice, the Governor of Iowa has found a way for parents to sidestep attending “diverse” schools:

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds has proposed a bevy of so-called “school choice” reforms to the state’s education system.

What you’d expect is included. Private school vouchers. More funding for privately operated charter schools.

But most striking is a change that would allow students to transfer out of schools that have a voluntary or court-ordered diversity plan.

Higher-income families (read: well-to-do white families) would be able to remove their kids from schools that educate predominantly lower-income students (read: Black and immigrant families in cities like Des Moines).

In other words, the resegregation of public schools.

This shameless resegregation is done on the pretext of providing the kind of program that matches the needs of the child, as this disingenuous State GOP legislator explains: 

“Really it’s about parental choice,” said state Republican Rep. John Wills about the proposal. “Giving the parents a choice to allow their children to move to a different school or one that fits their child in a better way, and the schools right now are really prohibiting that.”

The bottom line is that “choice” makes it impossible to achieve any kind of racial or socio-economic equity because “choice” is fundamentally limited to affluent white children who want to attend schools with “their kind” and don’t want to be mixed in with “those children” whose parents can’t afford a good home or whose skin has a different color…. whose “choice” of neighborhoods is restricted by virtue of a $100,000 fence tariff that makes a home in a good district unaffordable or who are steered into a different neighborhood or communist where they would be “more comfortable”. 


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