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There ARE No Two Sides When it Comes to Condemning Racism… BUT

July 19, 2019 Leave a comment

This USA Today op ed article is correct in its assessment that there are not two sides when it comes to condemning racism… but what is a teacher to do if her boss or the majority of the school board supports the position of all but 4 GOP congressmen that the President’s recent tweets and subsequent behavior is not racist? I dare say SOME teacher will encounter this dilemma.

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Thomas Edsall Sees a Link Between Racial Segregation and “Trouble”… I See the Same Link Between ECONOMIC Segregation and “Trouble”

July 17, 2019 Leave a comment

Thomas Edsall’s column in today’s NYTimes is titled “When Segregation Persists, Trouble Persists“. The kind of “trouble” that persists is the reinforcement of negative white stereotypes of blacks, the inability of blacks to improve educationally or economically, and the continued vicious circle of poverty. Like all of Mr. Edsall’s columns, this one is full of graphs, quotes from political and social scientists, and lots of links to supporting articles. At the end of the article he includes several quotes from researchers who believe in the power of racial integration, summarizing their sense of optimism or pessimism about the future. Here’s that portion of the article:

I asked a number of those I contacted, all of whom support integration, whether they were optimistic about the prospects of school and community integration. The answers varied:

Rucker Johnson of Berkeley was positive:

I am very hopeful because the research evidence is strong about the path forward, about the lessons we can draw on from past efforts, and there’s a groundswell movement and revival of integration efforts led by current students across the country who are dissatisfied by the segregated environments they are confined to and demanding a response from those adults in positions of power.

Douglas Massey of Princeton: “I tend to be on the pessimistic side when it comes to housing segregation.”

Ann Owens of U.S.C.:

As far as pessimism/optimism goes, in a world of rising income and other inequalities and a tendency toward policies that emphasize individual choice and responsibility and market-based reforms, integration is not going to just magically happen. It’s certainly possible, but it will take a political will and a public orientation toward the collective that, in my opinion, does not currently exist.

Ingrid Gould Ellen of N.Y.U.:

Many white households continue to harbor racially based stereotypes about neighborhoods, associating the presence of minority neighbors, and in particular black neighbors, with declining property values, disinvestment and crime. Over time, I’d like to think that these associations are weakening as integration becomes more prevalent.

Sean Reardon of Stanford:

Racial intolerance (and outright racism) seems on the rise, and white-black income and wealth disparities remain very large and have not narrowed in decades. So there is little reason to expect much decline in racial segregation in the near future, particularly given the lack of policy interest in addressing it. Economic segregation likewise shows no sign of declining. So I am currently pessimistic, given today’s political and economic winds, but am more hopeful about the long arc of the future, which I think will ultimately bend toward equality and fairness.

As I noted in a comment I left, I am pessimistic about any efforts to equalize opportunities given the experiences in my home state of NH where economic segregation persists despite a series of lawsuits won by property poor districts.

The vicious circle Mr. Edsall describes in Southern Cook County IL based on RACE is identical to the vicious circle we have in NH based on ECONOMICS. In NH, affluent, well educated parents avoid a purchasing ANY home in a property poor district with a critical mass of children raised in poverty. Instead they purchase a more expensive home in a district with college educated parents. Why? Because the property taxes they pay will be identical and they know that their home will hold its value and their children will attend schools with better teachers, better facilities, and a “better peer group”.

The way to address economic inequality is obvious: impose a progressive income tax and increase business taxes. This would provide the funds needed to improve the schools in less affluent communities and in turn improve opportunities for children in those communities and improve the well-being of those who live in property-poor districts.

Alas, affluent parents and businesses oppose ANY form of broad-based taxes designed to “redistribute” resources to those in need. Broad-based taxes that could provide the resources needed to help those in need has been shelved in favor of “policies that emphasize individual choice and responsibility”.

Live free or die- but only if you can afford it… and, as Anne Owens noted, as long as we live in a country that favors “…policies that emphasize individual choice and responsibility” New Hampshire’s credo will be our nation’s credo… and the Horatio Alger dream will die along with democracy.

Affordable Housing and Desegregation: A Synergistic Solution to Two Persistent Problems

July 16, 2019 Leave a comment

In yesterday’s post I wrote about the liberal train wreck called “busing”, basing the post on articles about that topic itself and Joe Biden’s willingness to support laws ending busing as a means of desegregation. Given the clear antipathy voters hold toward busing, it is clear to me that promoting that concept as a means of desegregation is a losing proposition. Moreover, as noted on several occasions in this blog, housing and zoning policies are the root cause of both economic and racial segregation.

Earlier this month the NYTimes published an op ed article by Lizabeth Cohen titled “Only Washington Can Solve the Nation’s Housing Crisis”. In the article, Dr. Cohen describes a brief history of federal housing policy, noting that in 1949 Congress passed a Housing Act that “vowed to provide “a decent home and a suitable living condition for every American family.””. The article goes on to describe the mis-steps that occurred in the name of urban renewal and the emerging consensus that housing subsidies and housing projects were a failure. But Dr. Cohen counters that pervasive mindset with these insights:

What has particularly been forgotten are the progressive steps that federal subsidies made possible. For example, in 1968 New York State created the Urban Development Corporation, with a mandate to build thousands of units of subsidized housing and reinvigorate declining industrial cities. Under the direction of the veteran urban redeveloper Edward J. Logue, this authority relied on funding from state appropriations and private bond sales, but the real engine was robust federal backing, both in funds and political support.

During its seven-year run, it built 33,000 units of housing, developed three new towns — including the intentionally mixed-income, mixed-race and mixed-age Roosevelt Island in New York City — and fostered a spirit of architectural and technological innovation to find ways of delivering housing more efficiently, more aesthetically, and more affordably. Marcus Garvey Park Village in Brooklyn’s Brownsville neighborhood was a successful prototype of low-rise, high-density subsidized housing.

The Urban Development Corporation ran into trouble when it took a progressive step too far, using its statewide authority to tackle inequities between city and suburbs. In 1972, it began a project to build 100 affordable housing units in nine towns in wealthy Westchester County, provoking a fierce suburban backlash. That, combined with a 1973 moratorium by President Richard Nixon on all congressionally approved spending on housing and cities, spelled doom for the corporation — and a steady decline in federal responsibility for housing and cities.

Dr. Cohen makes a good argument that times have changed. Today the climate change crisis requires that we limit commuting. The tight job market requires that we provide housing for low-wage employees closer to their place of work, which is, increasingly, in the suburbs and exurbs. And, although she does not mention it, I believe Dr. Cohen would agree that we need to at long last address the racial and economic inequality that results in separate and unequal opportunities for black, brown, and poor children.  She concludes her essay with this:

The housing crisis and climate change raise different challenges, but solving both of them requires greater commitment to re-empowering the federal government to act in the public interest. Only Washington has the resources and the scope to tackle these dire threats to the nation’s and the planet’s future.

In 1975, Ed Logue, the visionary head of the Urban Development Corporation, said, “We cannot allow basic public policy” to be made “in corporate board rooms.” And yet, for half a century, that’s exactly what we have done, to our great misfortune.

MAYBE the stars will align in the months ahead and we will find ourselves with a President who believes there IS a federal responsibility for housing and the overall well-being of its citizens. Maybe we will elect a President and Congress who will take basic public policy away from corporate boards and back into the hands of the voters.

“Busing”, a “Liberal Train Wreck” is NOT the Issue: Caste IS

July 15, 2019 Leave a comment

I just finished reading two excellent NYTimes articles on the ultimate third rail issue: the use of busing to integrate public schools.

My use of quotation marks around the word busing is explained in the first article, “It Was Never About Busing“, by Nikole Hannah-Jones, who wrote:

That we even use the word “busing” to describe what was in fact court-ordered school desegregation, and that Americans of all stripes believe that the brief period in which we actually tried to desegregate our schools was a failure, speaks to one of the most successful propaganda campaigns of the last half century. Further, it explains how we have come to be largely silent — and accepting — of the fact that 65 years after the Supreme Court struck down school segregation in Brown v. Board of Education, black children are as segregated from white students as they were in the mid-1970s when Mr. Biden was working with Southern white supremacist legislators to curtail court-ordered busing.

The term “busing” is a race-neutral euphemism that allows people to pretend white opposition was not about integration but simply about a desire for their children to attend neighborhood schools. But the fact is that American children have ridden buses to schools since the 1920s. There is a reason the cheery yellow school bus is the most ubiquitous symbol of American education. Buses eased the burden of transportation on families and allowed larger comprehensive schools to replace one-room schoolhouses. Millions of kids still ride school buses every day, and rarely do so for integration.

Ms. Hannah-Jones offers this bitter insight into the real problem with busing:

The school bus, treasured when it was serving as a tool of segregation, became reviled only when it transformed into a tool of integration. As the federal judge who ordered busing for desegregation in the landmark case that eventually made its way to the Supreme Court said, according to the 1978 book “Nothing Could Be Finer,” “Heck, I was bused as a child in Robeson County. Everybody who attends school in North Carolina has been bused. Busing isn’t the question, whatever folks say. It’s desegregation.”

But later in her article, Ms. Hannah-Jones offers an even deeper insight: on three occasions she links the desegregation mandates to “the educational caste system“.  THAT phrase captures not only the racial inequities that persist in our public schools since Brown v. Board of Education, but also captures the fact that almost every state in the union operates schools based on a system of economic segregation. The caste system is both racial and economic and the results are catastrophic for children raised in poverty no matter what their race and doubly catastrophic for black and brown children raised in poverty.

Ms. Hannah-Jones offers a comprehensive history of court decisions and legislative action that initially led to the use of busing to provide racially balanced schools, concluding that overview with this reminder:

When people call busing ill conceived or the worst means of ensuring integration, they conveniently obscure that busing was almost always a tool of last resort, mandated by courts only after lengthy battles with school boards and state officials, by black parents and civil rights groups, failed to produce even modest integration for black children. Judges and attorneys and activists were trying to destruct a racist and segregated educational system in the face of enormous resistance, subterfuge and violence, even in the most ostensibly liberal places.

In doing so, of course mistakes were made. Particularly, desegregation too often shuttered black schools and dismissed black educators because they were not considered good enough to teach white children. Many black activists and communities grew weary of chasing white people across the city as they fled integration, and instead they decided to focus on gaining resources for schools that served their own neighborhoods.

Ms. Hannah-Jones, like presidential candidate Kamala Harris, was bused to a white school– for 10 of the 12 years she attended public schools in Waterloo, IA. The experience was beneficial for her as it was for most African American students who participated in busing programs. But she is resigned to the fact that busing is unlikely to be used again, not because it “failed”, but because even the most liberal and open-minded voters would not support it:

The same people who claim they are not against integration, just busing as the means, cannot tell you what tactic they would support that would actually lead to wide-scale desegregation. So, it is an incredible sleight of hand to argue that mandatory school desegregation failed, while ignoring that the past three decades of reforms promising to make separate schools equal have produced dismal results for black children, and I would argue, for our democracy.

It is unlikely that we will ever again see an effort to deconstruct our system of caste schools like what we saw between 1968 and 1988. But at the very least, we should tell the truth about what happened.

Busing did not fail. We did.

The second article, “How Joe Biden Became the Democrats’ Anti-Busing Crusader“, by Astead W. Herndon and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, describes Mr. Biden’s personal history in dealing with integration in his home state of Delaware who he represented in the Senate. The article provides a good overview of the history of school integration and offers context for the positions he took. The article doesn’t clearly depict the latent racism of Delaware, however. As a junior high student in the early 1960s, I vividly recall going on a field trip to the Dover Air Force Base where there were separate water fountains and bathrooms for “Negros”. It was the first time I came across such blatant discrimination, though I since learned that up until the Brown case my hometown in SE Pennsylvania operated a separate facility for black students.

Mr. Herndon and Ms. Stolberg thoroughly researched their article, and the reported that most of the civil rights leaders who knew Mr. Biden at the time he was becoming “the Democrats’ Anti-Busing Crusader” would not rule out voting for him and felt that he was walking a tightrope between his personal convictions and the anti-integration sentiment of the voters in his state. After an even handed and clear eyed examination of Mr. Biden, the article concludes with this:

The Biden spokesman, Mr. Bates, said that if elected, Mr. Biden would reinstate Obama-era policies “designed to increase the diversity of our schools.” Mr. Biden has long maintained that the white flight he had warned about came to pass, noting the many white families who fled to Pennsylvania for that state’s public schools, or — like Mr. Biden himself — enrolled their children in private schools. In his 2007 memoir, he described court-ordered busing as “a liberal train wreck.”

Aides say he has not changed his mind.

LATimes Offers Good Overview of Disintegration of Desegregation

July 9, 2019 Leave a comment

Today’s LATimes article (link below) describes the slow erosion of efforts to integrate public schools and the predictable result: schools across the country are more integrated now than ever. The takeaway from the article is that no one running for President seems willing to make the issue a centerpiece of their campaign and so it is unlikely to be solved unless some billionaires decide to make racial and economic justice their cause. apple.news/AcpfFBC92RjePQvKusOVMOQ

Charter Schools Acknowledge Flaws, Flaws that Prove “No Excuses” Approach to Discipline Fails

July 6, 2019 Leave a comment

After reading Eliza Shapiro’s article this morning in the NYTimes I came away with the sense that MAYBE the tide is turning against charter schools in NYC and, if so, it could be a harbinger of a shift everywhere. The article’s title, “Why Some of the Country’s Best Urban Schools Face a Reckoning”, is misleading at best. It implies that the charter schools who are facing “a reckoning” are “some of the country’s best urban schools”, which perpetuates the NYTImes narrative that charter schools are better than traditional public schools. The article, though, pulls no punches because the data on charter schools indicted that while many of the charters flagged in the article have trumpeted their successes they have papered over their failures. The first two paragraphs set the stage:

When the charter school movement first burst on to the scene, its founders pledged to transform big urban school districts by offering low-income and minority families something they believed was missing: safe, orderly schools with rigorous academics.

But now, several decades later, as the movement has expanded, questions about whether its leaders were fulfilling their original promise to educate vulnerable children better than neighborhood public schools have mounted.

From there, Ms. Shapiro describes how zero tolerance discipline policies ended up emphasizing conduct at the expense of academics, demonstrates that many of the criticisms leveled against the charter schools were warranted, and indicates that both the Governor of NY and the legislature have resisted any further expansion of charters in NYC because of the deficiencies in the programs. Ms. Shapiro describes the new political reality in this paragraph:

Last month, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat who has been a crucial supporter of charters, declared that the State Legislature would not lift a cap on the number of new charters issued citywide. By halting charter growth indefinitely, Albany lawmakers have begun to erode the schools’ foothold in the country’s biggest school system.

Will the charter’s loosening foothold in Albany and NYC have an impact on their expansion elsewhere? My belief is that it will except in those parts of the country where charters are unapologetically used to segregate children based on race, religion, and wealth…. and as long as Betsy DeVos has her hand on the tiller and neoliberalism reigns in the Democratic party the resegregation and monetization of public schools will continue and charters will be the vehicle for that trend.

Kamala Harris Scores Points in Debate #2…. but Is Busing the Way Forward?

June 28, 2019 Comments off

The NYTimes and myriad other news sources recounted an exchange between Kamala Harris and Joe Biden in the second Democratic Party Debate. Here’s a synopsis from a “Top Stories” email I received written by Lisa Lerer:

Last night, former Vice President Joe Biden had a moment. And it wasn’t pretty.
It started when Senator Kamala Harris interjected into a conversation about racism with a request: “As the only black person on this stage, I would like to speak on the issue of race.”
She then laced into comments Mr. Biden made at a fund-raiser earlier this month where he fondly recalled his working relationships with segregationists in the Senate, as well as his active opposition to busing in the 1970s.
“It’s personal,” she said. “It was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country.”
She continued: “There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me.”
Mr. Biden, an experienced debater, looked defensive and a bit offended, and he struggled to respond. He noted he’d worked as a public defender in 1968, unlike Ms. Harris, who was a prosecutor. And then, he seemed to simply give up: “Anyway,” he said, “my time is up.”

As noted above, in recounting her personal experience Ms. Harris DID unsettle Mr. Biden… but, as Ms. Lerer noted later in her synopsis, busing has not proven to be an effective means of desegregation. In an NPR report from 2016, which was linked to Ms. Lerer’s email, Arizona State professor Matthew Delmont offered this analysis of why busing failed:

A couple things happen that make it difficult to sustain busing programs into the ’80s and ’90s.

One is the tremendous amount of white flight that happens in cities like Boston, so there just simply aren’t enough white students to go around to have meaningful school desegregation. This is true in Chicago, in Los Angeles, in New York.

The other thing that happens is busing placed a tremendous burden on black students and on students of color. In most cases, they were the ones that were asked to travel to the suburbs, travel sometimes to hostile neighborhoods. For many parents, that simply isn’t worth it after a number of years.

If Democrats are committed to racial equity, they may want to avoid hitching their wagon to busing and instead look at ways to provide desegregated affordable housing in each and every district in the country and/or provide each and every student— rich or poor, white black or Latina—  with the same opportunities for learning that students in affluent school districts receive routinely. The argument cannot be focused on busing as the ultimate solution, for there is no evidence that busing worked for the wider population of Africa Americans even though it clearly worked for Ms. Harris.