Segregated Public Schools

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

OCPA carries my latest, on how the government school monopoly maintains segregated schools:

Assigning students to schools based on where they live guarantees segregated schools, because Americans live in segregated neighborhoods. And even as the lines that separate school districts and individual school attendance zones have fluctuated over generations since the civil rights revolution, the lines continue to be drawn so as to ensure racially segregated schools.

Should we be surprised at that? As long as government monopolizes schooling, who goes to school where is under political control. And one of the most enduring forms of political mobilization is racial identity pandering. Whether openly or by subterfuge, politicians make gravy by appealing to voters’ race-based anxieties and perceived interests. That reality doesn’t magically disappear when it’s time to draw district and attendance-zone lines.

I draw on the Urban Institute’s mapping tool, Dividing Lines, to look at district lines and attendance zones that segregate students in Oklahoma City. Click the link to find schools in your state!

Convincing politicians not to pander by race strikes me as a rather Sisyphean task; I propose another approach:

Unsurprisingly, the progressives at the Urban Institute and I differ on the question of how these lines should be drawn if we lived in a perfect world where they weren’t drawn to satisfy political constituencies driven by identity politics. But we don’t live in that world, so who cares? To my mind, the only question that counts is how we can realistically, in this world, break the chain that binds skin color and school attendance.

School choice, which allows parents to use the public funds for their child’s education to attend the public or private school of their choice, has a great track record of integrating schools. That’s because it ends the segregationist practice of assigning students to schools based on where they live. Seven empirical studies have examined the impact of school choice programs on segregation; six found it reduced segregation while one found no visible effect. No empirical studies have found that school choice increases segregation. (Of course, given how aggressively segregationist the government school monopoly is, creating a more segregated system would be a tall order.)

Let me know what you think!

4 Responses to Segregated Public Schools

  1. pdexiii says:

    A staff member at my school had to move so their basketball-playing son could attend a HS whose coach they respected because of attendance zones.
    Certain West-side (Los Angeles County) cities may grant permits if your parents work within proximity of the schools, but also enforce other requirements, like GPA.
    I’ve observed that the most sought after schools both academic and athletic out here are schools of choice.

    • Greg Forster says:

      Here in Wisconsin, in addition to real school choice policies, we also have a “public school choice” system through which people can, in theory, attend schools other than their assigned schools. Let’s just say it’s not a super parent-friendly program and not many use it.

      • pdexiii says:

        And of course the LAUSD Magnet system has only been best navigated by the connected-affluent. These new art-media schools founded by Dr. Dre and George Clooney will be come ‘magnets’ for the middle-class/affluent, with a token number of the students they claim to champion, and worse draw the tenured teachers looking for an easy gig teaching these affluent students.

  2. Malcolm Kirkpatrick says:

    The checkout line in my neighborhood Safeway looks like a random sample of the Honolulu population.

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