University Study Promotes Cross-District Transportation to Diversify Schools

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When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that it was unconstitutional to use a child’s race when assigning them to a certain school, it effectively ended desegregation busing. The result, according to a study performed by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California at Los Angeles, is that schools are once again becoming segregated due to financial circumstances.

DistrictAdministration magazine picked up on this topic of segregation or fragmentation this month as it interviewed one of the authors of a study that looked at how Jefferson County, Ala., is having trouble with what is tantamount to the new “white flight.” But, today, the mode of escape is via an airplane made of green paper.

Erica Frankenberg, one of the study’s authors, says it comes down to socio-economics, as families with more money are able to pick up and move to wealthier areas that, hence, can afford to provide better education. As we know, so much of school funding is tied to property taxes. The result is that these smaller districts of a few can have a profound deleterious effect on the many, and the poorer, in metro areas.

One solution can be found in cross-district transportation systems that succeed in getting kids from poorer neighborhoods to these richer and more successful schools, says Gary Orfield, co-director of UCLA’s Civil Rights Project. That is, after all, the underlying tenet of what No Child Left Behind is supposed to be about: providing students better opportunities to improve their education.

But for a number of reasons, again tied to socio-economics, simply offering, say, school bus service doesn’t mean a thing. It’s one thing to say that school transportation services are available to take kids from one “under-achieving” part of town where the schools aren’t making the grade, perhaps for no other reason than there is not the property tax base to adequately support it, to the opposite end of the district where education is flourishing. It’s quite another to realistically see kids take advantage of these schools.

If a child is from a single parent household, for example, what if the family has no car and must rely on public transport to get around town? Can we really expect a parent who might be working 10 hours a day and is also responsible for cooking dinner, perhaps for more multiple children, to get to back to school night? What if they don’t even speak English? For these reasons and a host of others many students might be unable to take advantage of these opportunities.