A reminder: for the foreseeable future, supporting neighborhood schools means de facto supporting segregated schools.
The reason is obvious: neighborhoods in our country are highly segregated.
I think our country would be better if our neighborhoods weren’t segregated, but I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon.
So if every kid goes to their neighborhood school, we will have segregated schools.
There are a couple ways out of this.
We could restructure enrollment and bussing rules to avoid segregation, but this would mean that a lot families would have to attend schools outside of their neighborhoods.
And I don’t think it’s the rich families that are going to send their children to poorer neighborhoods.
So we’ll need to be bussing in low income students into rich neighborhoods. This might be the right thing to do, but that means a lot of low income students won’t be attending their neighborhood schools.
It also means we’ll likely have a lot of white flight, which, while unfortunate, is neither good for integration nor a city’s tax base.
The other option is to create all choice systems and allow schools to preference students in a way that increases socioeconomic integration (this could be done through a unified enrollment algorithm).
For this strategy to be successful, schools will have to proactively create enrollment rules that increased integration, and families will have to proactively choose schools with this mission.
This will obviously be a slower process than forced integration via non-choice bussing systems.
But I think it will be much more durable.
Ultimately, you can’t force people to integrate our current version of segregated schools if they don’t want to. They will either move or kick out the superintendent who forces it. As a country, we rightfully changed the laws that forced segregation, but we’re still left with the fact that many people don’t really want integration, at least not if it involves any bit of giving up of privilege.
So, no, you can’t force integration. But you can give educators the opportunity to say that their school will prioritize integration. And you can make it easier for families to choose these schools.
The road to school integration is not through neighborhood schools. And it’s not through forced enrollment patterns.
The road to school integration is through people actually wanting it, and for government to create open systems that allow these desires to be actualized.
If you do nothing, people will attend their segregated neighborhood schools.
If you force it, they will flee.
If you build it, they might come.