Monday, July 25, 2016

40 years after desegregation ruling, core problems remain

40 years after desegregation ruling, core problems remain:

40 years after desegregation ruling, core problems remain

A new student at Fourth Street School, 1542 N. 4th St., is directed to his teacher by Mary Krause, a paraprofessional aide, in 1976.
A new student at Fourth Street School, 1542 N. 4th St., is directed to his teacher by Mary Krause, a paraprofessional aide, in 1976. Credit: Journal Sentinel files

Here's a milestone I don't expect anyone will celebrate. The start of the school year, just over a month from now, will mark the 40th anniversary of the launch of court-ordered school desegregation of Milwaukee Public Schools.
It's remarkable how some of the key elements of the plans implemented beginning then remain part of the Milwaukee school landscape now. To name three:
The racial integration plan that was implemented over several years was focused largely on trying to make a group of "magnet schools" attractive enough that both white and black children would enroll. Some schools that arose in that era, such as Rufus King High School and Golda Meir School, remain comparatively diverse and among the best in Milwaukee.
Busing is No. 2. Desegregation brought a large increase in the role of busing to move children to schools outside their own neighborhoods. To this day, busing remains a central part of the school landscape, long after desegregation itself pretty much faded out.
It's the third remnant that is most dispiriting: The problems desegregation aimed to solve have not, for the most part, gone away. In some ways, they are worse.
In 1976, the MPS student body was about two-thirds white. Within five years, the white percentage was under 50%. Last fall, according to MPS, it was 13%. Where did all those kids go? The suburbs is the main answer.
As for MPS schools, for a few years, there was a big push for diverse enrollments in many schools, including use of quotas by race in some. But even mandated integration faltered soon, largely because so many whites left the system.
Today, the large majority of schools in the city, including private schools and non-MPS charter schools, predominantly have one racial or ethnic identity, black, Hispanic or white. With a short list of praiseworthy exceptions, there is little in Milwaukee that qualifies to be called integration in education.
As for integration in the suburbs, quite a few schools that are closer to the city of Milwaukee have more diverse student rosters than they had a decade ago, not to mention four decades ago. That's due to a number of changes, including the demographic makeup of those suburbs, as well as the state's open enrollment law, which allows students from one school district to enroll in another district. But open enrollment actually has increased segregation. And many schools in farther-out suburbs remain predominantly white.
The voluntary city-suburban racial integration program known as Chapter 220 is 40 years after desegregation ruling, core problems remain:

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