Friday, August 26, 2016

A southern city wants to secede from its school district, raising concerns about segregation - The Washington Post

A southern city wants to secede from its school district, raising concerns about segregation - The Washington Post:

A southern city wants to secede from its school district, raising concerns about segregation

A view of the large posters of last year’s football and cheerleading squads at Bragg Middle School in Gardendale, Ala., on Aug. 3, 2016. City voters have decided to break away from the surrounding county’s school district, saying they want more local control. Opponents have said that it’s a move by a largely white population to isolate itself from a county with a far higher proportion of black students. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)


 The school board in this small Birmingham suburb meets monthly, debates district policies and pays a superintendent’s salary. But the Gardendale Board of Education oversees no schools, employs no teachers and enrolls no students.
City officials in this predominantly white town appointed the board in 2014 as part of a years-long effort to secede from surrounding Jefferson County — where there are more African American than white students — and form their own independent school system.
Opponents argue that the secession effort is laced with racial overtones and amounts to a push for segregation. But supporters say that it has nothing to do with race and that they are motivated by a desire for local control of public education — and the tax money that pays for it.
“It’s keeping our tax dollars here with our kids, rather than sharing them with kids all over Jefferson County,” said Stan Hogeland, mayor of Gardendale, a town that no one would call rich but is better off than some of its neighbors. “My focus is on Gardendale, not the county as a whole.”
Five decades after black families first sued over segregation here, Jefferson County schools are still bound by a federal desegregation court order, which means a federal judge will have the final say over whether Gardendale will be allowed to secede.
It is a case that not only illustrates courts’ continued authority over dozens of the nation’s school systems still under desegregation orders, but also highlights an American reality: The lines drawn around school districts do not just determine who gets to vote in local school board elections; they also serve as walls that define communities and drive property values, separating black from white and poor from affluent.
“It’s important to be really critical anytime new boundary lines are drawn,” said Erica Frankenberg, a professor at Penn State University who has studied desegregation in Jefferson County and nationwide. “They’re in­cred­ibly powerful.”
Alabama state law allows cities of more than 5,000 residents to form their own school systems, replacing what was once legal segregation with a different kind of division that also effectively has separated children by race and class, Frankenberg said.A southern city wants to secede from its school district, raising concerns about segregation - The Washington Post:

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