The New Champions of School Integration
The Department of Education killed a federal program supporting diversity efforts, but the fight to desegregate the nation’s classroom is far from over.
Policies that promote school integration by race and class took a significant hit last week when the U.S. Department of Education announced that it was killing a small but important federal program to support local diversity efforts. The initiative, “Opening Doors, Expanding Opportunities,” was slated to provide $12 million to school districts to boost socioeconomic diversity. The brainchild of President Obama’s Secretary of Education, John B. King Jr., the program had attracted interest from 26 school districts across the country that believed kids would be better off in schools that educate rich and poor, and white and minority students, together rather than separately.
According to the Washington Post, an Education Department spokesperson said the program was nixed because “it was not a wise use of tax dollars, in part because the money was to be used for planning, not implementation.” But supporters of the plan rejected that view. Representative Bobby Scott, a Virginia Democrat and the ranking member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, said, “Continuing this important program would have been an easy way for the Trump Administration to affirm its commitment to civil rights. Unfortunately, the Trump administration missed that opportunity.”
By coincidence, as the news of the program’s discontinuation broke, proponents of school diversity, including King, were gathering at the Harvard Graduate School of Education for a strategic-planning conference on school-diversity efforts. The day-long meeting, sponsored by Harvard’s Reimagining Integration program, the National Coalition on School Diversity, and The Century Foundation (where I work), brought together 50 scholars, civil-rights activists, and educators to plot out new strategies for school diversity in the age of Trump.
The decision by Donald Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, to kill Opening Doors was a reminder, if any was needed, that proponents of school diversity need to look beyond the federal government for support during Trump’s administration. The decision on whether to proceed with the Opening Doors program, Philip Tegeler of the Poverty and Race Research Action Council told Patrick Wall in an Atlantic article last month, was “going to be a real test of her State Courts Could Be Key for School Integration - The Atlantic: