Resegregation and the Cost of Gas, and Banking Crisis

>> Sunday, October 12, 2008

In a stark reminder of why the cost of gas matters for more than economic reasons the WSJ recently ran an article on the decline of busing. In the aftermath of Brown v Board and Brown II the United States began the massive undertaking of integrating its schools. Busing as many will remember was an instrumental tool. Busing is an iconic image and idea to americans that congers up images of nine students exiting buses out side Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas protected by the national guard or us marshals while surrounded by angry white parents and community members. Few things have been as enduringly contentious as busing but now the practice is under threat not from those who claim we have reached racial utopia but from those who want to save money.

Determining what school a child attends can have a huge impact on their future. Wealthier schools often have programs that support more than the core of math, english and science. These schools have art teachers and music teachers, computer teachers, full time librarians. they lack metal detectors at the doors. the student to teacher ratios are lower than at poor counterparts. Getting your child to a school like this with a positive and safe learning environment is a very big deal for parents. this is the idea behind the school choice movement that allows for parents to move their kids from poorer schools to good schools. The problem is that often these good schools are not close to the children's home neighborhood and that the neighborhood of the good school is of a different racial make up.

The white flight to the suburbs concentrated the urban schools with high percentages of minorities. without busing the schools would have continued to be segregated. these urban schools are the schools that often lacked the resources and political power of the richer white parents. So you have economic ans well as racial segregation.

The debate over busing is a complex one with many people wondering whether it is effective and if the differences in achievement between the AA students and the white students could be made up simply by shifting money currently allocated for busing towards the schools. To answer this question studies have been undertaken to determine whether the racial makeup matters out side of the economic make up of the school. Using No Child Left behind data the impact of busing has been supported, racial integration increases AA achievement.

The reason for this is highly debated. School resource theory is considered a part of the issue. The effects of general poverty on minority education are more pronounced at elementary school levels and the effects of peer achievement are important at the high school level. White education seems to be unaffected by the level of minorities in the school. My own theory about this is that the highest achieving white students will be in the gate/ap/ib classes. They will draw most of their peers from this group and remain an isolated subgroup unaffected by the school around them. They are a largely segregated group inside the school. The minorities that attend the school would largely be mixed with the non-ap white students and would benefit from the resources that the white students bring as a whole. they become higher achieving than they would be at a poorer schools. again this could be 100% wrong as the cause and effect relationships are still hotly debated. What is clear is that minorities closed the gap after brown and integration started and that the trend stagnated after integration policies ceased. Regardless of the reason for the better performance the busing is coming to an end, because of transportation costs and budget shortfalls.

But more and more school districts are curtailing bus service for such programs as a result of higher fuel costs and other financial pressures. That has sparked fears that the only choice for many students will be neighborhood schools attended by classmates of their own race and economic background, which has the unintended effect of re-segregating schools.

"Basically, you can't have racial and class diversity of any sort if you don't provide transportation," says Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project, a research group at the University of California at Los Angeles. "This is kind of closing the last door for urgently needed opportunities for kids who are in schools that are really dysfunctional and inadequate."

Despite such criticism, Pinellas County (Tampa Bay) in Florida has cited rising transportation costs as a major reason for phasing out a school-choice program that was an outgrowth of a 1964 desegregation case. Meanwhile, aiming to cut its transportation budget by $20 million, Milwaukee plans to stop busing high-school students to schools outside their neighborhoods.

The cuts are also affecting students trying to transfer out of poorly performing schools. Under NCLB, schools that don't meet their educational goals for two years in a row are deemed to be in "improvement." The school district is then supposed to immediately offer their students the opportunity to enroll in another school and provide them with the means to get there. But citing fuel costs, this summer the state of Alabama sought and won a federal waiver from that requirement. In suburban Atlanta, Ga., the DeKalb County school district has stopped providing bus service for new NCLB transfers and is instead offering to reimburse parents to transport students on their own.

transportation must be provided because the people who most need access to the higher achieving schools are going to be the less wealthy. they cannot afford, in either time or fuel costs, to drive the children to or pick the children up from, school. Which is why many have focused on an economic justification for busing as opposed to a racial one. You may catch all of the same people yet avoid the messy and contentious issue of race. (This happens to be Senator Obama's position) In addition you get to keep the diversity as a biproduct.

Out side of achievement there is also value in this diversity in se. A national survey of public school teachers’ and students’ opinions of school-related interracial contact published in 2004 by Education Week reported that over 90% of the teachers and over 80% of the students polled said that attending classes, socializing, and participating in after-school activities with students of differing racial and ethnic backgrounds was important. unfortunately economic considerations may end up overshadowing this support for diversity.

The cost of gas has increased the cost of busing the students. The banking crisis and credit frieze has put an even greater pressure on states and school districts to save money. In that situation it comes down to busing or teachers, one has to go. So now even districts that may support busing are shutting down the programs and consoling themselves with the cost savings.

the schools and education issue is an all encompassing societal one. it has structural problems not easily fixed. busing was simply a way to try and bridge the divide created by distance. the reliance on oil to create fossil fuels and to drive the economy instead of rail has produced a situation where segregation is going to happen because fuel costs get too high. if we are concerned about making it easier to walk to work and to eliminate cars then education has to be revamped in an completely new way. neighborhood schools are the problem. the urban schools are going to be segregated without adequate transportation that moves the white students from outside in and the minorities out.

the school choice idea, whether it be magnet schools or private schools or charter schools will be ended without proper transportation. It would make the mccain and gop voucher programs an even worse idea than they already are. what good is giving a voucher to a different school if they cannot afford to transport the kid to that school? the proof is in the eating,

After the [transportation] cut was announced, nearly half of the 2,300 families who had signed up for such transfers for the first time abandoned their plans.

Willie McKennedy's daughter, Wannesha, had been accepted at a well-regarded high school in an affluent part of northern DeKalb County. But it is 22 miles away from the family home. Mr. McKennedy couldn't figure out a way to drive her there and still get to downtown Atlanta to start work on time at 7 a.m. And so, for her junior year, Wannesha will stay at her neighborhood high school, which has missed its NCLB achievement goals for the past three years.

Without transportation, the promise of choice is a "joke," says Mr. McKennedy. "If you're going to have it, you need buses."


O-le,O-le, O-le, O-le! O-le, O-le!

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