Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tough challenges on redistricting

If all children in Lexington attended the public schools nearest their homes, we would effectively resegregate the schools. Unfortunately, it is not clear just how troublesome such an event might be for many citizens.

I don't mean to be overly harsh. Your average affluent parent spends something like a million times more thinking about the education of their own children and where to buy their home, than they do reflecting on our history of school segregation. But if one is a minority, the present is still a referendum on the past.

Has America really become post-racial, as the Supreme Court suggested in the landmark student assignment case, Meredith v Jefferson County Schools? Race can be a factor, but not the factor used to assign students to schools, the federal court said. More recently the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that the state still had an interest in diversifying student populations in the schools. And here, the Herald-Leader approaches the question of diversity in the schools from the angle that creating diverse student populations is good.

Is it time to drop all protections for underrepresented minority groups in school planning and simply move to neighborhood schools - knowing that we don't have good school in every neighborhood?

The courts seem to say "almost," and "not quite."

What do you think?

This from the Herald-Leader:
If all children in Lexington attended the public schools nearest their homes, Wellington Elementary would have 1,163 students and Russell Cave Elementary would have 42.

Reassigning students to three new schools scheduled to open in 2016 and 2017 will be part of the upcoming redistricting plan.

But there's no way around also moving students among existing schools, as illustrated by the imbalance between Wellington, which serves an area in southern Lexington where a lot of new housing has been built, and Russell Cave in farm country north of town.

The state recommends an enrollment of 650 for elementary schools. The Fayette district accommodates the overflow at some schools by renting portable classrooms, while other schools are under capacity, which is like paying for a storage unit when there's space in your closets and attic.

New schools will have to be built if the district keeps growing at its current pace; still, it's disrespectful to ask taxpayers for new buildings when old ones have space available.

Granted, there are other considerations, such as the costs — in money and time — of transporting students. Also significant are the benefits of being educated in a diverse community of classmates.
A 29-member committee, chaired by businessman Alan Stein, has been weighing these and other considerations.

The committee will develop and recommend a redistricting plan to the elected board of education. Thanks to Stein and the other community members for shouldering this difficult but necessary task.
Nothing stirs parents like concerns for their children's education. Lexington is especially passionate about education, which is one of the city's greatest assets.

People also get worked up about property values and home sales, which are influenced by school assignments but should not drive district decisions or education policy.

As the committee and school board keep hearing passionate pleas, here's something for everyone to remember: The reason for this process is not to grease squeaky wheels. The point of redistricting is to make the whole machine work as efficiently and beneficially as possible for all concerned.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2014/12/22/3607721_tough-challenges-on-redistricting.html?sp=/99/349/&rh=1#storylink=cpy


Hina Khan said...

Is it time to drop all protections for underrepresented minority groups in school planning and simply move to neighborhood schools - knowing that we don't have good school in every neighborhood?

Result 2015 of 8th Class

Anonymous said...

Dog gone it stop trying to shuffle kids around like some shell game and start addressing their needs where they are at now. No problem with spreading them out evenly with nearest school proximity as the fact of placement when possible, but sending SES at risk kids to affluent elementary schools isn't going to address the challenges they are currently dealing with at their current school location. Anyway what's all that jazz with "turn around schools"? Seems like if there is any legitimacy to that process we should be worrying about where low SES kids go to school.

Anonymous said...

I am happy to celebrate Christmas knowing that Tom Shelton is gone from Fayette County Schools. He was the most ineffective, out of touch superintendent we have chosen.

Anonymous said...

I am ready for a new year in the school system. My wishes:

Parents should stop using litigation as a means to intimidate educators

Parents make certain they provide their kids with a space and time for homework

Each teacher will offer homework help one day after school

Each teacher will be rigorous in teaching content and review daily what has been taught previously

A superintendent who will support teachers and preach a gospel of working together

A superintendent who will hold his personnel director, his special education director, and his chief accounting manager to the same standards she or he expects of teachers

Principals who realize that it is important to include teachers and principals in decision making

Principals who are interested in academics as well as athletics

If these suggestions are followed, how could Fayette County not be the premier school district in the state

solarity said...

The notion that the public school system should be used as a tool to "fix" perceived racial inequities in urban settlement patterns was an ill-conceived social experiment from which we are still reeling. It was, admittedly, a fabulous boon to the private school industry. The failure of this experiment was of such epic proportions that it is astonishing to me that bright people still think it can be fixed with a little tinkering around the edges.

Richard Day said...

December 23, 2014 at 10:42 PM:

The problem with spreading students out “evenly” is we have to know what that means. Otherwise the public can’t tell how the district assigns kids to schools. Racially even? Economically even? One man’s shell game is another man’s salvation.

And it’s not just challenges students face in their schools – but throughout their life. A safe, clean place to live, with food, good health, and educated parents who use appropriate language in the home – all that, and more, matters. But we tend to dump all responsibility for overcoming the powerful effects of poverty on our over-worked and under-appreciated teachers.

Busing got a jump start because the Coleman Report (1966), which the reformy types love to hate, showed that low SES students did benefit from attending school with more affluent students. But, I never consider any one study to be definitive.

In my opinion, the concept of turn-around schools is not particularly legit.

Richard Day said...

December 31, 2014 at 1:53 PM:

You say, “Perceived racial inequities in urban settlement patterns?” A “social experiment?”
Do you seriously doubt that segregated patterns exist? (I have actually shown them elsewhere.)
Despite claims by some right-wing radio hosts, there was no time I am aware of where school officials initiated social experimentation related to student assignment. Student assignment plans were the direct result of a white majority that didn’t want their kids going to school with blacks, and court action that required schools to stop segregating students by race.
Redistricting is a big pain in the butt, and everybody I know would prefer to avoid it if possible.

But the schools have been used by all kinds of institutions to address problems created elsewhere. The problems being addressed typically arose outside of the schools, but the school was sought as a venue for solutions that the adult world did not (or could not) tackle on its own.

Kids need lunch? Let’s offer it in the schools.

Kids need immunizations? Let’s offer it in the schools.

Breakfast, after-school care, driving instruction, religious instruction…and a very long list of other non-academic services…all provided through the local school.
Using schools allows for generational change – but not typically immediate change.

To our discredit, (and with only a few exceptions) it was not mainstream school administrators who pushed for the change that allowed black children to begin attending school with whites. School officials are government officials. School officials tend to follow the law.

Throughout the Jim Crow era, the government (the law) kept folks apart based on race.

In 1954, the Brown v Board decision came down but folks didn’t exactly embrace it. Out of 128 southern legislators, 101 of them signed the southern Manifesto and defied the court. Nine years later barely 1% of black kids were attending school with whites.

It took the Civil Rights Act (1964) and Green v Board (1968) to get school districts moving. Once the feds threatened states with the loss of federal funds, and more specific actions against particular school districts – that’s when the good people of Lexington began to desegregate the schools…right around 1970.

It was not motivated by social experimentation. It was a response to injustice.

It astonishes me when intelligent people fall for historically inaccurate political fairy tales.

solarity said...

The shallow simplicity of the pseudo-intellectual class that runs our education establishment is breathtaking. Problem: Some schools in the community are too black and some are too white. Solution: Have a federal judge take over the school system and dictate a new system. Make up some arbitrary percentages, buy a gazillion new buses and bus some white kids into the black schools and bus some black kids into the white schools. Result: Problem fixed.

Please cite a single peer-reviewed study that would support this resolution to the problem. Judge Gordon couldn't and neither could any of the other federal judges across the country that took up the cause. Anyone with a giblet of common sense would recognize that the outcome of such shallow thinking would be bad news for all the schools. In their crusading desire to "fix" a problem they displayed utter contempt for the concerns of students, parents, politicians and prior generations of school administrators. Aside from being outrageously undemocratic I call that an egregiously bad social experiment approved and implemented by a tiny group of activist federal judges who were driven by ideology and "do-gooderism".

To suggest that the actions taken by Judge Gordon were essential and the only possible "solution" is beyond ludicrous. Neither the Swann nor the Milliken case mandated busing. And here we are 39 years later with a school system that some folks still think is being "improved" by the continued use of busing as though there is some kind of magic formula that will make everything right if we can just fine tune it a little more. The intellectual capital and financial resources that have been wasted on this tinkering is staggering beyond belief. It is beyond depressing to see the policymakers in this arena continue to look backwards to the same old failed programs of the past. And, of course, any expression of opposition to this nonsense is instantly met with subtle charges of racism or racial insensitivity. But Richard and the rest of the old-guard liberals in the education community continue to soldier on dutifully, blissfully ignorant of all the damage such policies leave in their wake.

Anonymous said...

We know the historical foundations of desegregation but what I find interesting and more relevant to the present and future are the current comments made by some in the African American community who lament (dare I say even romanticize) the loss of community which was a biproduct of a segregated society for non whites. That is not to say that these urban pockets of African American community were equal but they were more economically, culturally homogenious with professionals and blue collar folks all living in the same area and embracing a common, supportive identity. Even our own President has been heard to sing the praises of "Sweet Auburn" when visiting Atlanta and tout its spiritual, economic and professional values during times of segregation.

Please understand that I am not endorsing a return to segregation but it would seem that in some instances that when given choice, many folks of different races still have a tendancy to self determine or select racial homogeniousness behaviors and groupings. I am not sure how generalized, superficial methods such as busing, public housing supports or other racially motivated attempts to make folks integrate are going to be successful in a long term sense any more than they were in the 70s when Jefferson County busing started. Some might say we are going down an old path where once again the white leaders in power are trying to impose what they think is best for minorities in order to "help" them.

On a more local level, what are we doing with the Woodson Academy in FCPS? Does that seem to lend legitimacy to possible strengths in segregation and the argument made about strenthening a sense of African American pride/self/community? Should the school be "integrated"? in order to make it a "representative of the larger community"? Are those who advocate for it, black or white, racist?

So back to the history where 60 years ago Topeka case established the need for desegregation by overturning Plessy v Ferguson which 60 years prior to Topeka supported seperate but equal. So if 150 years we can move from slavery to seperate but equal to desegration to civil right, is it possible that we are at a point where we once again need to reframe expectations and interpretations. Is it now possible to support seperate but equal if all parties involve select it by choice - that would seem to be what is occurring at Woodson? I am not trying to hammer Woodson, but I just find it difficult to align examples like this as well as comments made by some minority leaders regarding segregation and what the current law actually says.

Anonymous said...

The challenge now seems to be not one of determining if public schools are providing equal services so much as establishing schools for providing socially/economic equitable services aimed at overcoming private citizen life circumstances but some how using standardized test scores and graduation rates to measure that (What?). Personally, I don't see how that is possible nor am I quite sure that is an attainable goal for public education. Does research support that poor kids of any race attending a higher performing school result in increased post graduation opportunities? I can understand that depending upon students' individual ability and scholastic level at the point school relocation occurs it might increase their score on some standardized exam, but does it significantly impact the factors which are being identified as the basis for the need for redistribution?

As Richard indicates, schools have become this place where politicians and social activitist use to "level the playing field" for those less fortunate. It seems like we end up spending more resources on what should be parental responsibilities like feeding, clothing, tranporting and caring for some students at the expense of what a school is supposed to be doing - teaching students skills and knowledge. So we end up with a watered down service to students with the same reformers and legislators now lambasting educators for not having test scores that best countries who don't relegate the various social service responsibilities to their nations'schools.

From a Kentucky perspective, seems like if schools are going to be held accountable for all these non instructional things they might as well include it as part of the school index. We are continuing to decrease the weight of student achievement in our evaluation of schools so why not keep on that path and get some points for number of students feed two meals a day, number of students provided clothing, number of students transported to school and extracurricular activities, number of households provided technology through school provided devices, number of backpacks fill with food to get students through the weekend, number of kids protected through connections of social service, dental and medical resources, etc.

The issues that Lexington is addressing with redistricting are ones the rest of us don't have - we just have to work with the kids in our county in the four or five schools we can sustain.

Richard Day said...


Thanks for the comment, but watch that “old” crap. I resemble that remark. : )

You continue to misidentify the problem, then you obfuscate it. That’s not particularly helpful to the current discussion.

The legal question at the heart of all of this is whether all citizens enjoy equal protection of the laws as guaranteed under the 14th amendment. So called “separate but equal” schools were outlawed and school districts undertook (or more accurately, were forced to undertake) the affirmative duty of assuring a nondiscriminatory system. The question of equal protection is not as easily answered these days. But in our system of justice such questions are not answered in peer reviewed studies. They are answered by courts.

In 1975, when Judge Gordon made his original decree, the evidence that the school district was acting to educate whites and blacks under separate systems was compelling. If you are suggesting that there was no racism involved at that time, I suggest you are in denial and further suggest that you go back and research the demonstrations that accompanied busing, and the data on “white flight” in Louisville at the time. There were distinct racial overtones to the dispute. It may well be fair to say that the court at that time “displayed utter contempt for the concerns of students, parents, politicians and prior generations of school administrators” who were perfectly content with all white school systems. Gordon did not devise a solution.

The court’s ideology was the Constitution. Doing good for the least of these among us is…well, in my faith, it is good.

The early court decrees were focused on the willful resistance of school districts to allow blacks to be taught with whites. The Swann court, while it did not devise the (Charlotte-Mecklenburg) busing plan, held that busing was an appropriate remedy for the problem of racial imbalance in schools, even when the imbalance resulted from the selection of students based on geographic proximity to the school rather than from deliberate assignment based on race. And Milliken did not expand upon Swann. As I recall, Detroit (Milliken) was segregating by putting all of the black kids in the city district and whites in the suburbs…but don‘t hold me to that.

Twenty five years after the fact Gordon’s decree was dissolved by the court in Hampton v Jefferson Co Bd of Ed. The court recognized the JCPS Board’s good faith effort to remedy past discrimination. In that action the court also rejected the use of racial quotas. The court recognized the school board’s authority and restrained itself from suggesting how the district must go about assigning students to schools, but the court retained the ability to review the district’s adherence to the equal protection clause.

For the record, following the Oklahoma City Schools v Dowell decision in 1991, I encouraged the FCPS district to seek unitary status, since any residual segregation in the schools was not the result of FCPS efforts to prevent blacks from attending school with whites. But in Fayette Co that idea went nowhere. The district would have had to show that it complied with the court in good faith, and that it was dedicated to a nondiscriminatory policy going forward. It must also have removed any vestiges of the former discrimination. I thought we could show that.

I happen to think it is among the most valued American ideals to support the Constitution. But, for the sake of argument: If it is liberal to support the 14th amendment, what should we call those who would deny other citizens equal protection of the law?

Perhaps you would favor my readers with your assessment of the damages suffered when kids of different races (or economic levels) are educated together.

You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him. --- Goethe

Richard Day said...

January 2, 2015 at 10:35 AM & January 2, 2015 at 10:55 AM:

Great comments. Thanks.

I imagine school desegregation was bittersweet for African Americans from the start….for all of the reason mentioned. Plus the “separate but equal” schools which were central to community life were not good enough for white children and most were torn down. And hundreds of African American teachers couldn’t find work in desegregated schools. Yet, blacks had to have an avenue into the larger society.

My sense is that this issue is ripe for change. SCOTUS has indicated as much. American society has changed. Blacks are well represented at the top in government, business, entertainment, and other areas of the economy…although it is important to add that it is not well distributed throughout the economic spectrum.

The Woodson Academy is an interesting phenomenon. We flirted with the concept of some blacks-only, black-run programs for kids at Cassidy, but I chickened out. It seemed to me that something like that had to be promoted and supported as a kind of black self-determinism. The Urban League could do some things that I could not.

I’m not sure Woodson is about segregation so much as it is a pocket of opportunity. It is the same idea that is attractive to African American ministers in Louisville who support charter schools. My guess is that some black leaders have lost faith in our ability to craft a broad solution and are looking for opportunities for groups of blacks where they can find them.

Remember, the court was responding to de facto segregation. So long as FCPS maintains a nondiscriminatory system, I suppose they could do whatever they want.

Having a good school in every community would solve the problem. But as those of us in the filed know, that’s a heavy lift that requires a lot of commitment from the public.

There is some research on school desegregation (yes, peer reviewed)…most current, about a decade old. No silver bullets. Researchers have compared voluntary programs (magnets) to involuntary programs (forced busing) and found less white flight from voluntary plans. There have been some psych studies on effects. The Supreme Court's recent school desegregation decisions have been seen as "reflexively hostile." Lower court judges seem fatigued with such cases. More and more African-American leaders and parents are curtailing their support of desegregation litigation, on the grounds that the remedies are insulting, ineffective, or too burdensome and some parents have successfully challenged race-conscious student assignment policies. Despite decades of school desegregation litigation (or perhaps because of it), the level of segregation in American schools has increased in recent decades.

And, I like the idea of adding to the school report card a more complete picture of everything the schools do for the children in their communities.

Anonymous said...

School segregation in Fayette County is illegal and unfair. Countless studies point out the benefits of a diverse classroom. The rich white people of Lexington-- and the not so rich whites --- who want neighborhood schools are racists.

Yes, we know the narrative. Implicit in the response given by the moderator.

Yet, the silence on Roz Akins and her efforts to resegrgate go virtually unchallenged here or in the Hetald Leader. She can do no wrong. And can support board members with cash donations against Kentucky statutes.

Race is a slippery slope in Lexington where the Black elite seems to want it both ways.

Richard Day said...

January 3, 2015 at 8:34 AM:

I’m not sure you know the narrative at all.

No. Schools in Fayette County are not segregated. In particular, they are not segregated as a result of district policy.

The court ordered school boards to eliminate, to the greatest extent practicable, any vestiges associated with the former policy of segregation. School boards are not in charge of where citizens live, or if they prefer to live with others who share their race. In the end, folks tend to live according to what they can afford.
But in the public schools - we eat what the public feeds us.

Any estimate of how well the Fayette County schools student assignment plan ultimately performs must be considered in light of the county’s demographics: how many children? – of what description? – living where? – under what circumstances?

It is my understanding that the most recent district policies governing exceptions to the student assignment plan, have tended toward a more cooperative attitude when it comes to parent choice. Of course, the extent to which the district can provide transportation varies, so the system tends to favor (and I suspect, placate) the most resourceful parents. In my opinion, it is only to that extent, that the plan is unfair. Life is unfair. The district has historically been a pretty efficient operation, and I suspect they’re doing about what they can, given their resources.

Want more equity? What are you willing to pay, in terms of taxes?

I believe a diverse classroom benefits all students in it. But I also believe that some amount of grouping is necessary for efficient instruction.

And there is a limit to what your average taxpayer feels like he or she can afford. As our private school peers know, more teachers and smaller classes yields improved service delivery. Parents tend to be happy.

No. It is not racist to want the best school you can find for your children. That is certainly what I wanted for my family. I know it’s what Roger Cleveland wants for his family.

The problem isn’t neighborhood schools, per se. Being an elementary education guy, I wish we had a well-supported, physically and emotionally safe, academically-focused school in every neighborhood. But it is a simple fact, that a “neighborhood school” redistricting plan would re-segregate children in Lexington to a significant degree.

It has not been a reluctance to challenge Roz Akins that has created silence on these pages. It is ignorance. I invite any KSN&C reader to provide documentation of acts that deserve a challenge. And, I assume Mr. Barnett satisfied himself relative to questions raised during his school board race.

I sincerely hope America is nearing the bottom of the slope, but recent events argue against that proposition. It’s awfully late to be thinking about American race relations as a slippery slope, anyway.

And if black elites did want it both ways, that would make them just like a lot of folks.