Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Resegregation from 30,000 feet

 Consider the following pictures.
Look at the colored circles and notice that sometimes there are so many on top of one another that the white circles turn grey.
Then ask yourself a question.
Do I generally see all of the same colors in each picture?
Or do the different colors tend to cluster together in different pictures?
Now consider that these dots represent FCPS students of different races in different parts of the county (in 2011).
Here's the 30,000 foot view of FCPS students showing racial distribution. What it also shows is a  segregated housing pattern in the county.

House Majority Whip Kevin Bratcher, R-Louisville, has renewed calls for neighborhood school attendance zones with House Bill 151. Similar bills have failed in the past but it's a new day in Frankfort and Bratcher's chances of getting a bill passed are perhaps better than any prior effort.

If Bratcher is successful, and FCPS students are assigned to the schools nearest their home, it is not too hard to see how schools will be re-segregated to a significant degree.

But HB 151 has some real appeal particularly for the parents of elementary school children who value what's best for their own child (over what may best for all children).

In most Kentucky counties HB 151 will make very little or no difference since, here in the 8th whitest state in America, the student demographics are not terribly diverse, and most districts send kids to the closest school already. Only a decade ago 78% of all African American students lived in 8 Kentucky school districts. Today's data can't be very different from that. So for those districts (like Fayette, Jefferson, Paducah, Elizabethtown, Covington, Newport, Bowling Green, as I recall, Bullitt maybe...) the result is going to be significantly different.

Consider too, that student populations naturally shift over time and existing schools may not exist exactly where you'd like them to be in order to implement such a  plan. The circles on this map show a 1 mile radius around the existing schools (in 2011), including a lot of overlapping. This will challenge school officials if they must attempt to meet the letter of the law.

A dear friend and HB 151 supporter scolded me the other day saying, "The issue is that students need parental support in order to be successful. It's all about the success of the individual child. As it stands now, the parents cannot get to the school for conferences and events. YOU, as an "educator," should know this." And, of course, I do know that.

But my problem is that I also remember the legal history of desegregation in American schools and the effects of this legislation would extend well beyond what happens in white neighborhoods.

Of course if there was a good school in every community, this would be less of a problem, but that has never been the case. Or perhaps, with an increasingly conservative SCOTUS, there is the chance that America will be declared post-racial and "the problem" will go away.

But Bratcher and other supporters of HB 151 should at least be aware that one result of the such a law would be a significant re-segregation of student populations in a number of districts.

This from Pure Politics:
House Majority Whip Kevin Bratcher faced a number of skeptics Saturday on his plan that would allow parents to send their children to the nearest school, a significant shift in the state’s largest school district.

Bratcher, R-Louisville, was joined by Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, and Louisville Metro Council members Robin Engel and Stuart Benson at a Café LOUIE meeting at Fern Creek Library.
Much of the discussion at the informal gathering revolved around legislative proposals filed by Bratcher, particularly House Bill 151. That legislation would allow children to attend schools nearest their homes starting in the 2019-20 school year.

HB 151 is aimed at Jefferson County, where students are bused to different schools. That system began in the 1970s under a U.S. Supreme Court order to desegregate the school system and has continued despite that order sunsetting in 2000.

Some at Saturday’s meeting said they were concerned that black students could be negatively affected if HB 151 became law while others, like Rob Mattheu, said they feared that HB 151 would hurt schools’ magnet programs.

“The biggest problem is that the wording of the bill does not protect magnet programs, which are programs inside schools that would be considered neighborhood schools under this bill,” Mattheu told Spectrum News after the event.

“Mr. Bratcher spoke to the fact that if there was room in those schools, they could have a magnet program. The problem with that is that … there’s no way a school can predict year-to-year how many students will be able to attend that magnet program because they don’t know how full the school’s going to be, and some of these programs cost a lot of money.”

Bratcher, who said he experienced busing during his youth in Louisville, said HB 151 exempts magnet schools but is silent on magnet programs.

He said he had language that would have added protections for magnet programs, but that would have imperiled the bill’s original concept “because they could make a magnet school at every school.”

Bratcher said the Supreme Court’s decision to lift the desegregation order in 2000 came after the high court was satisfied with the county schools’ racial compositions.

“Fern Creek doesn’t even have busing,” he said. “Why? Because the neighborhoods are … desegregated enough.”

McGarvey countered that he didn’t think HB 151 would be good for JCPS, adding that true neighborhood schools can’t be achieved given the volume of students and schools’ capacities in the system.

HB 151 represents government overreach in the local school system, he said.

“As you’re seeing right now we can’t clearly identify all of the ways in which House Bill 151 will impact our public schools,” McGarvey said. “… We are taking a school system that is a good school system with an 81 percent market share and we are putting that at risk.”

HB 151, which cleared the House on a 59-37 vote Thursday, might attract some political opposition to Bratcher in the 2018 election cycle. Mattheu said he would support anyone running against the Louisville Republican when he’s up for re-election.

But Bratcher said he was unconcerned with any political fallout he might face because of HB 151, saying for every negative comment he’s received on the legislation, 50 have been supportive. He called HB 151 “the will of the people.”

“I’ve had tough elections before,” he told reporters after the event.

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