I’ll make this clear as I can. There isn’t overt racial segregation. Economic segregation is the new “red lining.”
Before I explain why, let me tell you about Adam Lambert. I taught him along with my wonderful colleagues at Mount Carmel High School — a public high school. He excelled for all four years. He did not transfer to one of the charter schools for the arts, nor did he attend a private school for the rich. His success came from a state that equalized funding to districts, a district that embraced diversity, and a faculty that worked their collective rear ends off. Remember that, please, as I tell you why this is the exception, not the rule.Author Jonathan Kozal made that clear in his landmark work Savage Inequalities, and Thurgood Marshall and William O. Douglas stamped it as de facto segregation in the 5–4 Milliken v. Bradley decision.
“Justice Thurgood Marshall’s dissenting opinion stated that:
School district lines, however innocently drawn, will surely be perceived as fences to separate the races when, under a Detroit-only decree, white parents withdraw their children from the Detroit city schools and move to the suburbs in order to continue them in all-white schools.
Justice Douglas’ dissenting opinion stated that:
Today’s decision … means that there is no violation of the Equal Protection Clause though the schools are segregated by race and though the black schools are not only separate but inferior. Michigan by one device or another has over the years created black school districts and white school districts, the task of equity is to provide a unitary system for the affected area where, as here, the State washes its hands of its own creations.”
Schools get what the district’s income basis is based on property values in most states. Poor areas get less per pupil. Rich districts get more. Milliken v. Bradley set the walls up; a student cannot cross district boundaries. That’s why Detroit inner city kids can’t jump to the suburban schools that are well funded.
So that’s that. The documentary Waiting for Superman tried to make all this clear. California, is one of the few states that funds all schools equally, unlike say…New Jersey which spends four times as much on Cherry Creek schools vs. Camden schools (Kozal evidenced).
In states that do not equalize per pupil spending (i.e. most states) there is no way out of poor performing schools except to do one of the following: move to a better neighborhood, go to a private school, a charter school, a religious school, or just home school. That’s it. Every one of those school choices draws away from the public schools the funding, the families, and the energy that those families provide.
And why do families abandon the underfunded, underperforming public schools in their area? Well, it’s obvious. They want what’s “best” for their children. Most can’t afford to move into a “better” district because of the rising cost of housing, so some desperately lie and say their children live with a family member that may live in a nicer district. Some choose a religious school. Some keep them home. Some parents have children who are not “gifted” to qualify for a charter that specializes in STEM, STEAM or whatever the newest acronym is. *( See update in following paragraph) They certainly can’t afford the private schools — which now cost as much as what college charge — 20K-40K…a year.
*Update 8/8/19: Regarding Charter Schools: it is noted that these are public schools and they do open their doors to all students. Some schools are impacted by a flood of eligible students and they are forced to only accept a percentage. In many states, the funding for these schools varies so I am not arguing ALL charter schools are draining funds or students from the public schools; some charter schools offer the only opportunity for a better education since the public schools in a particular state are so under funded and underperforming.
Vouchers? Not a chance. First, states won’t even equalize funding to schools in the first place — what makes anyone think the voucher will be so lucrative? Second, Milwaukee tried it. No dice.
Ah, but even states that have equalized Average Daily Attendance (ADA) like California have a way to get the rich districts richer — it’s called foundations. One for the band, the sports teams, the arts…they fund raise to make up for a lack of funding. That money (done with stipends.) can even go to paying for semi-teachers (not on payroll) who teach music lessons, coach lacrosse, etc..
So what does one do to make public schools better?
First, Betsy Devos and the Trump administration need to be sent packing.
Second, a national standard of ADA must be set and adjusted with inflation.
Third, the private schools will always be there; but states must change the method of distributing funds. All public school districts must be equalized in financial resources. The Federal Government will have to put money into the states’ coffers and enforce the law. This means that states like New Jersey must equalize; therefore, they must reduce funding to the prima donna districts. (They will still have foundations so don’t shed a tear.)
Fourth, rather than privatize failing schools (based on dubious test scores*), either bulldoze them, renovate them, and re-populate them with teachers who receive a 20–40% pay hike in their annual salary. Believe me; good teachers will transfer if the money, safety, and facilities are improved.
Last but not least, Unions must agree to have teachers fired who are not performing or under-performing. I say Unions because they cannot ask for the moon and not expect to give up something big. In this case, below average teachers. I know some will howl at this suggestion — too bad. The students and parents have been howling at the wind for too long. If you really want to make public schools better, it will take more than money.
You can’t change the Supreme Court’s decision. You can’t ban private schools. And you must not allow charter schools to be the ‘private’ option for those who “qualify” because of the student’s aptitude for math, dance, science, music etc. Instead, the public schools need to step up their game on all these
Adam Lambert had these advantages. He should not be the only American Idol. All our kids deserve the spotlight.