Resistance to school integration in the name of “local control”: 5 questions answered

Editor’s Note: The word “secession” is often used in reference to states or countries that wish to break up and form their own government. But here in the United States, there are communities that want to separate from their school districts to form their own. One of the latest examples is a case in Gardendale, Alabama, where a court recently ruled that the community’s attempt to leave the Jefferson County, Alabama school district was racially discriminatory and therefore unconstitutional. In order to better understand what is driving the school district’s secession efforts, The Conversation reached out to Erica Frankenberg, who has examined the effect of the school secession movement on school segregation in Jefferson County and across the country.

1. Why do some communities try to separate their schools from the larger school districts to form their own districts? Is it a question of educational effectiveness or are race and ethnicity at stake?

Secession communities often argue that they want more local control. They also argue that secession will help community development efforts and increase home values. But secessions endanger desegregation by creating additional lines of demarcation that separate Resources and students by race and class.

Gardendale’s secession documents make no mention of race at all, but two recent federal courts the decisions said race was indeed an important factor. The material warned that the community did not want to become like other communities in the county that did not gain local control of the schools. Although they did not mention the racial makeup of these communities, the courts ruled that this was evidence of racial discrimination.

This is an example, repeated in southern communities, of how “Local control” may sound racially neutral but is also used to justify a narrower definition of a community and its resources to educate what is typically a predominantly white group of children. Such segregation movements further.

2. It is almost 2020. Why are we still dealing with court desegregation orders made in the 1950s and 1960s?

In some states like Alabama, desegregation didn’t even begin until 1963, nearly 10 years after Brown v. Board of Education of 1954. decision which called for an end to segregation in public schools. Districts resisted integration to the extent possible, and it was up to judges and black plaintiffs and lawyers to accomplish desegregation.

The court in the Gardendale case noted the challenge of trying to desegregate with ever-changing size and enrollment numbers due to secession. Seven school districts with more than 27,000 students have seceded from the Jefferson County district since its desegregation ordinance in 1965. Trussville was the most recent district to secede in 2005. Our research found diversity in the Jefferson County school district has declined as school districts secede. The percentage of white students would be 10 percentage points higher if we included enrollments from districts that seceded since 1970.

So, while court orders began over 50 years ago, they need to be updated to reflect today’s demographic and political realities. In many cases, judges do this job – as do plaintiffs and the Department of Justice. today desegregation orders not only to ensure that black and white students attend school together whenever possible, but that there is equality within the school as well.

3. What does the research on educational and social outcomes say about the importance of knowing whether black and white children attend separate schools or not?

Research reveals integrated schools are essential for students academic and social results – and our multiracial democracy.

Desegregation is beneficial for white students, who have the lowest exposure to students of other races. For white students in various schools, attending schools with students of different racial backgrounds relates to a decrease in prejudice and a greater comfort of working across racial lines. These skills are important in today’s diverse workplace.

Even more research shows that black students – and latino students, where they studied – benefit from attending separate schools compared to separate schools, as diverse schools tend to have more resources that enhance educational opportunities. In other words, on a large scale, we have never made separate and segregated schools equal.

4. Are there sociological reasons to be concerned about the desegregation of public schools in the country?

One of the justifications for school desegregation is that it will result in more integrated communities. And indeed, secession not only promotes school segregation, but inequality between communities too.

In our researchWe have found that growing, wealthy, and highly educated white communities often exist alongside communities with declining populations, lower incomes, and higher percentages of black residents. School funding is affected when house values ​​in neighboring school districts have diverged sharply such as in Jefferson County, especially after the formation of school districts. Specifically, in the decade immediately following the formation of a new neighborhood, community values ​​are most likely to skyrocket, as they now offer a separate neighborhood as an additional “amenity”.

5. Even though Gardendale halted his attempt to separate from the Jefferson County School District, there is other efforts underway in Alabama and across the country for communities to secede. How much will we still see this in the future, and what is the likelihood that secession efforts will be successful?

State laws vary when and how district secession can take place. In Alabama, the secession of the district is completely authorized. Other southern states, which often have county-wide districts, have also recently facilitated secession where are contemplating such actions, although North Carolina has recently postponed any efforts to facilitate district secession.

As the courts ruled that the districts eliminated existing segregation and released them from judicial oversight, today there are few court orders left.

As a result, many school districts may find an easier path to secession. Unless the courts step in to prevent future Gardendale-style secessions, allowing new districts to form can have harmful implications for racial justice and democracy. Accordingly, it will be for political leaders and residents of local communities to fully consider whether the proposed secessions will reinforce segregation and inequalities in education.

About Michael G. Walter

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