Seattle School's Segregation
April 17, 2016 9:21 AM   Subscribe

How Seattle Gave Up on Busing and Allowed Its Public Schools to Become Alarmingly Resegregated. Seattle reluctantly bused students to integrate schools in the 1970's. They bus no longer—unfortunately, as integration benefited the students who did it.
posted by Margalo Epps (56 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
Last summer I was in Alabama, reading a local news article about the problem with segregation in schools. I foolishly thought- segregation! I haven't heard that word applied to schools in a long time! Some things sure are different here than in the Pacific Northwest (where I'm from), where that topic doesn't come up. Uh... well, it sounds like I misunderstood why the topic doesn't come up. At least that school district in Alabama was talking about the issue, admitting there was a problem. I don't have kids so I'm pretty unaware of what's going on in schools these days. This was an interesting article.
posted by Secretariat at 9:58 AM on April 17, 2016 [7 favorites]


It's interesting how winning the rhetorical war over racism - we are good educated northern white liberals who are against racism, and you are bad southern conservative racists - allowed educated northern white liberals to redline and segregate freely. It's almost as if opposition to racism was sometimes adopted more as a bludgeon in inter-white power struggles than as a genuine commitment.

It's not that southern conservative racism should've been less closely monitored and opposed, but maybe northern liberal racism should've been more closely monitored and opposed. It was mostly able to happen under the radar.

There was an interesting interview in Slate recently with an author who documented how often busing was used, especially in northern cities, to increase segregation.
posted by clawsoon at 10:12 AM on April 17, 2016 [17 favorites]


I just heard presentations on Friday about how NJ's schools are segregated. I don't have kids, so I had no idea.
posted by armacy at 10:29 AM on April 17, 2016


I am a Seattle resident with a kid in private school. I was/am shocked with public school education in this city. I can't afford to live in a neighborhood with good public schools, nor can most people I know. This pains me for so many reasons. I am a product of, an employee of, and a strong supporter of public education. But my in bounds school won't work for my kid for a number of reasons.

Yet I don't understand why exactly the schools are bad. This article helped but I'm still bewildered.
posted by k8t at 10:31 AM on April 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yet I don't understand why exactly the schools are bad.

Schools are funded by property taxes.
posted by mhoye at 10:36 AM on April 17, 2016 [18 favorites]


Seattle is an example of the total breakdown of the public school system. All the people with any influence send their kids to private school, and funding to the schools is cut, making them worse, and even more people send their kids to private school. It's disgusting and should serve as an example of what other midsize cities should avoid.
posted by miyabo at 10:38 AM on April 17, 2016 [21 favorites]


Schools are funded by property taxes.

This.
Here in Indiana, the voters approved a property tax cap statewide. Because of that, school funding has become so dire that some school systems are now toying with eliminating the buses altogether. The kids will either have to get a ride or walk to school (most places don't have viable public transit here, so that's not a realistic option.)

Of course, the same parents who voted for the tax cap, are pissed and up in arms at the idea that their little snowflakes might have to walk or they'll have to run the risk of being late for work because they had to drive the kids to school. Their solutions seem to always run along the lines of "pay the teachers less."
posted by Thorzdad at 10:46 AM on April 17, 2016 [28 favorites]


Schools are funded by property taxes.

Yes, this is part of the problem, in that funding schools with property taxes when entire systems are already segregated will lead to schools with very different funding basis--as in St. Louis, where the schools have been chopped into dozens of tiny school systems with very different budgets depending on the wealth of those within their district.

But in the city of Seattle (and Atlanta and Louisville and Charlotte and DC and New York and Chicago and Boston), rich and poor alike pay property taxes into the same pool to fund a single unified public school system. That money ought to be distributed equally to all public schools on a per student basis. There is a larger problem here that has to do with how that money is used within a segregated system.
posted by hydropsyche at 10:47 AM on April 17, 2016 [10 favorites]


Is the Washington state legislature still in contempt of court for underfunding public schools?
posted by Zalzidrax at 10:50 AM on April 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Schools are funded by property taxes.

In most states, the state government actually pays for baseline school expenses (like paying teachers), while property tax levies cover physical school buildings and extras. One of the problems in Seattle is that the state has no income tax and is pretty limited in funding education.
posted by miyabo at 10:53 AM on April 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


I've noticed here in Toronto that the "white flight" schools, at least in my area of the city, don't have programs for kids with intellectual disabilities. They get bused to minority (or, as they're I'm-not-a-racist-but called, "ESL") schools. It's an interesting overlap of discriminations.
posted by clawsoon at 10:59 AM on April 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also, I challenge anyone who calls Seattle "liberal" ... Liberal means paying for decent education for poor kids, like most of the freaking developed world.
posted by miyabo at 11:00 AM on April 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


It's more that the public funding in Seattle schools is inadequate, and the wealthier areas subsidize the public schools with lots of additional funds for extra programs, such as music, international travel etc. This leaves the public schools in the poorer areas underfunded by comparison.

Despite the problems we were determined to keep our kids in the public school system as a matter of principal. The legislature still has not stepped up and is now spending their time bickering over charter schools.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 11:01 AM on April 17, 2016 [9 favorites]


"When I was 9 years old, I left my father's Interbay rental every day at 7:30 a.m. and trudged to the top of Queen Anne Hill, where I caught an orange school bus on a silent, tree-lined street. The bus was filled with white public school students, and the journey southward was 12 miles, taking me through downtown and Georgetown and then up to Cleveland High School atop Beacon Hill."

Today, door-to-door, that's an hour-long commute, one-way, and would require a parent at drop-off and pick-up.

Forced busing, in practice, is untenable for most lower middle-class families with two working parents.

Most busing opponents are/were not racists. Most of them were parents simply looking at the nuts-and-bolts scheduling and going, "You want me to do what? But there's a school right up the street in my neighborhood...?"

This might've been all sweetness and light in the 70s when Seattle was literally depopulating and traffic was light(ish), but today? Yeah, no. Or L.A. public schools in the 70s, which were busing kids from South L.A. over the hills to Encino? Please.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:18 AM on April 17, 2016 [6 favorites]


Same story in Denver. 30,000 white students left for the suburbs when busing began; Denver Public School buses were firebombed; twenty years ago busing ended. Schools are once again segregated, with some exceptions.
posted by kozad at 11:26 AM on April 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


Schools are funded by property taxes.

Also by Federal money. Which in Washington state has gone down in recent years, at least until 2013, don't know about more recently. See here.

You can decry rich folk pouring more money into their local schools, but that simply raises the question of how granular you want school funding to be. District level? City level? State? National? France went with the latter; all teachers are employees of the Ministère de l'éducation nationale. There are still plenty of bad schools, mostly in, you guessed it - poor areas.

Setting the money issue aside, teachers are still going to want to work in nice areas than in scary areas.

I have no solutions. Wish I did.
posted by IndigoJones at 11:29 AM on April 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


Cool Papa Bell: Most busing opponents are/were not racists. Most of them were parents simply looking at the nuts-and-bolts scheduling and going, "You want me to do what? But there's a school right up the street in my neighborhood...?"

This becomes less convincing when, as in my city, people are willing to pay $100,000-$200,000 more for a house in a "good" school district. (I forget the exact number, but it's in that range.) When there's that dynamic, the "but there's a school right up the street" argument can be disingenuous.
posted by clawsoon at 11:31 AM on April 17, 2016 [12 favorites]


Because home buyers in Louisville knew that all schools had the same racial composition and were provided the same resources, housing segregation in Louisville actually decreased by 20 percent from 1990 to 2010.

This is staggering.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:35 AM on April 17, 2016 [27 favorites]


Yet I don't understand why exactly the schools are bad. This article helped but I'm still bewildered.

There is no simple answer to this, nor any single answer at all. It's a combination of so many factors. And I'm gonna confess to having only skimmed this article, 'cause this is a rabbit hole I really don't need to fall into today, but...

I've taught in Seattle schools as a substitute for over ten years, so I've gotten around to many of the schools. I've been an active and engaged teacher, not the sub who hides behind a newspaper and pretends not to be falling asleep. Mostly I do high school & some middle school, but I've gotten around to many of the elementary schools, too. In the last couple years I've been drifting out of subbing as I've done better as a writer, but for a long time I had a deep, serious desire to have my own classroom in Seattle...and now the thought of having that sort of permanent position is just dreadful.

Reasons why Seattle schools are so bad:

1. Many of them aren't. Many aren't bad at all. We're used to saying everything's awful. There are good places.

2. Administrative turnover. I'm not a "top-down" hierarchical management guy; I really believe most people want to lead themselves. Yet in schools, a good principal is absolutely key, and too many of the schools have weak or unengaged principals or those with agendas that aren't about making their schools better. And many get swapped out a lot.

3. Management and leadership at the district level are patently, appallingly bad. Not long ago, we went through a period of 8 Directors of HR in 5 years. The long-running superintendent, Goodloe-Johnson, was shown the door a few years back under a cloud of mismanagement and allegations of corruption, then passed away before her guilt or innocence were hashed out, and that office has been kind of a revolving door ever since.

4. Education reform is the scab that everyone keeps picking at. Every two years, there's a new program and a new thing that Will Save Us All (Common Core much?)...and when it doesn't show results within the first six months, people start panicking and the New Silver Bullet appears on the horizon and schools start shifting toward that before the current silver bullet is ever really given a solid chance. I've seen this happen constantly over the last ten years.

This leads to bullshit things like long after school meetings about how to have meetings, constant re-training that takes teachers away from their classrooms, huge wastes of time and money, and a lot of stress. That all gets reflected in the classroom. Kids wind up not knowing what the hell is expected of them: What are their graduation requirements? How many standardized tests are we taking this year (and how much do they disrupt the calendar)?

5. Funding. Always funding. The financial crisis in '08 wound up beating the living hell out of public schools for years afterward and they still haven't recovered. Things weren't good before the financial crisis.

6. Becoming a teacher in this state (like so many others) is now ridiculously difficult for no good reason at all. New teachers struggle through Masters of Ed. programs that are crammed full of useless exercises and projects and portfolio bullshit that really won't help them teach, and they pay ungodly amounts of money just for the privilege. As soon as you're done with that? Time to work on your next level of credentialing. Or your National Boards Certification. Or whatever. The list of bullshit goes on and on, and it takes away time that teacher could spend on their students--or even just on their personal lives & other things that would reduce stress, which would also make them better teachers.

Obviously, much of this happens in other districts, too. Teachers all over the nation are going through this shit. Seattle is particularly bad at it because of the problems with the district headquarters, but each individual school winds up with its own difficulties as a result.

That strike we went on earlier this school year? Where pretty much every observer will say the union were the clear victors? Really what we did was hold the line. To grossly generalize: we made sure awful things like bad Special Ed teacher/student ratios and class sizes didn't get worse, but we didn't make much of anything better. The breakdown of school nurses per student and/or per building is terrifying, to be honest. Someone's kid is going to die of something completely preventable before that gets fixed. Maybe more than one kid, really, 'cause the first one will probably be written off as a tragic fluke.

We won, and winning basically means "Shit might not get uglier than it is now, at least for a little while."
posted by scaryblackdeath at 11:37 AM on April 17, 2016 [47 favorites]


Oh. As for busing: In practice over the last few years of busing, I saw the practice hurt poorer students of color much more than it helped anyone. Ultimately, the system presented a question of, "Do you as a parent have the resources and/or give enough of a damn to navigate the paperwork and get your child into one of the better schools?"

If yes, then you could make it happen. You could live on a poorer end of town and send your kid to one of the higher-performing schools.

If no, then you could quite honestly see your kid forced into an hour-long commute on Metro buses from your poorer neighborhood over to a low-performing school on the other end of town, to no net benefit for anyone. I saw it happen.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 11:45 AM on April 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


What kind of parent makes his kids wake up at 6 am to ride a bus for an hour in service of ideology, or lets the government force him to do so?
posted by MattD at 11:51 AM on April 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


The parent who can't fight the system because they don't speak the language, or is so used to getting run over that this injustice doesn't even come as a shock to them. The parent who doesn't get clear information from a bureaucrat who's trying to keep down the number of appeals granted.

And also the parent who doesn't give a shit. My first year of teaching was at an alternative charter school in Long Beach, CA. I knew a lot of kids there had it rough, but come graduation, I was stunned at how many parents didn't show up for the ceremony. Think of that: graduating high school is easier for some than others, but across the board, it is the goal for your young life. It's that one ultimate accomplishment you had to achieve, and it took you thirteen freakin' years, counting kindergarten...and your family doesn't show up.

Someone's parents probably couldn't for medical reasons. Someone else may have had a crisis, sure. Some probably really couldn't take time off of their shitty jobs that they had to cling to just to get by. But when your graduates visibly outnumber your audience at a high school graduation ceremony, what does that say?

That's how you wind up waking up at 6am to bus all the way across town to an even worse school than the one three blocks away.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 11:59 AM on April 17, 2016 [12 favorites]


In the rural schools I attended, getting up at 6 in the morning for an hour-long bus ride was the norm, not the exception.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:59 AM on April 17, 2016 [19 favorites]


What kind of parent makes his kids wake up at 6 am to ride a bus for an hour in service of ideology, or lets the government force him to do so?

My parents did. Actually, I got up at 530. I went to schools in Barrio Logan, Skyline, and right downtown in San Diego. These were some of the best formative experiences of my life. Being friends with kids of all ethnicities, and being immersed in different cultures, was critical to my development. It wasn't all perfect; high performing kids were still funneled into AP while other kids were given less resources and opportunities. But it's given me lifelong friends and perspective far beyond what I could have gotten had I just gone to the neighborhood school.

Or you could just go along with the status quo, which is working soooo well.
posted by Existential Dread at 12:02 PM on April 17, 2016 [16 favorites]


Cool Papa Bell are you from LA? I am. When mandatory bussing was implemented white kids were also bussed . Someone on one of the FB SF valley pages described how his single mother saved up to move to a more affluent neighborhood so that he could attend a presumably better school only to find out that he would be bussed to one in South Central where he was scapegoated for being white.

My school was a hub school so I didn't have to be bussed. Also, the year before I started kindergarten the Permit With Transportation program began. For my school that was Latinx and a few Asian kids whose parents wanted them to attend a better school.

I note that those who wanted to save money by voting yes on proposition 13 proceeded to spend it on private schools.
posted by brujita at 12:02 PM on April 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


IndigoJones: National? France went with the latter; all teachers are employees of the Ministère de l'éducation nationale. There are still plenty of bad schools, mostly in, you guessed it - poor areas. ... I have no solutions. Wish I did.

The Louisville experience does sound heartening, though I know very little about it. Here's an Atlantic article on school integration in Louisville, which documents how support for integration went from 2% to 89%.

That might be an answer to your question, MattD; it turns out that the parents who have done it are exactly the ones who support it.

Not that it's easy; here is a comment from a Louisville parent on Metafilter thinking about the dilemma.
posted by clawsoon at 12:02 PM on April 17, 2016 [6 favorites]


What kind of parent makes his kids wake up at 6 am to ride a bus for an hour in service of ideology, or lets the government force him to do so?

My parents did. I'm eternally grateful for the world that opened to me as a result.
posted by hydropsyche at 12:14 PM on April 17, 2016 [10 favorites]




This becomes less convincing when, as in my city, people are willing to pay $100,000-$200,000 more for a house in a "good" school district. (I forget the exact number, but it's in that range.) When there's that dynamic, the "but there's a school right up the street" argument can be disingenuous.

This is one of those damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't type situations where if you move into the neighborhood you want to with the good school district you reinforce de facto segregation, but if you move into a cheaper neighborhood you end up gentrifying it. It's an acute problem right now in Seattle where there's little available housing stock, too.

On busing, one of my friends was bused from West Seattle to Rainier Beach, and the experience was a pretty good one for her, I think, unless there are terrible things about it she chose not to share with me.
posted by MoonOrb at 12:38 PM on April 17, 2016 [8 favorites]


Or you could just go along with the status quo, which is working soooo well.

For some of us it works very well. Having read What's the Matter with Kansas, I now know I should vote my self-interest, and busing proponents will have a hard time overcoming that.
posted by jpe at 1:07 PM on April 17, 2016


The author of the article started his teaching career at Global Connections in the Highline school district, one of three small high schools housed at the campus of former Tyee High, where I graduated in 1996. It was a crappy, wildly underfunded school when I went there, and when I learned about the shift to small schools and the success of the programs at my old campus I was thrilled. And then I stopped paying attention and didn't realize how bad things got. This is horrifying and I don't know what to do to help change it.
posted by palomar at 1:22 PM on April 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


The old system, where you could put your kid in any Seattle school and they would bus them if you lived within a busing zone, wasn't perfect, either. The main difference was there were seats for South Seattle kids in North Seattle, albeit not in the best schools where the geographic tiebreaker was sometimes so tight you sometimes had kids who lived a block from a school and there was no seat for them. Now, there are pretty much no seats, unless you're pushing into schools on the edge of the city limit.

My daughter's school was one of the "alternative" schools Goodloe-Johnson eliminated in the name of trying to get some balance to the north/south system -- stop letting special programs siphon away money from the general fund. It made her zero friends in the community, and eventually meant she wouldn't be long for her job. Thing is, after she killed that school, they put a K-8 in its place, one that is racially diverse and high performing. The end result is I'm watching people on community forums tearing their hair out because they couldn't get their kid in.

I will note -- most Seattle schools are quite good. One of Seattle's biggest problems, though, is that the Eastside school districts are some of the best in America. When you're in that shadow, people are going to assume Seattle schools are terrible and push their kids into private school. Right before the Great Recession something like 25% of all Seattle kids went to private school. The Recession saw that number collapse, but it's starting to climb back towards that peak.

There's no easy fix. It starts with the legislature responding to the McCleary decision not with studies but with money. But it also requires finding a way to cut through all the noise. Every damn person in this town has a simplistic solution to the problems in Seattle schools, from charters to dumping Common Core to firing everyone in the central administration building. But this is a complex, messy problem that requires patience, determination, and a willingness not to fire the superintendent every two years. And people in this town have no patience for that.
posted by dw at 1:28 PM on April 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


It would also help Seattle public schools if the school board didn't draw the boundary lines in such blatantly bogus ways. The high school 20 blocks away? Nope, you live north of a line we drew, you get the assignment at the school that's a half hour drive across town...

Or how they drew the line up by Eckstein MS? Omg, if you lived right across the street and got sent to the new one...wow, I'd be pissed about that.
posted by Windopaene at 1:34 PM on April 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


My daughter's school was one of the "alternative" schools Goodloe-Johnson eliminated in the name of trying to get some balance to the north/south system -- stop letting special programs siphon away money from the general fund. It made her zero friends in the community, and eventually meant she wouldn't be long for her job.

Goodloe-Johnson was fired for super shady financial mismanagement, and that's just the thing the school board could finally nail her on.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 1:36 PM on April 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Is the Washington state legislature still in contempt of court for underfunding public schools?

Yes, they are, as of the end of the last session.
posted by Margalo Epps at 1:39 PM on April 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


M0on Orb noted gentrification but I wonder whether wealthier people moving into such areas will want to use public schools or private schools, which i assume they can well afford. In some regions of the South I have read they make private schools very very cheap as a way of resegregation by avoiding integrated public schools.
posted by Postroad at 2:59 PM on April 17, 2016


Or how they drew the line up by Eckstein MS? Omg, if you lived right across the street and got sent to the new one...wow, I'd be pissed about that.

The Eckstein arguing was crazy, honestly.

Parents: "Eckstein is massively overcrowded! Do something! YOU ARE HORRIBLE"
SPS: "OK, we'll re-open Jane Addams as a middle school and make the northeastern schools feed into it."
Parents: "Wait, now my kid is going to Jane Addams! THIS ISN'T WHAT WE WANTED AND YOU ARE HORRIBLE"

It's stuff like that that gives me some sympathy for Seattle Schools. They're getting so many mixed messages they cannot please anyone no matter what they do. Doesn't excuse their lack of leadership or point-of-view, tho.
posted by dw at 3:02 PM on April 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


Goodloe-Johnson was fired for super shady financial mismanagement, and that's just the thing the school board could finally nail her on.

The last five Seattle superintendents before the current one:
Died in office
Resigned (financial scandal)
Resigned (financial mismanagement)
Fired (financial scandal)
Quit after one year

This is all since mid-1998. The current superintendent is in his second year. I have my doubts he'll make it much longer.
posted by dw at 3:06 PM on April 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


What kind of parent makes his kids wake up at 6 am to ride a bus for an hour in service of ideology, or lets the government force him to do so?

My parents were fine with it, but I think I was actually the one to decide to do it in middle and high school. (They were magnet schools, which helped with the draw, but even then sometimes the lack of funding was difficult.) I even went to the more diverse community college in the center of Seattle, rather than the closer less diverse one. It made for a better and more interesting education and, like Louisville parents, I'd be in support of my daughter doing the same thing if all the schools were well-funded and really provided the same opportunities. I had noticed that we didn't seem to have quite the same school choices for our kids that we had ourselves, but I didn't know about the lawsuit or realize the extent to which busing had vanished until reading this article. I do know that schools south of Seattle are not doing well. It seems like if we brought busing back, it would be even better to combine into a metropolitan area, to include Kent, Tukwila, Renton, and other areas people in poverty have been pushed into.

Today, door-to-door, that's an hour-long commute, one-way, and would require a parent at drop-off and pick-up.
Forced busing, in practice, is untenable for most lower middle-class families with two working parents.


I don't understand this. The whole point of a bus is that parents don't have to drive. I don't think my parents drove to my school except on curriculum night or whatever other evening parent things there were. The one time I missed my school bus in high school I got a wee bit of sympathy and bus money -- it took two city buses to get to school, I was super late, and I never slept through my alarm again. I really was on the bus both ways every day.

Unlike some of my classmates, I didn't feel like my classes had too much reading, because I was always able to finish it on the bus. I also usually had time to read a book for fun or talk with friends, so by the time I got home, I'd had a bit of a break and could start in on writing and math.
posted by Margalo Epps at 4:04 PM on April 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


@dw: The last five Seattle superintendents before the current one:

That list makes it look like one of the major problems of Seattle's schools is that the people vetting the leadership have no idea how to choose a professional leader.

And that, IMO, is the most obvious problem that schools everywhere are facing. With a record like that, how would you ever get a capable, conscientious, well-educated and determined professional to apply for the job? And, so, you get leftovers.
posted by Twang at 4:17 PM on April 17, 2016


What kind of parent makes his kids wake up at 6 am to ride a bus for an hour in service of ideology, or lets the government force him to do so?

Parents who have the slightest interest in the society their kid will live in, and don't intend for it to be a walled compound?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 4:36 PM on April 17, 2016 [11 favorites]


Heck I had to get up at 6 am for high school just because it started so early and I lived in the really white suburbs of Seattle.
posted by Zalzidrax at 6:06 PM on April 17, 2016


Well, I was taken out the L.A. Public Schools before it got its Desegregation Order, primarily to get me away from the Public School Bullies, all of whom I remember to be white and middle class, and put into a Private School they could barely afford (which they reminded me of frequently), which was a half-hour farther from home than my 'neighborhood school', which had teachers who were mostly unqualified to teach in the Public Schools (the only ones I remember from those years were the awful ones)... and where I was exposed to a much higher socio-economic class of bully (extra-ironically, one of them was the only hispanic bully I ever was subjected to).

What kind of parent...?
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:08 PM on April 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


The article about NJ schools linked upthread has a nice rundown of the Brown decision:

It has been nearly 62 years since Brown v. Board of Education. What impact has that decision had nationally and in New Jersey?

Once the remedial stage of Brown got off the ground in the 1960s, about 10 years after the initial decision in 1954, it had a substantial impact on the Southern states. School segregation significantly lessened in many of those states as the federal courts played an increasingly assertive role.

But Brown had, at best, a modest impact on Northern and Western states because of two legal limitations: (1) the distinction federal courts drew between de jure (in law) and de facto (in fact) segregation; and (2) the federal courts’ unwillingness to order multidistrict or regional remedies unless all the districts involved had behaved in a clearly discriminatory manner.

The first limitation required that there be formal state laws, or in some cases local action, requiring segregated schools, even if comparable levels of segregation resulted from realities on the ground, such as residential segregation and reliance on neighborhood schools. Many commentators and some judges were critical of the distinction, in part because there often was evidence that de facto segregation actually resulted from a pattern of governmental behavior. The New Jersey Supreme Court explicitly rejected the distinction in 1965 in the case of Booker v. Plainfield Board of Education, reasoning that the harm to black children was comparable and that all children would benefit from integrated schools starting as early as possible.

The second limitation — on multidistrict remedies — had a much more substantial impact on Northern states than on southern states for two reasons: (1) Southern cases, initially at least, were based on formal state laws with statewide application; and (2) most Southern states had countywide school districts rather than local school districts, so even district-level remedies covered much larger areas in the South. The U.S.. Supreme Court’s unwillingness to impose multidistrict remedies in the North led Justice Lewis Powell, a Virginian, to comment that the court had made clear by doing so that Brown was only the law for the South. This limitation also was rejected by the New Jersey Supreme Court in its 1971 decision in Jenkins v. Morris Township. The court ruled that the commissioner of education had the power, and perhaps the duty, to order regionalization of school districts to effectuate the state constitution’s education and anti-segregation clauses.

The result was the merger of Morristown and Morris Township into the Morris School District shortly after the court’s decision. The Morris District remains racially, ethnically and socioeconomically diverse 45 years later, one of a modest number of New Jersey districts with that demographic profile. My research team and I have been studying the Morris District intensively and are about to submit an interim report to the Century Foundation analyzing the district’s experience and considering Morris as a model for replication.

posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 6:16 PM on April 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


An hour-long commute by bus sounds like it would be horrible, but quite a few people have commented saying it wasn't that big a deal for them. So.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 6:22 PM on April 17, 2016


There're two This American Life episodes about school segregation and an article, by one of the contributors, about school segregation in and around St. Louis.
posted by Margalo Epps at 7:25 PM on April 17, 2016 [3 favorites]




>What kind of parent makes his kids wake up at 6 am to ride a bus for an hour in service of ideology, or lets the government force him to do so?

Parents who have the slightest interest in the society their kid will live in...


Would it be possible to be even remotely charitable here? Those are two hours a child can't spend playing outside or practicing sports or music or at an after-school job. That's an extra hour's sleep that an adolescent doesn't get. Those are two hours that a child who gets overstimulated might be better off spending at home, or a child with ADD might be better off spending outdoors. If there are bullies on the school bus, those are two hours the kid has to suffer with them.

I could easily see a lot of parents -- including plenty of parents who would like their schools to be integrated -- not wanting to make their children ride an hour each way in pursuit of diversity. That doesn't make them bad people. They may not prioritize the same things you would, but I think it's easy to see why they'd object to it.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 7:59 PM on April 17, 2016 [6 favorites]


I rode a bus for nearly an hour to get to my relatively close high school in a "good" suburban district. I think some of the pushback is that an hourlong bus ride is just not that crazily uncommon, depending where you are on a route, and is not necessarily indicative of some scandalous zoning decision.
posted by pinwheel spark at 8:28 PM on April 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


No, it is not possible to be remotely charitable in response to a comment saying that any parent who has their child take a long bus ride to school for ideological reasons is a bad parent.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 8:30 PM on April 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


For a while in high school it took me over an hour to get there, and yeah I was getting up at 6 to make orchestra at 7:30.

This is not unusual. My commute was entirely within a major metropolitan area, and I was not uncommon among my friends.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:36 PM on April 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


Well, if we're going to be charitable, that bus ride was two hours to read my homework assignments, two hours a day shooting the shit with my friends, two hours listening to music, two hours learning all the streets and back roads of my city. I looked forward to getting on the bus. I mean, it's not like they put me in cold storage where I could do nothing but stare forward blankly.

This is kind of a weird thread.
posted by Existential Dread at 9:43 PM on April 17, 2016 [7 favorites]


I was usually able to get all of my homework done on the school bus. I often wondered if the teachers noticed how much shakier my handwriting was on homework assignments then it was on in-class work.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:01 PM on April 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


What kind of parent makes his kids wake up at 6 am to ride a bus for an hour in service of ideology, or lets the government force him to do so?

Kids growing up in rural areas (like I did) do this routinely because there are so few schools serving the population. There were no schools less than a half hour drive from where we lived. Public school was basically mandatory, unless you went to one of a very limited number of private schools. People's ideas about what is and isn't realistic vary.
posted by saulgoodman at 3:38 AM on April 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


This article is from Seattle's most prominent alt-weekly, not the area's major newspaper, and that's no accident. While The Stranger is talking busing and remedying segregation, The Seattle Times is singing the tune that I heard constantly growing up in the area: school levies not passing. And not passing, and not passing, for decades. All that on the same page as an op-ed warning about the dangers of Gold Rush Era-level growth in the city. Before making racially integrated schooling a priority again, the city would have to make public schools a priority again.

A lot about that article has been weighing on me overnight. I grew up just South End of Seattle, and the author's comments about cross-district busing and other strategies rang true. The area(s) I grew up in were somewhere from working to middle class, and they look increasingly impoverished whenever I go back home. On these visits I sometimes go into Seattle, and there is just money and construction everywhere. Busing from one are of Seattle to another would do some of what the author wants, but to get enough kids from different worlds to swap place, I think it would have to go outside the city.

The busing distance thing... I got up early (6 or earlier) to walk to classes starting at 6:30 or so, and I don't think it's impossible, but I think things will have to get federal intervention-level worse for a return to integration-level busing. Parents want "good schools" for their kids, and we've nationally knocked down or back the old public markers for racial segregation, to the extent that a lot of people look around Seattle and say "what racism?" without knowing it was there all along, just polite & quiet.
posted by cupcakeninja at 3:53 AM on April 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


You remember the Little Rock Nine? You probably weren't taught the whole story:
“Now one final note about the school year and Little Rock. What we don’t often hear about, what we basically never hear about Central High School history, is […] that the governor was so upset about the public relations disaster that accompanied the school’s integration, that he decided to shut down Little Rock public schools the following year. The integration of the school, this great moment of civil rights victory of American exceptionalism, lasted one year, and the public schools were shut down. Why don’t we know this part of the history? You know, there’s something really maybe too tantalizing about these nice narratives of our past. We can be ashamed of the shortcomings of our predecessors, but by keeping the story clean and simple, we can also be proud that our predecessors ultimately made the right decision and did the right things. In short, the Civil Rights Movement has been sanitized, because it ultimately casts a great light on the American character; that the American character can take its lumps, learn from its mistakes and then do great things. The Civil Rights Movement has been cast as a great moment of American exceptionalism when we all summoned the courage to do the right things, regardless of our political positions, where we are in the country, etcetera. Well, that’s just one big fat lie. Only a minority of folks rose to the challenge, and accepted it, and pursued it.
— Professor Jonathan Holloway, African American History: From Emancipation to the Present (AFAM 162) (via youtube, emphasis mine)
posted by yaymukund at 10:38 AM on April 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


« Older A history of one-man bands, from fife and drum to...   |   First Step Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments