Updated: Feb 1
Original article written by Kalyn Belsha and Sarah Darville for Chalkbeat.
More than two dozen school districts, including some of the nation’s largest such as New York, Los Angeles, Miami-Dade, Dallas, and Philadelphia, have signed on to a new national effort to promote the racial and economic integration of America’s schools. These districts have pledged to work together in finding creative solutions to integrating schools. The pandemic has led to school districts being financially in distress. But Stefan Lallinger, a former New York City schools official who is leading the initiative, said his group still believes the time is right to push for change, particularly after the police killing of George Floyd prompted new widespread interest in equity for Black and brown students. Furthermore, the pandemic itself has revealed how Black, Native, and Latino Americans are disproportionately dying and getting sick, even among children. The group itself is not only interested in learning how integration closes the learning gap, but also how it closes the resource and opportunity gaps as well. One barrier to integration involves school districts’ limited ability to influence enrollment patterns outside their district lines — which is especially a problem for mostly Black and Latino city school districts bordered by whiter, more affluent suburban ones. As described in the article, a 1974 Supreme Court ruling makes it incredibly difficult to integrate schools across those boundaries and with the upcoming election, resources available for desegregation efforts are up in the air. Joe Biden, the democratic candidate for President, supports legislation that would fund school desegregation efforts, although his past record on school desegregation is complicated. President Trump's administration is less likely to fund these efforts, as is evident in his early legislation which ended a $12 million grant program launched under President Obama that would have helped pay for economic school integration plans. Overall, the need for integration is clear, and whether or not it is possible will greatly depend on the election results.