Busing and Choice: A state plan to end busing in Milwaukee and return students to neighborhood schools may clash with a popular intradistrict school choice program and could ultimately resegregate several of the district's most diverse schools, a report warns.
Because of the district's three-choice school selection process, the report by the Milwaukee-based Public Policy Forum says, intradistrict busing is mostly voluntary. This school year, it says, some 80 percent of Milwaukee students were assigned to their first-choice schools, and nearly 90 percent were assigned to one of their top three choices.
"The current atmosphere in Milwaukee is one of parental choice,'' said Anneliese M. Dickman, a lawyer for the group and the author of the report, which was released Nov. 29. Depending on how the plan is implemented, she said, a return to neighborhood schools could constrict school choice in the 105,000-student district.
The Neighborhood Schools Initiative, sponsored by local lawmakers and passed from the governor's desk to the local school board in November, aims to eliminate mandatory busing by building several new schools and fixing up others.
The $170 million plan, which will be phased in over five years, uses bonds to be paid off with state funds that would have gone for busing.
The Public Policy Forum, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization, also concludes that a return to neighborhood schools could have a detrimental effect on district racial balance.
Karen Salzbrenner, a spokeswoman for the district, said that because the district was in the preliminary stages of a neighborhood-schools plan, there was no telling how it would play out. But the goal, she said, is to generate strong community input and support for the plan.
Three Cities: A new installment of "The Merrow Report" on PBS examines school governance overhauls and reform efforts in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Seattle."
"A Tale of Three Cities: The Mayor, The Minister, and The General'' documents efforts by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, Philadelphia Superintendent David W. Hornbeck, and Seattle's late superintendent, John Stanford, to reverse bureaucratic and academic troubles.
Besides exploring school leadership in the cities, the show looks at how the local teachers' unions responded to the turnaround efforts.
—Kerry A. White
Vol. 19, Issue 14, Page 10