Education Opinion

What Price Racial Diversity?

By Walt Gardner — August 02, 2013 1 min read
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Racial diversity in public schools is an important goal, but so far it has been elusive because of housing patterns. Greenwich Public Schools are a reminder why (“Law on Racial Diversity Stirs Greenwich Schools,” The New York Times, Jul. 20). At issue is a Connecticut law passed in 1969 that forbids school districts from allowing any of their schools to deviate more than 25 percent in racial composition from any of their other schools. In Greenwich, two public elementary schools violate the law.

This situation, however, is not the fault of school officials. In fact, they have done almost all they can to avoid it. I made this point in a letter to the editor (“Racial Diversity in the Greenwich Public Schools,” The New York Times, Jul. 27). Last year, for example, they implemented a policy that requires parents or guardians registering their child to complete notarized affidavits testifying to their address. Lying could result in criminal prosecution. Moreover, Greenwich schools are among the top performing districts in the state, with the achievement gap between blacks and whites in reading dropping to 27.4 percentage points in the 2011-12 school year from 32 points five years earlier. For whites and Hispanics, the gap fell to 21.7 percentage points from nearly 30 points in the same period.

The district’s minority enrollment has grown to about 33 percent today from 19.3 percent in 1998. These students deserve equal opportunities to learn. But I don’t think parents of any race want busing as a remedy. They moved to Greenwich with the reasonable expectation that their children would attend neighborhood schools. They did so even though they knew they would have to pay higher property taxes or higher rent than elsewhere. To engage in policies that violate their trust is unfair. I hope the issue can be resolved without resorting to the courts, perhaps in the creation of magnet schools.

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.