To the Editor:
Reporting in Education Week has a habit of translating matters of class and power in education into what can best be described as technical questions of school improvement, thereby obscuring the social forces that shape education policy. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in your story on the formation of the new Canyons school district in Utah (“Utah’s Newest District Gives Leadership Team Chance to Make Impact,” May 19, 2010).
This article attributes the creation of the new district to parents’ desire for more local control. At bottom, however, what motivated the division was not simply a desire for greater community input, but the opposition of more wealthy, mostly white parents on the former district’s east side to the school board’s decision to devote its limited resources to building new schools on the district’s rapidly growing west side, where residents are less wealthy and less racially homogeneous and, by Utah law, were not permitted to vote on the proposed split.
I have no doubt that David S. Doty, the Canyons district superintendent, is working hard to make the new school system a success, as your story indicates. But absent a consideration of how these inequities of class and race manifested themselves spatially, the argument that the new district came about simply because east-side residents felt disenfranchised by the Jordan school district erases from view the political dynamics that led to the formation of the new district in the first place.
Professor and Chair
Department of Education, Culture, and Society
University of Utah
Salt Lake City, Utah
A version of this article appeared in the June 16, 2010 edition of Education Week as Missing ‘Political Dynamics’ Of Utah District’s Creation