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Racial Integration

•Racial integration is a worthy goal, and busing is an easy means to achieving that goal. Busing is a plan for promoting school desegregation, by which minority students are transported to largely white schools and white students are brought to largely minority schools. It is intended to safeguard the Civil Rights of students and to provide equal opportunity in public education. Busing is also an example of affirmative action that is, the attempt to undo or compensate for the effects of past discrimination. Such action is sometimes called compensatory justice.

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In many instances, neighborhood schools remain the default option, meaning that students have a right to attend their neighborhood school. Race is taken into account only when students seek to attend a school outside of their neighborhood or a specialized school not linked to a particular residential area. These plans are thus relatively mild by comparison to the “forced busing” ordered by courts in desegregation cases. Nonetheless, these and other types of plans remain controversial. Part of the controversy, not surprisingly, is political.

Race and public schools remain an explosive mixture, and some see desegregation as a failed experiment that need not be repeated. •Busing causes white flight – where white families move their children from public city schools to private and suburban institutions. A large portion of the contemporary white flight research looks at the nationwide trends (Betts & Fairlie, 2003; Clotfelter, 2001; Fairlie & Resch, 2002; Li, 2009; Sohoni & Saporito, 2009). Each of these authors finds that, on average, an increasing proportion of racial minority students in public schools is associated with a higher proportion of Whites attending private schools.

However, these nationwide studies of metro areas may be exaggerating the contemporary prevalence of patterns of white flight because they focus on flight from the central city to the suburbs. An overlooked part of the ‘white flight’ narrative is flight from integrating suburban school districts. With increasing percentages of the population living in suburban areas, it is essential that researchers focus on the variation between suburbs, rather than just the central city/suburb divide. Another issue is that existing research on white flight has too broadly defined white flight as geographical flight from a certain school district.

In contrast, this paper uses a unique methodology of focusing on Whites’ decision to enroll or not enroll in the local public school. One other problem is that in estimating white flight, the literature has neglected religious identification as a potential explanatory variable. Since many of the private schools are in fact religious schools, this is a major oversight. •One of the most powerful tools for improving the educational achievement of poor black and Hispanic public school students is, regrettably, seldom even considered.

It has become a political no-no. Breaking up these toxic concentrations of poverty would seem to be a logical and worthy goal. Long years of evidence show that poor kids of all ethnic backgrounds do better academically when they go to school with their more affluent — that is, middle class — peers. But when the poor kids are black or Hispanic, that means racial and ethnic integration in the schools. Despite all the babble about a postracial America, that has been off the table for a long time.


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