"Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson hopes Seattle residents see the value of living and going to school with people from a wide mix of backgrounds. But she says she can't change where people live. And as much as she values racial diversity, she values high-quality schools more.
A quality education, she says, "trumps diversity.""School Board Chairwoman Cheryl Chow puts it more bluntly: "It's not my job to desegregate the city," she said. "We serve the kids that come to our doors."
"This is probably heresy and I'll probably get in trouble for this," says School Board member Harium Martin-Morris. As long as a school's academic program is strong, he says, "I'm not so much worried about the ethnic makeup of a building."
Fellow board member Michael DeBell, while troubled by the racial isolation in some schools, says it's a national issue and a class issue that the School Board has few tools to address. His fallback position, he says, is "to make sure every child has as much opportunity for success as possible."
Betty Howell Gray, a former teacher, principal and founder of the Seattle Alliance of Black School Educators, says that's her focus now, too.
Gray went to segregated schools through college. She worked as an educator in Seattle schools for decades, and supported busing during that time. But now, she thinks the district should concentrate on ensuring every neighborhood has a strong school."In Kentucky (where the other part of the Supreme Court issue came from):
"In Jefferson County, Ky., where about 48 percent of students are minorities, there was never a doubt about whether to pursue a new diversity plan, said Pat Todd, the district's executive director for school assignment.
But she also said it was clear there weren't a lot of other districts trying to figure out new ways to integrate schools.
"The political climate right now is very challenging for most school districts to try to continue these efforts," Todd said. "Seattle is more reflective of what's going on nationally."
Under that district's new assignment plan, each school will have at least 15 percent and no more than 50 percent of its students from neighborhoods with lower-than-average income and educational attainment, and a higher-than-average minority population.
The district hopes that approach will pass legal muster, Todd said, since students will be assigned to schools based on where they live, not their race.
Jefferson County has some advantages over districts like Seattle, she said. Its school district encompasses Louisville and all the surrounding suburbs, she said, so families can't just move a short distance to avoid integration efforts. The district also isn't facing a financial squeeze that makes it want to save money on busing, as is the case here."