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Friday, August 24, 2007

Another City and their Racial Tiebreaker

This article appeared in this week's NY Times. It is about the city of White Plains, NY and their use of race to equalize their schools. Here's how it works:

"In 1989, White Plains, tired of perennially gerrymandering for racial balance, began a “controlled choice” plan that essentially jettisoned neighborhood zones and required each school to have the same proportions of blacks, Hispanics and “others,” a term that includes whites and Asians. The plan allowed for a discrepancy among schools of only 5 percent. Similar plans had been adopted in Cambridge and Fall River, Mass., and copied by Milwaukee, San Jose, Calif., and dozens of other cities.

White Plains’s plan takes pains to give parents genuine choices. In January and February, parents of entering kindergartners visit elementary schools and rank their top three picks. A family will get first choice, which 90 percent of families do, unless the number of applicants of that child’s race exceeds certain caps, which at a school with 100 kindergartners might be 13 blacks, 46 Hispanics, and 41 “others.”

Should that happen, a lottery is held for all students in that racial group, with assigned numbers on colored slips of paper picked out of a basket at a public meeting. Remaining kindergartners get second choice or, rarely, third.

Buses are provided for students living more than half a mile from school. The plan also balances assignments at the two campuses of the middle school."

White Plains' district has roughly 7,000 students so, of course, it isn't Seattle. But it is an interesting article about a city that has made it work for 18 years. (I would love to see a Board meeting where slips of paper were picked out of a basket. That's very Lake Wobegan.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am not a fan of forced diversity. When things are manipulated and forced the outcome is not the same as say a naturally integrated neighborhood. Or a pure choice plan. I would think this "controlled choice" plan causes a lot of resentment to the folks who can't get into a school because of their skin color. A district forcing diversity just seems like it defeats the purpose.

Much more effective would be to make sure that all schools are achieving, and the ones that are not, perhaps due to a lower income population, should receive the extra services, reduced class size, funding, etc. that they need. But forcing diversity just seems weird.
Sounds like affirmative action on the school front.