Fight segregation in Virginia schools!

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There are more public schools isolated by race and income in Virginia and across the United States than there were over a decade ago. Neighborhoods are still segregated due to institutional racism and the socioeconomic gap between races, which means that the schools would naturally be segregated.  Racially and economically isolated schools inevitably have fewer resources and less-experienced teachers than schools with a more balanced demographic, and yet the current trend points to our nation’s schools becoming more, not less segregated. 

The solution? Implement controlled-choice enrollment strategies for Virginia public schools. Controlled-choice promotes school choice and diversity standards. The model allows parents to select the public school in their division that they would like their child to attend (open enrollment), then balance choices with diversity factors such as socioeconomic status or race. This helps break up concentrations of poverty, and it addresses Virginia’s legacy of residential and school segregation. The goal is to simultaneously promote choice and diversity. This strategy could be particularly effective at increasing diversity in public schools in the Greater Richmond area, if it is done regionally with the city and suburbs partnering together!

I mentor three brilliant young girls through Higher Achievement, a program in D.C. and Richmond dedicated to closing the opportunity gap for middle-schoolers. The statistics tell us what racial and economic segregation in our schools leads to in our communities. But I’ve seen firsthand what it does to these kids’ self-esteem. I’ve heard the things it makes them think. Research has shown that school integration has significant benefits to children of color and has no negative consequences on white schoolchildren, so who would we be hurting by implementing this program?

More than 60 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that separate is inherently unequal. Yet somehow, we are growing even more separate and even more unequal. Virginia’s Department of Education needs to support and diversify Virginia’s public schools so that every student, just like my three scholars, can have an equal opportunity for success.