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29th June

First Published in The New York Sun, June 29, 2007

By Andrew Wolf

The decision of the Supreme Court to bar race-based “voluntary” desegregation plans will have the powerful effect of supporting the concept of neighborhood schools.

This has important implications in New York City, where the Department of Education has structured its gifted and talented programs to foster “diversity” and “equity” through a busing program.

When we say “voluntary” plans, we are talking about plans that are voluntary for the school district, which is mandating forced school assignments for students and their parents. These are not cases of court-mandated desegregation, based on previous or existing systemic segregation, court decisions under Brown v. Board of Education.

Rather, the purpose of these “voluntary” plans is to promote diversity, and always at the cost of the real advantages to communities and families of neighborhood schools.

Take the case of Jefferson County, which includes Louisville, Ky., a defendant on the losing side in this decision.

Louisville had a court-mandated plan that was in effect for 25 years, and fulfilled their obligations under that program six years ago. But the school board decided to continue the plan, even though there was no longer any vestige of official segregation. What this meant was that many, perhaps most, Louisville children are bused from their neighborhoods to schools elsewhere.

While the plaintiff in the case, Crystal Meredith, is white, many black parents supported the end of the “voluntary” plan.

One parent noted that as students from his mostly black neighborhood were being transported to “sixteen different schools,” the local institution of the neighborhood public school suffered.

This has the unintended effect of diminishing communal life, and thus has an effect on the values of the homes owned by residents, for the lack of a neighborhood school — one that parents can know their child can attend by right — can dissuade buyers from purchasing a home in a particular neighborhood.

So the interests of black and white parents have intersected. As Mrs. Meredith stated in her court brief, the “voluntary” plan “denigrates a 5-year-old’s self-worth and self-esteem” by pigeonholing him by race. Quoted by the Associated Press, a black parent, Deborah Stallworth, objected to the current plan because it required “busing my baby halfway to Timbuktu.”

How does this impact New York City? Most attention is being directed at the Mark Twain Junior High School in Brooklyn, one of two schools that have “magnet” programs to promote integration mandated by the courts many years ago.

In a case highlighted by the New York Post earlier this week, a young child of Indian-American background was excluded from Mark Twain because she failed to achieve a score high enough to get her in under the minority “quota.” Complicating all this is that being of Indian descent, she is considered to be Caucasian, and whites can be admitted with much lower test scores, which she easily surpasses.

The goal of the program is to maintain a 60-40 white/minority split in the school. This highlights the slippery and disturbing issues that this type of racial groupthink can foster.

As I understand it, the case decided by the Supreme Court will have no impact on the Mark Twain situation. That outcome must be reviewed by the judge who imposed the quotas many years ago. That decision was mandatory, not voluntary.

But where this week’s decision should impact is in the new formulas for admission to the city’s gifted and talented programs. This was not mandated by any court, but rather results from the clear and stated intent of the Department of Education to achieve “equity” and “diversity.”

Last year the new rules were piloted in District 3 on Manhattan’s west side, where for a generation parents fought to win admission for their children into a handful of gifted and talented programs. After children qualified for gifted classes based on an I.Q. test, preference was given, as it is for all other children, to those living in the home zone or those with siblings already in the school.

Most students in these programs turned out to be white, which resulted in the threat of a lawsuit by an activist group, the Center for Immigrant Families.

Reacting to this, the Department removed the preferences based on home zoning and siblings and replaced the I.Q. test with both an I.Q. type test and a subjective questionnaire to be completed by the child’s teacher, created a controversial composite of those scores, and then admitted students to schools based on a combination of scores and demand.

When the dust cleared, parents found that the only way they could take advantage of the gifted program for their children was to put their five-year-olds on school buses headed to other neighborhoods. Ugly accusations of a manipulated process to achieve a certain racial end were levied.

As a result, many white parents refused placements, and programs in minority neighborhoods withered as children from those communities opted to attend programs in “white” schools. At least one program, that at P.S. 145, a largely minority school in Morningside Heights, was forced to close.

This admission program, now in place in the entire city, did not ask for race per se but was clearly designed to force a government mandated “diversity” on the backs of young children whose parents certainly didn’t “volunteer” them to be bused from their neighborhoods. This forces parents into a lose-lose situation that I hope this new decision will be used to remedy.

© 2007 The New York Sun, One, SL, LLC. All rights reserved.

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