Race-Based School Choice?

by Venomous Kate

San Francisco, that bastion of liberal “rainbow” politics, has a nasty little secret to hide when it comes to how parents choose the schools their children will attend.

A recent study of the city’s school choice program — which allows families to rank their preferred schools and then usually grants admission to one of the top two choices — shows that parents don’t like to send their kids to a school with a large number of African-American students. Of course, none of the parents actually came out and said as much: instead, a study using regression analysis isolated various factors such as income and skin color.

If anything, this is an accepted fact among those who work in education. School board member Kim-Shree Maufas, who is the first African American member of the board in 10 years, says, “It doesn’t surprise me.”

“I recognize it and am very disturbed that people are selecting on that basis,” Maufas says. “But I’m on to thinking about the next step.”

That’s the tough part – doing something to change perceptions. As Sanchez says, not only is race a difficult and sensitive topic, most parents don’t even want to discuss it.

“And they especially don’t want to talk about it if they are going to be blamed,” Sanchez says. “We are not saying you are a bad person if you didn’t choose these schools.”

Whether a conscious decision or not, the statistics confirm that parental school choice manifests itself in race-based discrimination, perhaps on the basis of perceptions the study itself was not examining. And that selectiveness is something that educators throughout the nation need to consider, since it is no doubt taken into account by parents living in cities without school choice programs like San Fransico’s. In those places, parents investigate schools while choosing to decide where to live.

One proposal to deal with this problem in San Francisco involves giving kids “extra points” during the college admission process if they attended a school with a large percentage of African-American students. That plan’s proponent claims such a bonus would mean “People would be beating down the doors to get in.”

What say you?

14 Comments to “Race-Based School Choice?”

  1. What kind of African-American name is “Kim-Shree Maufus”?

    Everything about this is dishonest and hypocritical. Everything from the fact that it happens, to the fact that nobody (including me) wants to talk about it, to the fact that though it’s not PC to discuss, maybe we’ll give extra credit for going to these schools. Just how will that help? Will you get into a better college if you got extra credit just for going to a school with no consideration for whether academics justified extra credit?

    I’m particularly offended by this since I’m from the South, and when I lived up North, folks assumed I was a racist, yet they were the ones who needed to cross the streets if they saw black people walking towards us.

    I’m also offended that where I live we don’t have school choice, and the schools are lousy. We had to buy property and pay tuition for our child to attend a magnet school in another district in our county.

    The only way these multiple problems (dishonesty, bad schools, political correctness) will be solved is if people start speaking the truth. I could go from here to Whoopi’s defense of Vick’s dog fighting based on his being from the South (I don’t fight dogs and don’t know anyone who does). We are all victims in some way. Let’s quit hiding behind it, let’s start speaking the truth, and let’s quit spending money on things that don’t work. This is your blog so I’ll stop ranting.

  2. Jim, if education is one of the keys to eliminating racism, we have a big challenge on our hands as we cannot even seem to teach our kids what most of us would consider basic education. I think the way to eliminate racism is by positive experiences and interactions. For ex., when I was very young things made in Japan were considered junk. Now, if I want quality, I buy Japanese. There’s a great small animal vet near me who is black. His parking lot is always jammed. Other black vets will benefit because he’s got us thinking you can’t do better than a black veterinarian. And so on. People stereotype not because they are evil, but because it is a way to organize information. Of course, if you isolate yourselves from people of other races, you’ll never have the chance to get a true picture of what they are like. I am babbling so I will stop.

  3. The only way to eliminate racism is education and enlightenment.

    I am curious though if the school preferences were similar for different PARENTAL races. I guess what I am asking is: Did African-American parents put schools with high African-American populations low on their list also?

    Any kind of discrimination works in both directions and both have to be consider for the results to be accurate.

  4. “not everything worth knowing comes from a school education” – sometimes the simplest phrase contains the most profound wisdom. the kind of education which will help eliminate hateful attitudes should come from the home. it’s a sad commentary on our times that many parents seem to want the local school to parent for them.

  5. Anne, I don’t disagree with you but what you said simply reinforces my point. People have to TAUGHT that stereotypes are usually not correct. Experience is the best teacher and not everything worth knowing comes from a school education.

  6. That doesn’t really fix it, either, Jim.

    The actual problem is parental belief (whether real or imaginary) that “mostly black” schools don’t deliver quality education.

    The only way to overcome this is by actually eliminating the achievement gap, but so far nothing’s worked.

    In KCMO, educators initially believed that the best way to fix the problem was by coupling forced desegragation (i.e., bussing) with unlimited funds. Over the course of 12 years the city spent $2 billion building new schools, improving resources, bussing students and working to raise test scores.

    The result was a complete and total failure which led to increased “white flight” among those families living in the areas around the well-funded magnet schools and only minimal interest by suburban whites of enrolling their children in the magnet school system.

  7. Face it, none of the educational reforms have ever worked. “No child left behind” is an abysmal failure. Schools with integration stay, for the most part, segregated: whites hang with whites, blacks with blacks. Why? Don’t know. It’s a reality, however.

  8. From what little I know about black neighborhood schools in SF, perhaps the reason why parents don’t want their kids going to those schools hs more to do with safety and security than education.

  9. That could be, except the study notes one of the most favored schools – John Yehall Chin Elementary — is in a rough area.

    On another note, I find it curious that when we’re talking about this segregation-by-choice issue in terms of children, we condemn it and call it racism.

    Yet this morning I saw an advertisement featuring only black people & playing a hip hop song in the background. The message (regardless of what they were selling) was plainly that there IS a black culture and it IS different than a white culture and so what?

    So, how come when it’s adults it’s ok but when it’s children it’s “racism”?

  10. I suspect that the distinction really doesn’t exist. Go into the cafeterias of the well-integrated schools and observe who sits with whom. The kids voluntarily segregate.

    This occurs whether it’s an inner city public school or a highly exclusive private school. In cafeterias, dorms, extra-curricular activities.

  11. I was one of the three white kids in a “black” public school. I wouldn’t put that burden on my children. It’s awfully hard to be the only white kid, so even if the school were just as good as others, I wouldn’t choose it; not because I’m racist, but because I know my children would have to put up with the reverse racism that everyone says doesn’t exist. The down side to that is that no one sees it as a problem (the administration or media) so you basically just have to deal with it. It isn’t pretty.

  12. In the bay area, I’d say most, if not all the schools, are segregated by choice. People live near people who are like them and share their culture. There are schools out here with a high number of latinos. There are several schools public charters down the street from me that are 99% asian. There’s a private school also right down the street that is mostly Indian. People usually like what they are used to. I don’t want my kis to go to one of those schools, but it has nothing to do with racism. I don’t like the high-stress test taking 2-hours-of-homework-for-kindergarteners culture that goes along with those schools.

    To each their own. You can’t force people to not do this. It’s sort of a human thing.

  13. Oh and college credit for it?? That’s insane. I don’t think they should look at hte kid’s race (it’s not even allowed here in CA) but to give them a boost for which friends and/or school they chose? Huh?? That’s insane.

  14. Silvermine, I agree we’ve got to stop forcing social engineering. Like Carin pointed out, it doesn’t benefit those who go through it.

    Besides, as I always say, the only way to stop racial discrimination is to stop making race an issue in ANYthing. That goes for government programs that attempt to undo what people seek to accomplish.