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?