A new student assignment plan that Boston Public Schools may adopt will have an impact on generations to come. Student assignment and busing is not a new issue in Boston. The city’s response to court ordered busing of the 1970s and its aftermath means the eyes of the nation are watching us closely today; watching to see if Boston can once and for all break free of its ugly past or whether it will be doomed to repeat history by denying children of color access to quality educational opportunities.
All parents can agree that they want their children to attend quality schools. But while there is strong sentiment by some for neighborhood schools, many neighborhoods do not have access to quality schools. Parents and community leaders have asked for Boston education officials to focus on improving quality. Will Boston finally respond to parents’ demands or will the city devise a plan that increases inequities and limits diversity?
These are critical questions in the student assignment debate in Boston, and a coalition of advocacy, civil rights, and social justice organizations, as well as parents, have come together to put them on the table. The group is calling themselves the Community Coalition for Excellence, Equity, and Engagement and includes participation from the Black Educators Alliance of Massachusetts, the Boston Busing Desegregation Project, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, Massachusetts Advocates for Children, the NAACP, ¿Oiste?, QUEST (Quality for Every Student), and the Union of Minority Neighborhoods.
The Community Coalition for Excellence, Equity, and Engagement is calling for policymakers to slow down this process and redirect energies to developing a plan that will improve school quality across the city. This is the heart of the matter, because currently there are not enough quality schools to go around. A recent analysis of the city’s proposed student assignment plans done by Harvard’s School of Education shows that as assignment zones shrink in size, choice is limited and inequities increase. This is especially true for communities of color with a concentration of poverty. So the question is: Will Boston go back to neighborhood schools (which would still be unequal), increase the number of zones (which would further limit access to high quality schools), or will Boston move forward to ensuring that all students have a fair and substantive opportunity to learn?
This is a very complex issue, and data analyses by respected researchers are being produced at breathtaking speed. Parents and others are taking it upon themselves to submit their own plans. This is too important to rush; with the nation’s eyes upon Boston, and for the sake of its children, it is important to get it right.
Don't miss Kim's appearance on the Melissa Harris-Perry show! Click below to watch her discuss access to high quality schools: