Choice, Competition, and the Common Good
Back in September CityLab published How America's Most Integrated School Segregated Again, a look at how West Charlotte High School, the flagship in one of the country's most desegregated school systems, has devolved through, as writer Mimi Kirk puts it, "legislation, increased inequality, and urban displacement."
Kirk examines the changes of West Charlotte High School through the lens of a newly-published book by historian Pamela Grundy: Color and Character: West Charlotte High and the American Struggle over Educational Equality.
Kirk's article is an important read all around, but this line stood out to us—for probably-obvious reasons (emphasis mine):
"I strongly believe that if you want schools to be equal, they have to be racially and economically integrated. The community as a whole has to have a stake in all the schools. But there’s so much emphasis on choice now—on making what you think is the best individual decision for your child—rather than working toward a common good. Choice and competition mainly benefit families and communities that already have resources. And there isn't much appetite at the state or federal level to pursue integration. Nor is there a desire among leaders at any level to challenge the market forces that are increasing inequality. Without some of these larger shifts, there’s a limit to what schools can do.
So, in many ways, it doesn’t seem like change is coming down the pike. But we can start with small, local efforts. For instance, the Charlotte school board recently decided to pair two sets of schools—two low poverty and two high poverty—that are relatively close to each other. In each pairing, all the students will go to one school for K-2 and the other for 3-5. Some parents will send their kids to private or charter schools to avoid the arrangement. But others will do it.
It isn’t nearly enough, but we have to start somewhere."
It's a bit of a long-read, but we hope you'll spend some time on it.
Valerie Catrow is the administrator for City Church of Richmond where she has been a member since 2008. She has been part of Common Good RVA since 2014.