In yesterday's New York Times Magazine, Emily Bazelon looks at a possible shift away from racial integration in public schools and toward attempts at race-neutral, socioeconomic diversity. But there's a problem with either approach:
Simple demographics dictate that [most large cities] hey can’t really integrate their schools at all, by either race or class. Consider the numbers for Detroit (74 percent low-income students; 91 percent black), Los Angeles (77 percent low-income; 85 percent black and Hispanic), New York City (74 percent; 63 percent), Washington (64 percent; 93 percent), Philadelphia (71 percent; 79 percent), Chicago (74 percent; 88 percent) and Boston (71 percent; 76 percent). In theory, big cities can diversify their schools by class and race by persuading many more middle-class and white parents to choose public school over private school or by combining forces with the well-heeled suburbs that surround them. But short of those developments, big cities are stuck. “The options have shrunk,” says Tom Payzant, a former superintendent of schools in Boston.
CommonWealth staff writer Gabrielle Gurley looked at the same issues from a Massachusetts perspective in "A Question of Equity," in our Winter 2008 edition.