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Teachers College, Columbia University
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Amy Stuart Wells on Reviving Idea of Blending Students from City with Suburbs

Attacking Schools Chancellor Joel Klein's position that racial integration policies are no longer necessary for city schools, a group of civil rights advocates is pointing to a "metropolitan solution" that would have students from bordering suburbs such as Westchester and Long Island share classrooms with students in the Bronx, Brooklyn, or Queens.

A Supreme Court decision last month ruled out using strict racial considerations to integrate schools, and Mr. Klein has repeatedly said racial integration is not his top priority for making schools more equitable.

The group, led by the civil rights lawyer Norman Siegel and the executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition, Michael Meyers, yesterday insisted integration remains an important and achievable goal — even in the city schools, where, as Mr. Klein has said, nearly three-quarters of students are black or Hispanic.

They pointed to a proposal floated in the early 1970s that they said suggested linking Brooklyn and Queens schools with school districts in western Long Island, and linking the Bronx with districts in southern Westchester. The proposal was tied to a state commission on education but never implemented, a member of the group, the civil rights lawyer James Meyerson, said.

Several legal and education experts yesterday said the recent Supreme Court decision does not outlaw redrawing school boundaries across municipality lines. "School districts are man-made," a professor at Columbia University's Teachers College, Amy Stuart Wells, said. "They're not laws of nature, even though we act like they are."

Wilmington
, Del., and St. Louis, Mo., pool urban and suburban neighborhoods into the same schools, Ms. Wells said.

A 2003 report by the Civil Rights Project concluded that New York schools are the most segregated in the country, and the author Jonathan Kozol has compared the city school conditions to those during South African Apartheid.

The group led by Messrs. Meyers and Siegel, which will study several integration plans, yesterday condemned Mr. Klein and Mayor Bloomberg for not voicing concern about the recent Supreme Court decision.

A spokesman for the Department of Education, Andrew Jacob, said Mr. Klein does not agree with the decision.

This article appeared in the July 12, 2007 edition of the New York Sun.

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