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Teachers College, Columbia University
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In wake of ruling, FWCS maintains commitment to racial balance

A year ago the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to strike down voluntary integration programs used in Louisville, Ky., and Seattle. The ruling did not go unnoticed at Fort Wayne Community Schools, where the racially balanced magnet school program is the result of a 1989 court settlement and looks much like the Louisville school-assignment program rejected by the divided court. The FWCS school board, in intense discussions over the district’s goals late last summer and fall, strongly reaffirmed its commitment to the spirit of the agreement with a vision statement defining the district as “the school system of choice and a source of community pride.” Its stated core values include “equity in educational opportunities” and “diversity and uniqueness of our district and community.”

But Evert Mol, a consistent critic of FWCS’ achievement record and leader of the successful effort to kill the district’s long-term building plan, is now raising questions about the school’s unique Racial Balance Fund, the foundation of its magnet program and one of the underpinnings of its integration plan. In the Code Blue Schools blog that he has continued since the remonstrance battle ended last July, Mol questioned recently why money diverted from the district’s capital projects fund to the Racial Balance Fund shouldn’t be restored and used on building improvements.

Amy Stuart Wells, professor of sociology and education at Teachers College at Columbia University, said those federal demands alone justify the district’s racial balance programs. One of the nation’s foremost experts on school segregation, she said that the programs the district is paying for with racial balance dollars represent a mix of those designed to address inequities in segregated schools. “There’s tons of research that segregation is bad,” she said in an interview. “People tend to focus on the benefits of integration, but in this period of growing inequality, separating kids compounds the inequity.”

Stuart Wells said the mixed findings on integration are primarily on short-term  reading and math scores – the very data that Mol demands. The long-term evidence of not  addressing segregation far outweighs it. In a friend of the court brief filed in the Seattle and Louisville cases, Stuart Wells cited “decades of social science research – both quantitative, survey-based research and qualitative, in-depth interview-based studies – on the long-term individual and societal benefits of integrated education.” Students of all colors benefit, she wrote, but the benefits also carry over to improving the health of our economy and democracy.

Stuart Wells notes that students in a diverse school district will have the advantage in the years ahead. The global community demands a workforce comfortable with people of all races and creeds, she said. And while she believes it is a moral imperative to provide equal opportunity, Stuart Wells also points out that there is a financial reason, as well. “There’s this huge cost to society with an inadequate education,” she said. “You pay for it in the long run in terms of lost earnings when kids don’t get the education they need

The article “In wake of ruling, FWCS maintains commitment to racial balance” appeared at June 1st in “journalgazette.net” website. http://www.journalgazette.net/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080601/EDIT10/806010360

 

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