When the Fences Come Down: Twenty-First-Century Lessons from Metropolitan School Desegregation

By Genevieve Siegel-Hawley | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE
The Choice Conundrum
Challenges and Opportunities for Voluntary
School Desegregation Policy

The New Kent County freedom of choice plan is not acceptable,
it has not dismantled the dual system, but has operated simply
to burden students and their parents with a responsibility that
Brown II placed squarely on the School Board.

—GREEN V. NEW KEW COUNTY, 1968

The most compelling civil rights issue of the 21st century is the
need to expand school choice and educational options.

—SENATOR TED CRUZ, 2014

Parents’ confidence in the public school system is in shambles. It’s
crumbled. So parents are trying to pick among the ruins to find
the school districts they believe represent a decent chance for their
children to make it safely through school. … Zip codes should not
act as barbed-wire fences to keep out children whose parents can-
not afford homes in that district. … Decouple school assignment
and zip code … then the economic pressure on families would be
released almost immediately.

—SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN (compiled from
various sources)

To understand how the past record of school choice relates to segregation, look no further than to the immediate aftermath of two pivotal school desegregation rulings. School choice designed to resist desegregation was largely forged in the wake of Brown, just as school choice designed to promote desegregation was largely forged in the wake of Milliken. Archsegregationists opposing Brown used freedom-of-choice plans and private school vouchers to help white families skirt desegregation requirements. Civil rights advocates confronting Milliken’s calcified urban-suburban boundary lines expanded choice-based magnet schools to retain and attract white and middle-class families in swiftly resegregating central

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