Published: Feb. 25, 2019
“The story of our communities can in many ways be told through the lens of the school districts that serve our children. More than organizations that enable learning, school districts are geographic boundaries that serve as magnifying lenses that allow us to focus on issues of race and wealth. They are both a statement of “what is” and “what could be” in our society.
School districts determine the extent to which we can integrate children in a classroom. Their borders can be used to either help remedy or further entrench a deep history of housing segregation. We can draw lines that equalize inherent disparities, or we can allow communities to isolate themselves behind unseen walls of wealth and prosperity—ensuring privilege remains solely within the grasp of the lucky few. Far too often, we choose the latter path.
The racial and economic segregation created by gerrymandered school district boundaries continues to divide our communities and rob our nation’s children of fundamental freedoms and opportunity. Families with money or status can retain both by drawing and upholding invisible lines. Many families do just that. This, in conjunction with housing segregation, ensures that—rather than a partial remedy—district geographies serve to further entrench society’s deep divisions of opportunity.
Good schools can’t solve structural inequality on their own, but neither can it be solved without them. Without an effective education, our children’s futures are all but guaranteed to succumb to the imposed conditions of their lineage and location. And even after Brown v Board, even after decades of school finance litigation meant to equalize the playing field, and even after accounting for wealth disparities, the wrenching reality endures—the United States still invests significantly more money to educate children in white communities.
Taken together, these facts lay bare a simple truth: We haven’t gone far enough.”