NCSD Leads Comment Letter to Retain Critical School Diversity Funding in FY 2022 Budget

Over 70+ organizations and individuals joined NCSD’s recent letter urging Congress to retain funding for the Fostering Diverse Schools program in the FY 22 budget (following up on a similar letter we sent to Congress in April 2021).

The Fostering Diverse Schools program would provide $100 million for a voluntary grant program that states and school districts could apply for to help reduce racial and socioeconomic isolation in their schools. It is modeled after the Strength in Diversity Act, which passed the House of Representatives on a bipartisan basis in the 116th Congress.

Join us in advocating for Fostering Diverse Schools. Find some basic talking points here, and contact your legislators this week!

We also submitted a letter requesting that the House bring the Strength in Diversity Act (H.R. 729) to the floor for a vote.

In Memoriam: Lani Guinier

john a. powell, Othering & Belonging Institute
Lani was a close friend. I loved her mind and her. Through her work and life, she offers insight to both better understand our society and to begin to repair it. She is well known for her powerful work in voting and merit. She helped us begin to see the limits of majority rule and how we could have a voting system for institutionalized tyranny. She reminded us that saving the canary in the coal mine was about fixing the air in the mine for all of us. One of her most profound writings is demanding not just reading but studying her work on racial literacy and rejection of racial liberalism. in From Racial Liberalism to Racial Literacy she uses the limits of Brown to help us understand the complexity of race and its relationship to class and geography, she also demonstrates the failure to take seriously the needs and interests of poor white too easily lead to a racial backlash and polarization. Thank you Lani. We will miss you and continue to learn from you.

Elise Boddie, Rutgers,  Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice
Lani Guinier was a visionary “small d” democrat. She was legendary in voting rights circles, but her insights about the centrality of democracy to equality and opportunity extended well beyond voting. Her writings challenged us to think broadly about how institutions could promote democracy outside the structures of formal representation. For example, she sought to redefine “merit” by urging colleges and universities to admit students who would become engaged citizens and public-minded leaders. She argued that problems of racial injustice were a “canary in the mine” — a silent warning about systemic ills that damage the lives of so many and how repairing them would help to mend broader social fault lines. She also pushed for democracy in the law school classroom by confronting gendered instructional norms that disproportionately privileged men and silenced women. Lani Guinier was not only a brilliant lawyer and scholar; she was also a champion of democracy and a champion for people.

Susan Eaton, Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy
More than two decades ago, I scanned the small audience gathered at Harvard for a reading from my first solo-authored book. I am not always an anxious speaker, but to spot THE Lani Guinier in the second row, made my hands shake. I’d seen Professor Guinier command audiences with equal amounts intellectual gravitas and effortless charm. I’d watched her (good-naturedly) smash opponents in debates over affirmative action. I tried to read everything she wrote. I tried to write like her. After the reading, she stood in line to compliment me more generously than I suppose I felt I deserved because I had to hold back tears. We agreed to meet the following week. But after that first meeting in her office, with her wit and wisdom, our areas of disagreement, and her family photos all freely shared, she made me feel seen and valued rather than terrified. Over two decades, Lani would continue to wow me, to enthrall me and while we would never become personally close, she was always an important model for me. Several years after that reading, Lani and I would join a week-long education equity working group of a dozen or so education and legal scholars at Stanford University. Having no patience for the jargon and vagueness that permeates education-related discourse, she tore apart our words, our metaphors, our half-baked arguments, sometimes interrupting a speaker mid-sentence. It could be annoying at times, especially for academics comfy with their insider language. But Lani disarmed us with humor and imbued the group with a sense of mission, so that together, we could select exactly the right words and craft the most effective agenda-moving strategy. I think we all came to see that it wasn’t persnicketiness, but an aspiration to get to some kind of useful truth together that drove her. Lani didn’t know it, but merely by watching and reading her, by being open to her criticism and believing her praise, just by being in rooms with her, she made me a profoundly better thinker, writer, teacher, and mentor

In Memoriam: Dr. Charles V. Willie by Michael J. Alves w/ Reflections from John Brittain & Richard Kahlenberg

My dear friend and colleague, Dr. Charles V. Willie, the Charles Eliot Professor Emeritus at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a champion of equitable school desegregation, passed away on January 11, 2021, at the age of 94. As documented in his recent obituary in the Boston Globe, Chuck’s life was filled with extraordinary accomplishments and his “unconditional” love for his family, students, and even those fellow scholars and desegregation experts who did not always agree with him.

Chuck’s commitment to “justice and equality” was rooted and instilled by his parents during his upbringing in the segregated city of Dallas Texas. Chuck was also greatly influenced by his friend and classmate at Morehouse College, Martin Luther King. And Chuck carried his passion and faith for justice into the hierarchy of the Episcopal Church when he championed the righteous cause of the church ordaining women priests.

My decision to ask Dr. Willie to be my advisor was based on his longstanding belief and commitment to desegregation and his real experience as a desegregation activist and staunch advocate for justice and fairness that included his service as a court-appointed Master by Judge Arthur W. Garrity in the Boston desegregation case. Chuck’s role as a Master in the Boston case and his advocacy for magnet schools along with his fellow Master Francis Kepple who was a former Dean at HGSE and President Kennedy’s U.S. Commissioner of Education, helped to inspire the creation of the Cambridge choice plan which sought to make all schools magnetic desegregating schools of choice.

Under the Cambridge Plan, the District abolished all of its school attendance boundaries and made all of its thirteen K-8 schools desegregating schools of choice. The most controversial elements of the Plan were instituting universal public school choice and allowing all the students that would be enrolled in grades 1-8 the following school year to remain in their assigned schools with only the newly enrolling Kindergarten and students seeking to voluntary transfer subject to desegregation, which was defined as a +/- 5% white and racial minority variance from the District as a whole. This so-called “grandfathering” provision was a key element in the Plan that defused community conflict and preempted the kind of white and middle-class flight that plagued the Boston Public Schools.

Despite the universal choice plan’s success in Cambridge, there was considerable doubt among civil rights lawyers and desegregation experts that such a student assignment plan would ever work elsewhere given the fact that Cambridge, Massachusetts was perceived as an ultra-liberal city of just 6 square miles with only one high school and thirteen K-8 grammar schools that had a pro-desegregation State Department of Education.

My professional collaboration with Dr. Willie as co-desegregation planners officially began in 1985 when we designed what we called a “controlled choice” student assignment plan for the Plaintiffs in the San Jose federal desegregation case that was based primarily on the Cambridge choice plan. The challenge in San Jose was the geographic size and elongated configuration of the District that enrolled nearly 30,000 students from grades K-12 in six high schools, seven middle schools, and 23 elementary schools, which was demonstrably different from Cambridge.

In response to these challenges, we subdivided the San Jose Unified School District into three contiguous and demographically equivalent K-12 school choice attendance zones with five districtwide magnet schools. The plan grandfathered students into their assigned schools and required that all newly enrolling students in Kindergarten, Grade 6, and Grade 9, which were the entry-grades for the Districts’ elementary, middle, and high schools, and students seeking to transfer to another school be assigned to a desegregating school of choice in their zone or to a districtwide magnet school. Parents could select at least three schools by ranked preference and all assignments would be made to achieve a +/- 5% desegregation variance. The plan was approved by the federal court and later enabled the District to achieve unitary status.

The success of the San Jose “controlled choice” plan launched a 25-year collaboration between Willie and Alves as co-desegregation planners that resulted in the development of race-conscious, controlled-choice desegregation and school improvement plans in numerous school districts throughout the United States including Little Rock AK, Seattle WA, Boston MA, St. Lucie FL, Milwaukee WI, Lee County FL, Brockton MA, and Rockford IL. Our journey also included an innovative socioeconomic desegregation plan for Charleston SC and the honor of serving as the original desegregation planning experts for John Britain and his legal team in the Sheff inter-district magnet schools state desegregation case in Connecticut.

Together we authored two books: Controlled Choice: A New Approach to Desegregated Education and School Improvement in 1996 and Student Diversity, Choice, and School Improvement in 2002 with our colleague Ralph Edwards as well as numerous reports and journal articles. While Dr. Willie achieved a great legacy in promoting desegregation plans that were simultaneously effective, fair, and educationally sound and he was a true believer in the power of unconditional love, he was exasperated by the Supreme Court’s gutting of our race-conscious controlled choice in Seattle in 2008, twenty-two years after it was voluntarily approved and successfully implemented. He was equally exasperated when a new Mayoral appointed Boston School Committee effectively dismantled our inherently fair and educationally progressive controlled choice plan in 2001.

Despite these setbacks, the legacy of Charles Willie will live on for the believers in justice and fairness for all school children and their families. Although the Supreme Court has attempted to undermine Chuck’s advocacy for racial desegregation, his legacy lives on through the development of racially desegregative multifaceted controlled choice socioeconomic student assignment plans that are currently being implemented throughout the country that include the new Sheff multifaceted socioeconomic inter-district student desegregation plan that is being implemented in Connecticut.

Finally on a personal note, I will always remember the true essence of Charles Willie when he sang the iconic song Nature Boy as a blessing for me and my wife Ann at our wedding with the eternally true final lyric “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”

Godspeed, dear friend.


John C. Brittain: As a law professor and civil rights lawyer who worked with Dr. Charles “Chuck” Willie as an expert in school desegregation cases, including the Connecticut landmark Sheff v. O’Neill case where Dr. Willie testified in the trial, I highly applaud his tremendous achievements in school equality. However, I choose to honor the legacy of Dr. Willie who fought for equality in The Episcopal Church.

As an African American, I grew up in a high Episcopal Church in Norwalk, Connecticut serving as an acolyte and thurifer who swung the canister filled with smoke from burning incense during services. The churches were nearly all-White throughout the New England states. However, during my matriculation at Howard University from 1962 (BA) to 1969 (JD), I learned to appreciate the civil rights struggle within the Episcopal Church featuring Reverend Pauli Murray, the first ordained Black female priest in 1977, whom I first met at Howard Law School, and Reverend Quinland Gordon, a Black office holder on the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church, who married my wife and I.

The work of Dr. Willie and many Episcopalians paved the way to The Episcopal Church to elect Michael Curry, the first African American presiding bishop in 2015. May God bless you, Chuck.

Richard Kahlenberg: Chuck Willie always believed in his bones that the cause of racial and economic school desegregation is just. And because it is just, he thought it was incumbent on everyone to figure out ways to make it a reality by reducing political opposition. Willie and his colleague Michael Alves came up with a brilliant answer to the unpopularity of compulsory bussing: marry the attractive idea of public school choice to equity goals. Thousands of school children are better off because of this shrewd innovation and many more will be if additional school districts adopt their approach.

We're looking for a graphic designer...

Request for Proposals: Graphic Designer for “School Integration Milestones, Anniversaries, and Significant People” Communications Campaign (Deadline: December 14, 2021)

The National Coalition on School Diversity (NCSD) seeks a consultant experienced in graphic design, especially in the context of racial/social justice, to create communications pieces about significant milestones, anniversaries, people, etc., related to school integration. The pieces will be primarily used on social media platforms. We expect them to ultimately be engaging, informative, and consistent with themes and styles outlined in NCSD’s style guide and other key materials. Candidates should possess the expertise and willingness to engage meaningfully with the substance and offer ideas about copy and presentation.

View the RFP:

Video: School Discipline + (De)segregation (10/20/21)

On 10/20, we hosted  Kristin Henning, Matt Kautz, and Jason Nance for a cross-movement conversation about school discipline and (de)segregation, moderated by Olatunde C. Johnson.

About the panelists:

Kristin Henning is the Blume Professor of Law and Director of the Juvenile Justice Clinic and Initiative at Georgetown Law, where she and her law students represent youth accused of delinquency in Washington, DC. Kris was previously the Lead Attorney for the Juvenile Unit of the D.C. Public Defender Service and is currently the Director of the Mid-Atlantic Juvenile Defender Center. Kris has trained state actors across the country on the impact of racial bias and trauma in the juvenile and criminal legal systems. Her workshops help stakeholders recognize their own biases and develop strategies to counter them. Kris also worked closely with the McArthur Foundation’s Juvenile Indigent Defense Action Network to develop a 41-volume Juvenile Training Immersion Program (JTIP), a national training curriculum for juvenile defenders. She now co-hosts, with the National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC), an annual week-long JTIP summer academy for trial lawyers and a series of “Train the Trainer” programs for experienced defenders. In 2019, Kris partnered with NJDC to launch a Racial Justice Toolkit for youth advocates, and again in 2020, to launch the Ambassadors for Racial Justice program, a year-long program for juvenile defenders committed to challenging racial injustice in the juvenile legal system through litigation and systemic reform. Kris writes extensively about race, adolescence, and policing. Her new book, The Rage of Innocence: How America Criminalizes Black Youth, will be released by Penguin Random House in 2021.

Learn more: Cops at the schoolyard gate (Vox,

Matt Kautz is a PhD candidate in the History and Education program at Teachers College, Columbia University. His research studies changes in school discipline policy during the era of desegregation and its connections to concurrent changes in law enforcement. His work documents how school disciplinary policies. Prior to pursuing his doctorate, Matt was a high school teacher in Detroit, MI and Chicago, IL.

Learn more: Arrested Development: How Police Ended Up in Schools (Have You Heard podcast)

Jason P. Nance is the Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development and Professor of Law at the University of Florida Levin College of Law. He teaches education law, remedies, torts, and introduction to the legal profession. He focuses his research and writing on racial inequalities in public education, cognitive biases and their effects on education systems, the intersection of criminal justice and public education, and the legal profession. Professor Nance also served as the reporter for the American Bar Association’s Joint Task Force on Reversing the School-to-Prison Pipeline, where he co-authored a report and proposed resolutions that the ABA adopted to help dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline nationwide. In addition to earning a J.D. at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Professor Nance has a Ph.D. in Education Administration from the Ohio State University, where he also focused on empirical methodology. Before attending graduate school and law school, Professor Nance was a public school math teacher in a large, metropolitan school district.

Learn more: Student Surveillance, Racial Inequalities, and Implicit Racial Bias

About the moderator:

Olatunde C. Johnson is the Jerome B. Sherman Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, where she teaches legislation and civil procedure and writes about modern civil rights legislation, congressional power, and innovations to address discrimination and inequality in the United States. Johnson clerked for David Tatel on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and for Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court. From 2001 to 2003, Johnson served as constitutional and civil rights counsel to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Prior to that, Professor Johnson worked at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF), where she conducted trial and appellate level litigation to promote racial and ethnic equity in employment, health, and higher education. Professor Johnson graduated in 1995 from Stanford Law School where she was Order of the Coif, and received her B.A. in Literature Cum Laude from Yale University in 1989. She serves as the board chair for the Poverty and Race Research Action Council (PRRAC), where NCSD is housed.

New NCSD Report

Just in time for the anniversary of Brown, our new brief, Which Districts Might Benefit from the Strength in Diversity Act: A Look into the Most Diverse, But Segregated, Large School Districts in the United States, provides an analysis of fourth-grade student data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to demonstrate the need and tremendous potential for the Strength in Diversity Act to help advance integration and educational equity in districts across the country. Specifically, we examined diversity and segregation in public school districts with more than 5,000 students, allowing us to identify school districts that underperform on integration in their schools, despite having a diverse district-wide student population.

The #50State Conversation is HERE!

Our 50 State Conversation about segregation and educational inequality is here! Join us on May 17 (the anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education) at 8pm ET. Hosted by NCSD, in collaboration with Epic Theatre Ensemble and Dodd Human Rights Impact (UCONN). If you haven’t had a chance to see Nothing About Us, we’ll be screening that at 7:15pm ET on May 17th. NOTHING ABOUT US is a rigorous, passionate and hilarious exploration of educational segregation written and performed by those most affected and least consulted: NYC Public High School students. What does separate but equal mean to us today? Running time: 30 minutes.

Agenda (8pm ET):
-Roll Call and video of student work from Boston, MA; Boise, ID; Tukwila, WA; Cincinnati, OH
-Panel discussion with Epic Theatre students (Hailey Petrus, Luan Taveras, Lizette Padua)
-Presentations from Washington, DC and Montana
-Remarks from Donna Harris-Aikens (Senior Advisor for Policy and Planning, U.S. Dep’t of Education)
-Action steps and wrap-up

Register and more info:

Press Release: Education and Civil Rights Groups Urge Congress to Use the Federal Budget to Increase Access to Integrated and Inclusive Schools

Public Schools are Resegregating at Alarming Rates, Leaving Behind the Tremendous Benefits That Come with Diversity

April 26, 2021

Congress must use the fiscal year 2022 budget to support communities in their efforts to develop and implement strategies that promote racial and socioeconomic integration in their public schools, and direct the Department of Education to issue guidance that federal funding can be used for integration, a letter sent to several congressional leaders today says. As our nation becomes increasingly diverse, it is imperative that our school districts keep pace by promoting school integration and its tremendous benefits. The U.S. Department of Education should issue guidance that federal funding can be used for integration.

“Over the past few years, locally-led integration movements have emerged across the country,” said Gina Chirichigno, director of the National Coalition on School Diversity (NCSD). “As they develop, stakeholders need adequate resourcing and support to do this challenging work well. We urge Congress to take another step toward providing communities with the assistance they need, for the benefit of our students and our society.”

The letter, signed by 40 organizations, specifically asks Congress to:
    • Increase funding for the Magnet Schools Assistance Program to at least $500 million, a five-fold increase from the FY 2021 budget;
    • Allocate $120 million for a grant program that would support locally-led efforts to develop comprehensive strategies that promote racial and socioeconomic school integration;
    • Build upon its action in December to strike the last standing prohibition on the use of federal funds for transportation to support school integration, by directing the U.S. Department of Education to release guidance that would make states, districts, and communities aware of this change that unlocks long-standing federal programs and funding sources that can be used to support integrated and inclusive school environments through school transportation; and
    • Remind states and districts that the Elementary and Secondary Education Act school improvement funds can be used to support school integration.
“We are at a pivotal moment in our nation’s history, and integrated and inclusive schools that will reduce tokenism, break-down stereotypes, and produce cross-cultural understanding and friendships are vital to furthering racial equity,” said David Hinojosa, director of the Educational Opportunities Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “It has been proven that equal educational opportunity is key to ending structural racism and systemic inequality. Congress must use the federal budget to promote the strength of our diversity and help deconstruct systemic barriers to opportunity.”

Today, many of our nation’s schools are resegregating at alarming rates, and many students are missing out on the numerous advantages that come with an inclusive and integrated classroom environment. Research shows that higher educational achievement, increased civic participation, and more advanced social and historical thinking are all achieved with an integrated environment. School segregation reinforces inequities, and disproportionately deprives students of color of the critical resources and supports that are needed.

ConstantContact version is here.

“Nothing About Us” – April 17th Screening

Our next screening of Epic Theatre Ensemble’s virtual play, Nothing About Us, will take place on April 17, 2021 at 3pm ET.

Learn more and register here. You can also contact Jim Wallert at
Our monthly screenings lead up to our 50 State Conversation about segregation and educational inequality on May 17 (the anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education). Hosted by NCSD, in collaboration with Epic Theatre Ensemble and Dodd Human Rights Impact (UCONN).

About the play: NOTHING ABOUT US is a rigorous, passionate and hilarious exploration of educational segregation written and performed by those most affected and least consulted: NYC Public High School students. What does separate but equal mean to us today? Running time: 30 minutes.

50 State Conversation on May 17, 2021

On May 17, the anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, take part in a conversation about segregation with participants from all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, DC. Hosted by NCSD, in collaboration with Epic Theatre Ensemble and Dodd Human Rights Impact (UCONN).

Our dialogue will center around Epic Theatre Ensemble’s film NOTHING ABOUT US.

NOTHING ABOUT US is a rigorous, passionate and hilarious exploration of educational segregation written and performed by those most affected and least consulted: NYC Public High School students. What does separate but equal mean to us today? Running time: 30 minutes.

Watch the trailer here:

How you can help:
  • We’re seeking audience members, promoters, co-hosts, and creators (described here) across the country.
  • Connect us with with drama teachers, community theaters, and arts organizations in your state.
  • Share this information with your network.
Learn more and register here. You can also contact Jim Wallert at