Policy Brief: Model State School Integration Policies

As educators across the country make a valiant effort to meet the needs of their students in response to the coronavirus crisis, the educational impacts of disparities in family resources and school funding are apparent. The crisis also reminds us of the many roles that schools play beyond academics. When students eventually return to school, will we merely continue our current policies, or might we make some progress in developing a fairer public school system, including, potentially, a more integrated one? Our movement’s leading thinkers are pushing us to face this question squarely (more on that here).

State governments are in the best position to reverse the tide of increasing racial and socioeconomic segregation in our public schools if the political will is present. The federal government, through the Every Student Succeeds Act (“ESSA”), provides significant compensatory funding for lower-income schools in Title I. Related sections of ESSA can also provide funding incentives for school integration, as could Congress. But for the past few decades, Congress has been reluctant to impose any real accountability for integration on state and local governments. This leaves a very large policy vacuum for state governments to fill.

Our model state school integration policies represent small but meaningful steps that state legislatures can take to begin to bring students and communities back together. These policies would begin to provide greater flexibility and support for districts that understand the value of racial and socioeconomic integration, and greater accountability for segregation both within and across districts. They propose funding for a variety of voluntary integration efforts, put stronger limits on school district secession, require assessments of the segregation impacts of significant capital investments, and institute systems of measurement for school segregation-something only a handful of states currently require.

As we wait to reboot “live” K-12 education, we urge state policymakers to put education policies in place that embody the lessons the COVID-19 crisis implores us to confront- we are interdependent and our fates interconnected, but we still have a lot of work to do to actualize a just, inclusive society.

Check out this piece from the School Diversity Notebook summarizing the policy brief.

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