Dear Commons Community,
Included in President Obama’s new budget proposal is a $120 million competitive grant program to help school districts devise and implement plans to get rich and poor children in the same classrooms. The initiative — called Stronger Together — provides funds for five-year projects to districts and groups of districts. The projects would allow schools to explore “ways to foster socioeconomic diversity through a robust process of parental, educator and community engagement, and data analysis.” As reported in The Huffington Post:
“The budget proposal comes days after former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan expressed disappointment with his inability to move the needle on the issue of school segregation during his seven years at the White House.
“I would give myself a pretty low grade on that,” Duncan told education news outlet The 74.
Duncan’s successor, John King Jr., has indicated that he will prioritize the issue of school diversity.
“In today’s economy, diversity isn’t some vague ideal. It’s a path to better outcomes for all of America’s children. And the proposal we are announcing today will help show us the most effective ways [to] meet that goal,” King wrote in a Tuesday blog post about Stronger Together.
Research from the UCLA Civil Rights Project shows that American schools have become increasingly racially segregated since the late 1960s — despite evidence showing that racially and socioeconomically integrated classrooms are academically beneficial for all children.
While most programs enforcing racial integration in schools have been dismantled, a new report from The Century Foundation shows that programs promoting socioeconomic integration in schools have been on the rise. Since 2007, the number of school districts and charter schools supporting socioeconomic integration has more than doubled, the report shows.
The White House’s proposed budget comes months after Congress passed a new major education law to replace the long-expired No Child Left Behind Act, called the Every Student Succeeds Act.”
This is a long-overdue proposal but is coming rather late in the President’s tenure. For seven years, Arne Duncan focused most of his energies on assessment, testing, Common Core and teacher evaluation. Billions of dollars were funneled through his Race to the Top initiatives but there was nothing for socioeconomic diversity. In sum, if President Obama and Arne Duncan really wanted to fund and implement socioeconomic diversity programs, they should have done so years ago.