Punctuating my previous commentary about perceptions of racism in America, I read an AP story today about the U.S. Supreme Court reviewing a case against Seattle School District 1, "asking whether Seattle's 'Open Choice' program is an acceptable move toward student diversity or another name for illegal racial quotas."
Seattle parents sued after their children were denied admission to the schools they preferred because of their race. In Seattle, students can request which high schools they want to attend, and the school district either honors or denies their request based on a number of factors, including race. The good-intentioned school district attempts to create racially diverse environments at its high schools by maintaining unspoken racial quotas, and overcompensating for society's racial divisions.
The problem with the school district is that its unspoken quotas are so low that they're noticable, which is why the Supreme Court will rule against the school district.
Rainier Beach High School (Dad's old stomping grounds) is something like 93% minority (this obviously doesn't reflect the surrounding community, which includes a sizable white, Jewish population). There's (literally) a handful of white students who request to go to Ballard High School, end up at Rainier Beach and then wonder why. Well, it's because Rainier Beach needs some white students and the school district's done such a poor job with its Open Choice program and maintaining higher, unspoken quotas (say 50/50ish?) that it's noticable the only reason the white students are attending Rainier Beach is because they're white. The same thing happens to the few black kids or Hispanic students at Ballard.
Instead of encouraging diverse educational backgrounds, the Open Choice program is backfiring. It's creating segregation. Students will choose to go to the same schools as their friends, and the cold truth is that most people associate themselves with people of their own race.
The best thing the school district can do is end the program and go back to drawing neighborhood boundaries so that students attend their local high schools. I know parts of the city are more racially diverse than others, but this will create a more diverse academic environment than the failed Open Choice program.
The school district should be responsible for equally funding high schools and attracting qualified and talented educators, not overcompensating for the way society divides itself. The school district needs to stop wasting money busing students across this city to falsely promote diversity and spend that money on the technology and resources that will help students achieve success at their local high schools.