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Jonathan Kozol has for years been one of the most important voices on the inequities in America, especially in schools.  His books Death at an Early Age, Rachel and Her Children, Savage Inequalities, Amazing Grace, and Ordinary Resurrections have raised the consciousness of those in this nation who still have a conscience. Thus when he offers a suggestion to address the problems of inner city schools, as he does today in his NY Times op ed Transferring up it behooves anyone seriously concerned about public schools to give him the courtesy of some attention.  This diary is intended to connect you with his thinking.  I will below the fold explain the issue he is attempting to address, and then give you how he proposes to address it.   Then?  Let the fur begin to fly, and have at it.

Kozol writes in the context of the recent decisions on school desegregation, something to which he remains committed.  He is writing with the reality that inner city schools are segregated by housing patterns.  

Here I note that Juan Williams, biographer of Thurgood Marshall, in an op ed on June 29th in the NY Times (now behind the subscription wall here) points out that Marshall had said

that seating black children next to white children in school had never been the point. It had been necessary only because all-white school boards were generously financing schools for white children while leaving black students in overcrowded, decrepit buildings with hand-me-down books and underpaid teachers. He had wanted black children to have the right to attend white schools as a point of leverage over the biased spending patterns of the segregationists who ran schools -- both in the 17 states where racially separate schools were required by law and in other states where they were a matter of culture.

This is relevant, because Kozol writes

Justice Anthony Kennedy opened up a new avenue for educational justice by contending that other methods of achieving integration — like revising school attendance zones — are constitutionally permissible so long as they do not sort and label individual children by race.

Kozol believes that the way to address both segregation and the inequities of public education is for the transfer provisions of NCLB to be modified.  A child in a persistently failing school is entitled to transfer to a successful school, but little use has been made of this provision, often because there is no "successful" school within the district.  Kozol proposes to address this by mandating access to cross-district transfers.  His approach is as follows:

First, states should be required to ease transfers across district lines for children now in chronically low-performing schools.

Second, schools and districts must not be permitted to reject these students so long as they have space available in existing classrooms, which most suburban districts do.

Third, states must pay the added costs incurred by the receiving districts; they must not, however, compel hard-pressed urban schools to reimburse their wealthier suburban counterparts.

Fourth, states must pay for transportation.

Fifth, in order to ease the burden on states, Congress should create a federal fund to be used to underwrite some of the costs of complying with the law.

Sixth, Congress should enact specific fiscal penalties for states that drag their heels or defy the terms of this amendment altogether.

I put this out there for discussion.  While our educational panel at Yearlykos will not specifically address No Child Left Behind, we will be addressing issues of equity.  Thus I think the four of us will be interested in how you might react to Kozol's proposals.

Let me note immediately that there is little chance of his proposals being adopted.  The House committee under George Miller is apparently very close to reporting out a bill to the floor.  From what I have seen during m y lobbying on the Senate side there would be little willingness to take this on.  Suburban districts, even with being reimbursed by the state for additional costs, would strongly resist having to take inner city kids into their schools, if for no other reason than it would represent a drop in the overall test scores compared to where they are.  

Still, I believe Kozol's proposals are worthy of some level of discussion.    So read his op ed, reflect a bit, and then offer your reactions.

If you have alternatives that can address the issue of inequality, lay them out.

I read Kozol as believing that so long as minority children can be isolated they will experience inequality that will exacerbate the extant levels of inequality.  It is a downward spiral.  He also believes there is a moral obligation not to acquiesce in the resegregation of American society.  I wonder if he is too idealistic, and I need to ponder myself the ideas he puts forth, both his analysis and his prescriptions.

What about you?

Originally posted to teacherken on Wed Jul 11, 2007 at 06:06 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  do with this what you will (8+ / 0-)

    I will check on it when I can, but I am going to be busy with other responsibilities for Yearlykos today, and will not monitor closely.  I will eventually read all comments.

    Recommend or not, comment or not, mojo on this tip jar or not, but at least read the Kozol piece and think about it.


    Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

    by teacherken on Wed Jul 11, 2007 at 06:01:13 AM PDT

  •  I changed the title to make it more information (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I just hope a few people take the time to read it.


    Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

    by teacherken on Wed Jul 11, 2007 at 06:06:14 AM PDT

  •  The mixed-up and mixed opinion (4+ / 0-)

    Kozol joins a long list of folks who are reading all sorts of silver linings into the court's decision on the two deseg cases. That's made possible by the splintered opinions.

    Unfortunately, while Kozol's idea may be feasible along the margins between one school district and another, it is HIGHLY unlikely to be used by many parents who live many miles away from suburbs.

  •  suburban districts (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, Reino

    Suburban districts would be very creative and effective when proving they have no room for the inner city students.  Back door approaches always sound better until they're attempted.  

    If you want to improve the schools, integrate the housing--racially and economically--anything less is window dressing.  Also, the cops must move drug dealing out of poor neighborhoods.  Ask any junkie, when visiting a new city, he/she goes to the ghetto to score.

    •  Only Slightly Creative (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Susan S, teacherken, melvynny

      For one thing, there's not a school in the country that hires extra teachers and has them sitting around.

      For another thing, it is very easy to account for extra space in the few schools that have it. Set up an adult education system, use it as an extra gym, expand the cafeteria, give teachers office space, etc. I think that any suburban administrator could account for extra space in under a minute.

      Kozol's proposal is a good conversation starter, but it's no more than that.

      Thompson, Giuliani, Romney, and McCain support the Son Of A Bush War

      by Reino on Wed Jul 11, 2007 at 06:47:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  How would this be done? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I'm not disagreeing with you.  I'd like to know how this would be done.

      I live in a city that is, like most, still highly segregated.  The schools are even more segregated - as a district.  Basically, white parents who live in the city send their kids to private school.

      I agree that desegregation of the housing stock is a great idea.  I wonder how that would happen.

  •  Kozol's View (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Susan S, teacherken, Gareth

    I think that Jonathan Kozol along with Peter McClaren are the most important people writing about poverty and education in America today and believe that this is where Edwards is going as well.  On one level I think Kozol is absolutely serious - he believes that a great deal of poverty is related to socio-economic segragation (which is of course tied to racism in the United States).  On the other hand Kozol knows exactly what the reaction to this suggestion will be - it will send individuals in richer school districts in to hysteria and put an end to NCLB.  Understand that many of the richest school districts are close to many of the poorest school districts - and that these areas also often times have the highest crime rate.  Liberals or conservatives in richer school districts, they will not allow this to happen (if it did happen we might finally deal with some of the invisibility of poverty).  So what Kozol is doing here is an intellectual pincer movement - he is highlighting the absurdity of NCLB (nobody would ever let what is supposedly "good" about it) and at the same time making the issue of poverty and schools and the relationship between the two very concrete.

    •  let's assume you are right on pincer movement (0+ / 0-)

      doesn't that mean he will undercut any support for continuing aid to schools with large numbers of lower socioeconomic status students?  Won't this jeopardize any remaining support for Title I?

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

      by teacherken on Wed Jul 11, 2007 at 06:21:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The situation's really complicated here (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Cleveland Heights is about 50/50 black/white. The schools are about 80/20  and have been hemorrhaging students over the last decade, primarily black middle-class students (The white middle-class students left for private school earlier). We also have the second highest school property taxes in the county, after adjoining Shaker Heights whose school system has grown. Ours has shrunk  dramatically and our secretive, arrogant, condescending Cheneyesque school board has dismissed this as a factor of a declining birth rate and insists nothing can be done to market or grow the schools, to find out why students have left and where they went and what could persuade them to come back. It's accepted decline as inevitably, although, remarkably, it wants a levy increase this November (It won't pass). The schools have gone from academic watch to continual improvement and are really better than their p.r. especially considering that many families come into Cleveland Heights from poor all-black neighborhoods in Cleveland or ultra-impoverished East Cleveland, with a grounding in their failing schools, in order to get a better education for their kids, and Cleveland Heights has not always had them that long when they are tested. The school board's attitude is that we just educate whoever shows up but don't make an attempt to serve the whole community. However, they ask the whole community to pay crushing property taxes -- and want still more. (Actually, "whole" is inaccurate. They ask those of us older residents in older housing to pony up; however, those purchasing the shiny new luxury townhouses way out of our price range have 50% 15-year tax abatements and are not guilt-tripped to give back their abatements "for the children.").

        There's a lot of talk about "regionalism" here in Cleveland but so far, it mostly seems to be Republicans and richie-rich business types talking about saving money by consolidating police and fire departments and other services. The black community is understandably suspicious, given the track record of loss of black representation wherever "rregionalism" is enacted. And there hasn't been any talk of regionalizing the school system, a step that would likely be unacceptable to higher-rated mainly white schools systems, since their test schools would likely drop.

        There would also be a transporation problem for inner city kids. Cleveland is sprawling and public transportation here is laughable. A kid from Hough or Mt. Pleasant might WANT to go to school in Solon or Rocky River but they'd have no way to get there efficiently, or in the case of Solon, at all.

        A new beginning for Ohio: The adults have taken over!

        by anastasia p on Wed Jul 11, 2007 at 11:17:51 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  It is better to send one teacher (0+ / 0-)

    than to bus eighteen to thirty students.

    The above-average-paid teachers in any SMSA should be subject to a draft system like that used by professional sports teams. Each principle of a failing school could select his teachers from the SMSA pool.

    The state could pick up half the above average salary differential, the destination district a quarter, and the Federal government the remaining quarter.

    The teacher would get a $30 per week driving allowance paid by the Federal government.

  •  My take- (0+ / 0-)

    Their is a fluidity in the law, that is sort of a double-edge sword.  Whatever is used to benefit one side, can also be used to benefit the other.  It is imperative that we find those technicalities, chinks, or alternative uses in the laws that have been written in order to use them to our advantage.

    For example, the states right mantra hailed by the right set up the opportunity for NY state to sue Ohio for environmental violations.  The same could be said for much of the written laws hailed by the right.  

    The rollback of Brown v. Board will force states to come up with their own form of diversity in eduation as we enter more and more competitive economic environment.  Vermont has gone through a drastic revamping of it's funding, (of course with the usual spoil-sports) and has turned to equal state funding for all districts.  

  •  In about 1968, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Susan S, teacherken

    I heard Kozol on a TV talk show describe William Buckley as an "evil man."  He's always been pretty much right.

  •  NCLB and Yearly Kos (0+ / 0-)

    Why do you say that NCLB will not be discussed at Yearly Kos?  Is it because you think that the law will be settled by that time?  I can not attend as I will no longer be on vacation then, but I would hope that this oppressive law will be discussed and solutions found at Yearly Kos.  

    •  Looking Forward (0+ / 0-)

      I'll try answering this for Ken. He might add to/correct what I say.

      There will be two educational discussions at YKos. The first will be a panel discussion on what should be done for our schools/educational system. NCLB will come up, since it is one of the obstacles to improvement, but the focus will be one what we should be doing. This is an important discussion, because it is much easier to agree that NCLB is crap than it is to put forth a positive vision.

      The second session will be on improving the ways to evaluate schools. It will be led by a state educational official and will focus on getting away from standardized tests. It might be more closely tied to NCLB than the first session, but it too will be more focused on improving what we have rather than exploring the problems with the current system.

      Thompson, Giuliani, Romney, and McCain support the Son Of A Bush War

      by Reino on Wed Jul 11, 2007 at 08:49:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  not led by Doug Christensen (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        it will be a discussion between two acknowledged experts, moderated by me.  Doug Christensen is the State Commissioner of Education in Nebraska, which takes a very different approach.  Sherman Dorn is an academic - he is editor of one of the principal journals on educational policy and has recently published a book called Accountability Frankenstein which is a thorough examination of the issue of accountability.

        The reality is any plan about education has to deal with accountability - K-12 education involves hundreds of billions of dollars every year.  And one needs some way of determining what students are learning, not only for accountability purposes, but for feedback for both students and teachers.  Because of the scope of this part of the educational discussion, we have broken it out into a separate session.

        Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

        by teacherken on Wed Jul 11, 2007 at 09:38:41 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Reino's response is pretty accurate (0+ / 0-)

      inevitably there will be reference to NCLB.   But we are not debating one bill on the Federal role.  Reforming education is much more than the Federal role, although we do have to discuss it.

      By Aug 3rd the House committee will have reported their version of the rewrite to the floor.  Miller is trying to get it passed by August recess, but that seems a bi unlikely right now.  The Senate version will not be out  of committee until September, as things currently look.

      I have a pretty good idea of what the House bill will look like.  There is still a lot of discussion on the Senate side.  Both are likely to move in the direction of measuring the growth of individual students rather than  comparing cohorts.  And DOE is not necessarily opposed, having agreed to allow several states to experiment with such models.

      Where NCLB will of course come up is in Saturday's discussion of assessment and accountability, since the Feds are driving the issue of accountability.  Issues of equity (Title I) and teachers will come up in Friday's discussion.   But in neither case will we be talking about the specifics of the legislation being written or going in to too much detail on the problems with the current law.

      And now I have to get back to my responsibilities for those two panels.


      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

      by teacherken on Wed Jul 11, 2007 at 09:35:15 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Kozol views detached from reality in Chicago (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Based on a limited number of data points teachers in Chicago Public Schools make more at the elementary school level than in "White" suburbs, even affluent "White" suburbs.

    And Black suburban districts are funded well, in many cases better, than adjacent "White" suburbs.

    So, Kozol's explanation may be comfortable for the Democratic Party, it isn't supported strongly by the facts.

    If you are interested in the politics of Proviso Township in Cook County, Illinois, visit Proviso Probe.

    by Carl Nyberg on Wed Jul 11, 2007 at 10:50:19 AM PDT

    •  Are You Sure? (0+ / 0-)

      The highest paying elementary school districts in Illinois are Golf, Niles, Rondout, North Shore, Gower, La Grange, Lincolnwood, and Cary. They are suburban districts that are very white and/or Asian.

      Chicago has a good salary at the bottom of the scale, but it cannot compete with wealthy suburban districts over the life of the contract.

      Thompson, Giuliani, Romney, and McCain support the Son Of A Bush War

      by Reino on Thu Jul 12, 2007 at 07:13:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  making progress on segregation (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    One observation I'd make is that even with Brown v. BOE being law, schools stayed segregated.

    Hopefully, the silver lining to the recent SCOTUS ruling is that we do a better job of providing quality education to all students.

    If you are interested in the politics of Proviso Township in Cook County, Illinois, visit Proviso Probe.

    by Carl Nyberg on Wed Jul 11, 2007 at 10:53:25 AM PDT

    •  thanks for your participation (0+ / 0-)

      always good to hear differing points of view.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

      by teacherken on Wed Jul 11, 2007 at 10:55:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  my quick take on education debate (0+ / 0-)

        Dems favor more money b/c it's a position that all parts of the Dem coalition can support.

        Republicans favor vouchers for the same reason. All parts of their coalition can support it.

        The problems facing real schools are not primarily money. But no one wants to address these thornier issues.

        IMO, liberals should shift from talking about education equality to advocating for quality.

        For "White" families in the 40th percentile they rightly fear that the easiest way to achieve "equality" is to make their children equal to Black kids. These families know rich "White" communities are still going to have good schools and that there's a lack of commitment to uplift Black students.

        So, we should be talking about what would go into a high quality public education and try to deliver this high quality education to all.

        If you are interested in the politics of Proviso Township in Cook County, Illinois, visit Proviso Probe.

        by Carl Nyberg on Wed Jul 11, 2007 at 11:05:38 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The black vs white theme that I read here (0+ / 0-)

    and elsewhere is entirely bogus. What defines "black"? If I measure the amount of pigment in my skin on a cold day in December and obtain a certain value, am I "black"? If my mother is "black", but my father is white, asian or mexican, am I "black"? How much of my gene pool needs to be characterized as "black" before I can claim to be "black".

    I saw the SCOTUS ruling as being positive and I wasn't looking for "silver linings". We desperately need to shift the approach from superficially defining characteristics (appearance, ethnic background, religion) to meaningful ones and then give them teeth. In a capitalist society, I would place economic deprivation (poverty) as the key characteristic and move from there. The observation that one ethnic or skin-color group or another tend to be over-represented in the pool of our nation's poor is irrelevant to the issue that they are poor and need a hand up.  They have less access to computer's and books, and often lack peer or parental support.  

    I'm with everybody who sees the NCLB act as a useful mechanism to help the poor break out of the cycle that leaves so many trapped. I would argue that Congressionally mandated funding (take it out of Iraq war funds) for cross-district transportation to implement the terms of NCLB would be a start. Shifting housing is nice, but that's a long term project that will go nowhere unless the route causes of poverty, including poor education, are addressed.

    Is this a "backdoor" approach? No more so than bussing children in Seattle or elsewhere on the basis of skin color. Funding issues are a big problem everywhere, but so what?  If we can fund the Bush war to the tune of 12 bn a week, we can certainly fund education.  We just need to wake up as a nation to the fact that nurturing our children and providing for their future is just a tiny little bit more important than invading other countries and killing people in the name of "national defense".

    Sorry for the long comment(s).  It must be a genetic problem...or maybe a bad education. :(

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