Throwing kids together?
Kim Burningham is turning to the age-old canard of “diversity,” a common theme among voucher opponents. As he notes in yesterday’s Salt Lake Tribune, “We are best served by schools that throw children together. . . . One of our greatest faults as a society is that we have become fragmented. Separation is not to be encouraged.” While that theme is laudable, it’s hard to see how the school system he has overseen for 8 years fulfills that mandate.
According to the Civil Rights Project, a joint project of Harvard University and UCLA, Utah’s public schools are among the most racially segregated in the country. As the table below, extracted from page 22 of their 2006 report, “Racial Transformation and the Changing Nature of Segregation,” indicates, Utah public schools are more racially isolated than all of our neighboring states except Idaho. (And no one points to any state in the intermountain west as a bastion of racial integration.)
Percent of Students in Multiracial Schools by Race, 2003-04
%American Indian in
By this measure, Utah public schools are hardly “throwing students together,” to use Mr. Burningham’s phrase. Given the way public schools are designed to stratify along economic lines, that’s hardly a surprise. The wealthy and affluent people buy houses near each other, because they can, while the rest of the community lives in the nicest neighborhood they can afford. Then public schools mimic this economic segregation by using geographic boundaries to dictate who attends which schools.
Before the complaints are lodged, we’ll clarify. We support the wonderful work Utah public schools do. They do and always will educate the vast majority of Utah students, because most Utah families are very pleased with the hard work they perform. However, it is disingenuous at best for Mr. Burningham, or any representative of Utah public schools, to criticize vouchers on the grounds of segregation, diversity or some other racial codeword. Hard geographic boundaries like those used in public schools are hardly the model for achieving it.