School Choice: “What if we had a Champaign Metro School District?”

I was recently sent an article about how Louisville (Kentucky) tackled desegregation:

It is a long article filled with quite a few graphics, but well worth the read, I think. Especially helpful is that it not only shines the light on a very common-sense-but-radical approach to racial relations, it also showcases some of the obstacles and problems encountered along the way. It takes the Champaign Unit 4 model and puts it on steroids and scales it out. There is also a comparison to Detroit, a city which has taken a very different path.

The article also falls in line with the current theme of posts on this blog; building community. “The only way to make people comfortable with people from different backgrounds is just to spend more time with them…”

How important is desegregation to us? Why?

Your feedback and opinions are most appreciated.


11 Responses to “School Choice: “What if we had a Champaign Metro School District?””

  1. iammartinommartino Says:

    I’d love to see a breakdown of how your district spreads its poverty out… do you have a list of schools and their representative NSLP numbers? I also think that maps like the attached are incredibly important when defining ‘community’

  2. iammartinommartino Says:

    I mean, how is this spread out across the different elementary schools. Is there a disproportionate amount of low-income students in one school?

    • charlesdschultz Says:

      Yes, in general, the schools to the north generally have a much higher population of low-income students. Here is a map of our schools that the district maintains:

      Here is one I started that I like better. 🙂

      “School Choice” specifies a target of 55% +/- 15% low income for each school. So the target minimum for low-income student population is 40% (generally the schools further south), and the target maximum is 70% (generally schools further north). Note that according to Illinois Report Card, we have some schools in excess of 80% low-income (Garden Hills and Stratton).

    • charlesdschultz Says:

      Ironically, even though we have School Choice, the school SES demographics tend to match up geographically with the city demographics (more low-ses further north). I believe this is because most parents opt to “choose” a school close to them. It would be interesting if we just removed the element of choice and assigned parents to schools based on an equal low-ses diversification weighted with proximity. I don’t feel confident that we are knowledgeable about all the variables enough to play “what if” games.

  3. Rebecca Patterson Says:

    I thought this was a really interesting story. I’m a little late commenting though. It got me to thinking about the outlying area. I lived on Rising Road in Champaign years ago so my oldest son went to Mahomet for kindergarten. Kids living close to Thomasboro go to Champaign. Savoy is a different city and they go to Champaign. We have a sprawling district. It’s not the whole county but I think that would be going to big. The other thing in the story about the property values being more stable, actually being suppressed because of the schools, I’m not sure if that’s what’s going on. There could be some white flight to the neighboring counties to get into their schools, which could be raising their property values. We’ve had some of the same thing with Savoy, Mahomet, St. Joe, etc. I remember growing up and Mahomet being completely white until one AA couple moved there. Someone burned a cross on their front lawn. That was maybe 40 years ago.

    • charlesdschultz Says:

      Rebecca, I think you make a really good point. I have read a goodly number of research papers, related books, articles and watched a couple news segments about diversity, segregation vs integration and the cross-section of education. One thing that always bugs me is that while case studies might make interesting conclusions in other cities (ie, Louisville), what about Champaign-Urbana (including those outlying areas)? It is not so much that we are different from the rest of the world, but rather every town and city offers unique mixtures of people and circumstances. Sure, we can generalize and find some commonalities, but I find myself always asking “what is really best for us (all of us, not just one or two groups)?”

      I agree we have a “sprawling district”, and I wonder how to address that. Some school districts are larger, some are larger; now I am curious what the histogram looks like. I think we have to ask ourselves “what do need?” What is the gestalt, the big picture, and how do we make it work?

      • Rebecca Patterson Says:

        My granddaughter enrolled at Uni last fall, started playing basketball, I had no idea how many private schools there are in the area. Those are families not contributing to the local “flavor” of the schools, if you will. No ideas how they are run, behavior, contacts between kids, etc. They may think they are providing a better education but will their kids have the skills to cope in a global world? What is the impact of this on the kids left behind? I’m really interested to see the long term effects on the families in Louisville and the surrounding counties through the next generation. That would tell more. Of course I may not be here then. Lol

  4. pattsi petrie Says:

    Charles, first is there a math mistake in posting #4, yours, in that the minimum ought to be 40%. Second, the best way to solve our issue is to offer economically integrated housing, not what we have now. Here is a pertinent article that I posted on facebook
    Last, but not least search the social science index for the housing research done by Len Heumann and his student along with the research done by people at the Housing Research Council.

    • charlesdschultz Says:

      Pattsi, I agree the is the current problem, but so far it has not been well addressed, neither by the powers that be nor “the people”. Schools of Choice is a workaround because of that problem. What I liked about the Louisville article is that they came together as a city to address that problem. We are a long way from that.

      And yes, thanks for pointing out that 55-15 = 40. 🙂 Ooops.

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