Last Tuesday, Seattle Public Schools (SPS) proposed a new method for student enrollment: assigning students to schools based on their addresses. SPS plans to phase in its new method over the next several years starting next fall.
Under the current system, there are no fixed boundaries. Parents and students are able to apply to any school in the district. Spots are not guaranteed. SPS hopes the new system will be greener, saving on gas costs for buses. It also says that the new system would take much of the uncertainty out of the existing process, which can be confusing.
There are a few worries about the plan. Parents wonder where the boundaries will be drawn and whether one child enrolled in school before the plan will have to attend a different school from a sibling that enrolled after the plan. In addition, the quality of education varies across the city. It has also been stated that racial diversity is not among the top goals of this plan. Officials have said that diversity is still important — but it’s not one of the preeminent goals.
In the late 1970s, SPS utilized forced busing in order to racially integrate schools. According to the Seattle Times, the district can’t base school assignments on race anymore, as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional in 2007. Since the end of forced busing, Seattle schools have re-segregated, stated the Seattle Times.
We think this new system is a step in the right direction because SPS is making efforts toward equalizing the quality of education across the district, something it has faltered on for years. Though it’s a little disheartening to read that racial diversity is not a priority of the new system, we see this as an opportunity for parents to take a more hands-on approach to their child’s schooling. On the Seattle Time’s comment board, a Seattle parent confessed that though there was the presence of diversity at his child’s elementary school, racial and income groups tended to flock together. There was no intermingling.
This shows that diversity isn’t just about fulfilling a quota. It starts at home, with parents teaching their children the importance of learning about and accepting different kinds of people. If parents don’t teach this, then their kids will continue to segregate. It is unfair of us to blame the schools for not making diversity a priority when we don’t.
If children attend schools that are in their neighborhood, where their classmates are also their neighbors, there’s a greater chance for community-building. Building more tight-knit social groups based on location may actually promote greater acceptance of diversity, especially since Seattle schools are significantly made up of people of color.
Furthermore, putting children in schools closer to their homes means there will be less time commuting on buses and possibly more time for parents and children to spend together. ♦