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Forsyth County: A case study in school re-segregation and the illusions of “choice”

Reporter Travis Fain had an interesting story in the Winston-Salem Journal yesterday about the re-segregation of Forsyth County’s schools that has occurred in recent decades and the illusion that “school choice” can somehow provide a remedy for this situation. Wake County and others that have not already become fully resegregated themselves should pay attention.

Here’s a powerful passage:

The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school system used to bus students across town to balance the schools. But the U.S. Supreme Court struck down those tactics in a series of decisions in the 1990s. Locally, busing was phased out starting in 1995 in favor of “choice zones,” which allow parents to choose from among multiple schools.

Racial resegregation quickly accelerated in the schools and led to concentrated poverty in certain schools.

In 17 of the school system’s 44 elementary schools, at least 89 percent of students qualified for federally subsidized free or reduced-price lunches this past school year. The phenomenon is lessened, but still obvious, in middle and high schools, which draw students from larger areas within the county.

Kimberley Park Elementary School is one of the system’s poorest schools, and roughly 98 percent of its students qualified for a lunch subsidy this year, according to statistics from the school system. Nearly 100 percent of its students were black or Hispanic this year, which is not uncommon for the school, said Principal Amber Baker.

Whitaker Elementary School is one of the system’s richest schools. About 15 percent of its students qualified for free or reduced-price lunches this past year, a significant increase from recent years, said Principal Brenda Herman. Roughly 83 percent of Whitaker’s students were white.

Partly because both principals value diversity, the schools developed a partnership two years ago. Kimberley kids took a 3.2-mile bus ride over to Whitaker. And as they turned onto Buena Vista Road, where Whitaker sits amidst some of the nicest homes in Winston-Salem, several of the children asked a question.

“They wanted to know if we were still in Winston-Salem,” Baker said.\

You can read the entire article by clicking here.

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