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article imageOp-Ed: School segregation proves to be an issue even today

By Ryan Hite     Jun 14, 2014 in Politics
On Tuesday, a California court struck down state teacher tenure and seniority protections as a violation of the rights of poor and minority students. This is part of a wider issue that policymakers do not understand and are afraid to take on.
The decision that will make it easier to fire bad teachers who are mostly found in high-poverty schools is being hailed as a triumph for civil rights. Bruce Reed, president of the Broad Foundation, suggested the ruling was a big victory for students of color.
Modifying teacher tenure rules is not the new Brown v. Board of Education, as Reed pointed out. The decision in Vergara v. California won’t do very much to help poor kids and is a diversion from the real source of inequality identified in the Brown case.
Racial segregation continues to plague American society and is closely coupled with income segregation. Concentrations of poverty have a lot to do with why poor and minority students often end up with the worst teachers. The best way to get rid of the problem is to take it head on, not work around it.
High-poverty schools have a hard time attracting strong teachers because they provide poor working conditions. When you pack poor kids into environments separate from affluent students, the schools in those areas have high rates of problems from all sides. In such an environment as poor schools, with little help from parents, high discipline problems, and poor nutrition, teachers feel overwhelmed by the challenge of helping large numbers of students overcome the odds against their success. As a result, strong teachers in high-poverty schools who have options for being hired often flee for middle-class schools in the first opportunity. Younger teachers who are seeking to perfect their craft want to be mentored by outstanding colleagues and they know that is more likely occur in middle-class schools.
Reforming tenure laws might make it easier to get rid of bad teachers, but it does nothing to address the ability of poor schools to attract and retain stronger teachers. As a result, even if tenure reform is successful, there is little reason to think new teachers hired in high-poverty schools will be much better than the people they replace.
How can politicians connect poor kids and good teachers? Providing financial incentives to teachers is not enticing enough for most. The most obvious way is by creating magnet and charter schools to increase competition. Rather than having a district automatically assign children to schools that mirror neighborhood segregation from an era gone by, students should be given opportunities to choose among a wide range of school options.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Segregation, school segregation, school choice, Public Schools
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