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Reader David Moty offered up another idea about how school choice impacts integration in San Diego:
School choice may re-segregate schools, but it may help to integrate neighborhoods. Families with school-aged children who are interested in living south of 8, but were concerned about the quality of the neighborhood schools, may consider these neighborhoods knowing that they always have the school choice option. School choice means a life time housing purchase decision needn’t be based on the 12 years the children attend school.
It’s sort of a chicken-and-egg question. In San Diego, there are some neighborhoods that are more diverse than their neighborhood schools — usually because white families in the area are more likely to seek schools elsewhere. Choice has actually made the schools more segregated, not less so.
Jefferson Elementary in North Park is about 68 percent Latino, 15 percent African American and 7 percent white. If all the public school students in the neighborhood went there, Jefferson would be 50 percent Latino, 14 percent African American and 27 percent white — a much closer reflection of what San Diego Unified looks like as a whole.
Likewise, Montgomery Middle fends off the stigma of its Linda Vista location to try to draw more local families in, marketing its growing test scores, its art classes, its engineering program. If every child in the neighborhood went there, Montgomery would almost mirror the school district as a whole. But as it stands, many white families have peeled away, a pattern that Principal Jonathan Ton says is slowly changing.
“It’s all about perception,” Ton said. “We have to tell people that what was — or what was believed to be — is not what is.”
What Moty is hypothesizing is that school choice has actually paved the way for those diverse neighborhoods, even if it doesn’t always translate into diverse schools. What do you think?