AEFP 44th Annual Conference Program
Chair:, Wake Forest University
Chair:, Florida State University
Chair:, University of Arkansas
Chair:, Ohio State University
Chair:, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY
Chair:, University of Tennessee
Chair:, Claremont Graduate University
Chair:, University of Iowa
Chair:, United Federation of Teachers
Chair:, George Washington University
Chair:, Manhattan Institute/Laura and John Arnold Foundation
In many parts of the country, interdistrict school segregation is an entrenched problem with policy causes that span decades. These include segregative housing policies and related residential choices; school finance regimes that incentivize narrowly drawn districts; and state policies regarding district organization and governance. As a result, school integration efforts must contend with the legacies of these policies. Any integration plan must either work within the existing constraints or tackle the policies directly, through changes to district boundaries, state finance systems, and residential school assignment patterns. This panel will discuss these issues through the case of San Antonio, Texas, a city that exemplifies both the historical and present-day challenges of segregation.
Specifically, this panel will explore the historical policies that produced the facts on the ground in San Antonio, which parallel those in cases around the country. Once such policy was the shift to local, rather than county, authority over school districts and their organization. This move, in turn, had its roots in larger policy structures: It was motivated both by neighborhood segregation (racial and class-based), which had been created and strengthened by factors such as racial restrictions in the real estate market and the placement of public housing developments, and the desire of subcommunities to retain and control local property tax revenue, which was made possible by the school finance rules that governed different school district types. Demographic and financial divides opened up between districts as a result of the changes in school district organization. Then, additional policies, such as rules regarding district mergers and changes in local taxing authority, entrenched these disparities. Years of litigation have produced some relief in the area of school finance, but little for the underlying causes of the problems.
Today, as a direct result of this policy history, the map of school districts San Antonio is fractured, segregated, and marked by significant resource inequalities. The panel will discuss the current divides in the San Antonio area, and will zoom out to show how this case is representative of a problem that repeats around the country. This portion of the panel will include a significant visual component, using school district maps to show racial composition, levels of economic need, and financial resources.
Finally, the panel will turn to San Antonio’s integration efforts today. While the district is constrained by the borders and district composition that historical policies have yielded, the district is trying to improve and to integrate using an innovative system involving both controlled choice and creative uses of student and community demographic data. The discussion will include how the district is using Census block group data to better understand what integration can mean in the city; how integration efforts can be constructed within and across district borders; and what San Antonio’s experiences can teach other areas around the country dealing with the legacies of segregative policies.