In February 2019 the National Coalition on School Diversity (NCSD) formally outlined ten policy proposals to curb segregation in schools. A School Integration Policy Agenda for 2019 and Beyond examines how legislation and regulatory proposals on the local, state and federal levels can bring integration to education and provides recommendations the federal government can take to increase diversity in schools.

Recent studies at leading universities have demonstrated that shifts in the Department of Education policies will likely contribute to increasing segregation of public schools and more troubling practices wherein schools are opting out of their districts. The tony suburb of Gardendale in Alabama has been on a six-year-long effort to opt out of its district— attempting to separate its public school system from the larger, Jefferson County. It’s no coincidence that African American students outnumber white students by several thousand in Jefferson County.

Gardendale is no anomaly, however. Since 2000, there have been 73 communities nationwide that have successfully opted out of their district.  As an abundance of research shows, students are in classroom settings that are as segregated as they were in the 1970s. Therefore, the initiatives outlined in the NCSD’s latest report carry substantial weight, given that efforts to desegregate are being reversed, not supported.

The Institute for Social Progress at Wayne County Community College District is a member of the NSCD, and we understand the importance of NCSD’s 2019 agenda. One legislative proposal, Increase Magnet Schools Assistance Program funding, is looking to do just that — increase funding for magnet schools through grant programs. These funds support magnet schools, which enroll a higher percentage of low-income students and are more racially diverse than public schools. The Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP) is the only federal education grant designed specifically to address racial diversity at the classroom level, through multi-year grants in local school districts. Since magnet schools are administered through local public school districts, there is accountability to the communities in which they reside.

The National Coalition on School Diversity’s legislative proposal is suggesting Congress and the president increase funding to $117 million for magnet schools. As the only federal grant program that directly addresses integration in the classroom through grant funding, ISP fully supports this proposal.

In 2018, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) eliminated supplemental priorities that dealt with racial and socioeconomic diversity in public schooling. In response, one of NCSD’s regulatory proposals is asking the federal government to Reinstate priorities for socioeconomic and racial diversity for competitive grant programs in the Department of Education. These priorities should be reinstated because they would give an advantage to state and local district funding proposals that deal with diversity. The relevance of this regulatory proposal could not come at a more appropriate time. Given this, ED should be reinstating priorities for racial diversity in the classroom, not pushing these issues aside.

A diverse learning environment has proven benefits with results that carry into adulthood — in the neighborhood, workplace, etc. The Institute for Social Progress applauds NCSD’s work to address integration in education through the ten legislative and regulatory proposals.