The truth about white flight from schools

A panel of educational experts says that white flight from public schools is because of racism (“How White Progressives Undermined School Integration,” The New York Times, Aug. 21).  But that was not the case in the Los Angeles Unified School District, where I taught for 28 years.

In 1970, Judge Alfred Gitelson ruled that the Los Angeles Board of Education had engaged in de jure segregation in violation of the state and federal Constitutions, and ordered the board to come up with a desegregation plan for the mammoth district, the nation’s second largest.

The initial response by most parents was positive.  But soon reports of campus disruptions and dumbed-down instruction surfaced, leading to even the most tolerant parents enrolling their children in religious and private schools.  In 1979, Proposition 1, which ended all mandatory student reassignment and busing, passed by more than two-thirds.

None of the parents involved in the exodus were racist.  On the contrary, they were progressive.  They believed in integrating schools.  But they were not willing to sacrifice the education of their own children on an ideological altar.  I don’t blame them.

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2 Replies to “The truth about white flight from schools”

  1. Wonder how much tracking there was in the desegregated LA school system? Seems that, if there was relatively extensive tracking, then there would (or at least should) have been relatively little dumbing-down of the instruction. Would still have been an increase in “campus disruptions” at some schools but conversely a decrease in “campus disruptions” at other schools + the disruptions would have been outside the classroom. Also, seems likely that, when desegregation was implemented, the school system — at least some teachers and administrators — relaxed the existing behavior/discipline standards; if so, that would likely have made disruptions more likely.

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  2. Labor Lawyer: There was little tracking when busing began. The goal was to give bused-in students the same instruction as other students. It was a big mistake because, as I wrote, parents rightly complained that their children’s instruction was dumbed down. It was not racism that impelled them to withdraw their children but concerns about educational quality.

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