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Omaha integration plan highlights challenges

Anyone who has read this blog over time knows that my librul heart bleeds for school integration, and particularly socio-economic mixing of student populations. Other bloggers and commenters here have pointed out that economically integrating schools is a sweet and quaint notion, entirely impractical in an environment where neighborhoods are segregated and local control rules the day.

And, some argue, since “no excuses” schools are proving that high-poverty student bodies can succeed under the right conditions, why batter one’s head against the brick wall of integration?

That all may be so. I believe in multiple strategies, though, so while letting a thousand “no excuses” flowers bloom, I also hope communities keep looking for creative ways to foster integration.

A new article in The American Prospect highlights one community’s push to socio-economically integrate its schools. Omaha might not seem the likeliest place to push an aggressive integration agenda, but the Learning Community program is unlike anything I’ve read about elsewhere in the country.

Yet the article sobered me instead of filling me with hope. Why? For a few reasons. First, because a set of special circumstances – heavy legal leverage over affluent suburban districts – allowed the urban district to force 1o suburban districts to form the Learning Community, and those circumstances don’t exist elsewhere. Second, even though data from the program show how successful it has been, relatively few people have chosen to participate. And finally, because the push-back against the program, and its ability to levy taxes, is likely to cause its demise sooner or later.

All we can hope for, I suppose, is that unforeseen future events will cause large numbers of people to realize that integration is in their self-interest as well as a benefit to the greater society. Until that day comes, I’m afraid widespread integration is a pipe dream.

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