Schools, Segregation, COVID

Just Economy Conference – May 11, 2021


When the country went on lockdown, schools and districts across the U.S. scrambled to pivot to virtual-only learning. The lack of resources to make that massive shift happen only amplified what many in education and community development already know — that even 65 years since Brown v. the Board of Education, America’s schools and neighborhoods are still segregated. The racial achievement gap has yet to be closed, zip codes are determinants of educational success and opportunity is isolated, at best. As many parents grappling with schooling during COVID may attest, the struggle between being a “good parent” and being a good citizen, is all too real.

Communities face difficult decisions and confront old patterns as they return to school planning. Rich, White schools and neighborhoods forge ahead in resources and opportunity, while Black and Brown schools and neighborhoods flounder.

Join this engaging, potentially uncomfortable panel discussion with community development professionals, education researchers and civil advocates experts on the fractured nature of neighborhoods and public education, promising efforts around integration and the role of community development in expanding opportunity as we navigate schooling in the pandemic and beyond.


  • Tomas Monarrez, Research Associate, Urban Institute
  • Mathew Palmer, Executive Director, School Planning, Durham Public Schools
  • Dan Reed, Writer + Urban Planner, Just Up The Pike
  • Ananya Tadikonda, Former Student Member, Montgomery County Board of Education
  • Karen Kali, Senior Program Manager, NCRC


NCRC video transcripts are produced by a third-party transcription service and may contain errors. They are lightly edited for style and clarity.

Kali 00:02 

Hi, everyone, thank you so much for joining us today for this session, School, Segregation, COVID, is part of NCRC is just economy conference. I’m Karen Kali, Senior Program Manager here at NCRC. If you joined us last week for the start of the conference, we had the pleasure of having Nicole Hannah Jones, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, The New York Times as a keynote speaker. And she said something that’s sort of been sticking with me this past week, she said in response to a question that was asked to her around segregation in schools and the possibility of integration, and I am definitely paraphrasing here. But she responded by saying, We’ve never had a society where white Americans truly want to integrate schools. They say they do, but their actions don’t match up. And that’s, that’s my observation on schools and neighborhoods just sort of sit with for a little bit. I think that, you know, certainly she began the conversation for us last week, and today, we’ll move a little bit further in the dialogue. And, you know, we certainly won’t solve school and neighborhood segregation today. And some of the discussion, you know, frankly, may be a little uncomfortable. But I think that’s part of the process of getting to a better place within our communities. I think that anytime that we dissect issues or you know, concerns that are especially about children, there tend to be a lot of feelings involved. And that definitely makes sense. I certainly have those feelings to parent and as someone who really believes in the power of local schools as a foundation for opportunity. So with that, let me introduce our moderator today, Dan Reed, who’s going to help us walk through the conversation today. Dan Reed is a writer who’s worked with appeared in The New York Times, city lab, architect, magazine, and others. Dan is an urban planner, working with communities all over the United States, and is also a blogger and popular local blog, called just up the pike, a longtime community advocate. And coincidentally, Dan is also my neighbor, which is pretty exciting. And so in all seriousness, this is, you know, a very important conversation around Communities in Schools and neighborhoods aggregation and the impact, right that there is or can be on educational opportunity, and wealth and allocation of resources, and so much more. So thank you, Dan, for leading us through this discussion today. And I look forward to the conversation that we’ll have with our panelists, and I’ll turn it over to you now. Thanks, Dan.  

Reed 02:31 

Awesome. Thank you so much, Karen, for introducing me. I’m really excited to be here. As Karen said, my name is Dan Reed. I’ll be moderating today’s session. And I want to first off to set the level. We’re going to have sort of an open conversation between the panelists and then shift to q&a afterwards. And to kick it off, we’re going to have a presentation from one of our panelists. So first, I’m going to introduce our panelists. Joining us today are Ananya Tadikonda. She is a sophomore at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and was a former montgomery county maryland student Board of Education member. Thanks for being here. We’ve also got Matthew Palmer. He is the executive director of school planning for the Durham public schools. And finally, Tomas Monarrez, a research associate in the center on education data and policy at the Urban Institute who’s going to kick things off with the presentation about school segregation. Thank you so much for being here. 

Monarrez 03:35 

I thank you, Dan. Okay, should I begin with my presentation? 

Reed 03:43 


Monarrez 03:45 

Okay, wonderful. Let me go ahead and begin my slideshow. Can’t really see my slides right now team. Oh, sorry, everybody.  One. Let me try it again. Okay, great, everybody, I can’t really see you. So if you give me a sound cue, that’d be great. I’m going to assume you can hear me. Yeah. Okay. So I want to talk a little bit about school and neighborhood segregation and its causes of this old social bill. And I’m gonna make this pretty quick. So it’s gonna be a little fast. But you know, you can’t really begin this conversation without a little bit of antecedents regarding history. So we all know in this room that you know, the United States was founded under an economic system 

Reed 04:56 

We can’t see your screen yet. Yes. I’m sorry.  

Monarrez 04:58 

You can’t see it?  

Reed 04:59 


Monarrez 05:01 

Okay. I can see it. I’m sorry.  

Reed 05:10 

These are weird times. And we’re all still figuring it out. 


And you see me?  

Reed 05:16 


Monarrez 05:18 

I just click slideshow again. 

Reed 05:21 

If you hit share at the bottom of your screen. 

Monarrez 05:36 

I’m sorry, y’all. I thought I had already shared this. Okay. My bad. Cuz you’re gonna reshare it. Okay. 

Reed 05:55 

All right. There we go. 

Monarrez 05:57 

Okay. Okay, going back to full screen. Give me a second. You see it? 

Reed 06:04 

Yes. You just need to do fullscreen. Oh, no, it’s gone. 

Monarrez 06:11 

It’s gone?  

Reed 06:12 


Monarrez 06:13 

It’s going when I go to full screen. Wow. So I guess I’m just not going to go fullscreen. 

Reed 06:22 

Yeah, I think I think that’s fine. 

Monarrez 06:26 

That’s annoying. Okay, so now I’m going to reshare again. That Okay, everyone. 

Reed 06:44 


Monarrez 06:45 

Okay. Yeah, I don’t use PowerPoint. Usually, I use latex anyway. So history is really important when we’re talking about this stuff. This country began with slavery with an economic system of slavery based on race, based on the color of your skin. When that system ended, that was replaced by a, you know, system of systematic racially explicit discrimination, both by government and by private entities. It was the birth of segregation as we know it today, because it was, you know, the episodes that brought the great migration, the proliferation of the black and brown population, across cities in the US, the hlcs, famous redlining maps that we hear so much about today, restrictive covenants prohibiting brown people from moving into certain neighborhoods, and, of course, a lot of racial violence, high of the most horrible kind that you can think of, in the 1970s 50s. You have a civil rights movement that brought a reform, right, a set of reforms and segregation began to decline. A lot of that school segregation decline was due to the supreme court orders and Supreme Court decisions that spurred school desegregation. However, in the 1980s and 90s, there was this reversal, right? The government completely retreated from its integration efforts. And well, not perhaps not completely, but almost completely. And the Supreme Court decisions have really, in the recent years altered the basis of these desegregation policies, such that nowadays, if one wants to bring forth a case of civil rights violations in terms of school segregation, one needs to prove the existence of explicit racial discrimination. And it’s sort of the birth of this veiled racial discrimination where we all know it’s about race, but race isn’t actually mentioned. Right. So all of that is to say that segregation is still with us today. So here’s a little bit of data on that showing you from 1995 to 2015, how the average sort of composition of classmates has changed over time, right. And the key thing that I want you to get from this picture is that even though when we talk about segregation, things are always you know, about, you know, underserved by Black students are black and Hispanic students and margin other marginalized populations. What we see in this graph is this big blue bar. Is that sort of the most racially isolated group in the country. It’s not black students. It’s not Hispanic students, it’s white students. Okay, so 80, more than 80% of white students, classmates in 1995 were white themselves. And that has only dropped to about maybe 75 73% by 2015. Right? If you compare that to the isolation of black students, which is this white, sorry, this yellow bar right here, that has stayed around the same size over time, Hispanic students are around the same level of isolation, maybe increasing slightly, right. But this whole story of segregation today really is a story about sort of white students kind of like hiding themselves in some ways in districts that are more wider than a disproportionately white than the city schools that are disproportionately wide relative to the district. And that’s what I want to talk about really quickly right now. So what perpetuates segregation today, individual choices. Yes. And I think that’s the thing that Nicole Hannah Jones was very right about to bring up last time. But I would argue that for too long, that has been sort of the only focus choices, right? And people vote with their feet wide flied people will leave if you try to integrate them. I’m not saying those forces aren’t the case and that they are very strong they are, you know, we know, whitefly took place in the 1970s. We know families keep schools in mind when they look for housing. And we know that unfortunately, you know, racial and socio-economic composition of schools is sort of taken as a proxy of school quality, right? That’s kind of like the best way to dress that correlation. It could just be racism, but I individual choices really matter in this space. I’m not saying they don’t. But institutions and policies do as well. And that’s the thing that I think gets overlooked a lot. And even now, when we talk about redlining, it’s like, oh, it’s in the 1930s. So long ago, it’s not right. So what I’m about to show you really fast here in the next four minutes, is that there’s a lot of institutions in place right now, policies in place right now that set the rules, so that so that segregation is the most natural thing that could happen, right. And I argue that the role of institution and policy should be to do the opposite. So that the default, the most natural thing that could happen if you just let things sort of take place would be integration, not segregation. Right. So how do we think about that? Let me show you a few maps here. So here’s a map of Detroit. And there’s two districts in Detroit. This is in the metro area of Detroit, you know, dense, densely populated area. And you have two districts, two cities, actually, Detroit and Grosse Pointe Park. And what I’m showing you here is just the racial composition of census blocks nearby, the boundary between these two cities, and your eyes can probably immediately tell you that there’s a vast difference between these two cities, and they’re right next door to each other. There isn’t a river, there isn’t a highway, there isn’t anything dividing these two places except for politics, and some streets, right. And so my sort of claim here is why do we have this type of technology? I call this as an economist, I will call this a technology this line enables sorting above and beyond what would be possible in this little corner of Detroit. Right. And so my question is, why are we willing to maintain these types of policies in place, this is between districts segregation, so we have two different governments that form their schools that decide curriculum, deciding things on each side of the line, right. But that doesn’t just happen between districts, though, within districts segregation is also severe. Here’s an example from Atlanta public schools. On the right-hand side, I’m showing you these two maps to school attendance boundaries, one for john lewis elementary school. And the other one is for Ashford elementary school. And it’s just very clear again, right of you this gradient in the color, it tells you that percent black or Hispanic in the census block, it’s very clear that this line is sort of hugging this racial line is sort of reinforcing segregation, above and beyond what you would think if people just attended their nearest school or something simple like that, right. And on the left-hand side, you see a graph that if you were to sort of walk to that border, and cross it, you would see just how that racial composition just jumps. Right. And that’s one way that we’re using to measure where are all these problems, right? And you might say, Well, yeah, these are some crazy examples that you found after sort of really sort of sifting through the data and cooking the data. And I’m telling you that that is not really the case. These boundaries or unequal boundaries are very common in the US. is extremely common to common. So here I’m showing you nine examples of between district lines that are really egregious in terms of their, you know, racial compositional jumps and racial inequality sort of generated by them in New York and Rhode Island and California and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Michigan, Massachusetts. It’s everywhere. So my question for the group, you know, here are some resources kind of related to how we’re thinking about this problem. But my question is sort of my way to try to start start the discussion is why not set policy in a way that it doesn’t reinforce these patterns that already exist, and instead sort of tries to, you know, tell things in the better direction. Thank you. 

Reed 14:51 

Alright, thank you so much for that incisive presentation. If you haven’t been in the Urban Institute website, they have a really awesome tool where you can actually type in your school and see how the demographics have shifted over the past 30 years, which is actually a good segue to a poll, but I would introduce before we go into our panel discussion, can we put the poll up? Okay, I don’t see it. But I can only assume that you as the viewer can see it. And the poll asks, would you describe the schools that you or your children attend or attended as diverse or segregated, and we’ll leave it up to you to define what those terms mean, for yourself, if you can also use your your local school, that you may be near if you don’t have children, or even attend school, in this area, in the area where you live now. So I guess, let that go for a minute. We’re hearing from audience members, we don’t see the poll yet. Just a second. Barring that, you can use the chat function to respond to the poll, would you describe the school near you the schools you attended, or the schools, your children or other folks in your life attended as diverse or segregated? We can see your comments coming in. So we’ll let that go. But in the meantime, let’s turn to our panel. This is a question for everyone. As we go forward, I’m going to maybe pitch the question to one of you and then the rest of you can jump in when you see fit. But first off, you know, how would you say in your experience that COVID has exacerbated or revealed old patterns in school inequality. 

Tadikonda 18:02 

I can start off, I think, particularly what I’ve observed is that the pandemic hasn’t created, it has created new things, but the most. The most impactful aspect of the pandemic in terms of inequality is highlighting already existing inequalities. So, and there are several examples of this. When we think about technology access for students, we’re in a generation and an era where technology is almost essential to be able to do anything related to schoolwork from an early age through high school and higher education. And so the pandemic really highlighted disparities in data access because everything transitioned to a virtual environment. Similarly, when we think about our students who rely on schools for food access, that was another aspect that was really highlighted and exacerbated by the pandemic, especially earlier on When we didn’t necessarily have measures to make sure that students continue to receive food access, despite shutdowns and despite schools closing down, just because our public health officials didn’t really know how to do that in a safe manner yet at the very start. So I definitely believe firmly that the pandemic has brought to light the issues of inequality that were already existing and definitely exacerbated them. And I think it’s an important reminder, a wake up call that there’s a lot of injustice and inequality in our schools. And this pandemic was just an opportunity for those injustices to come to the forefront of every single issue that we deal with. 

Palmer 19:48 

Afternoon, everyone did want to share with you that you’re in Durham, North Carolina with us, this moment in time, as an opportunity to address some of those. We have three initiatives in partnership with our local elected officials, as well as our nonprofit and civil society that have addressed connectivity and broadband issues. We’ve migrated as a district now, one to one, believe we were three to one prior to COVID-19. And more broadly, I think that it has shone a light on in disparities and a beacon, regardless of action of saying, We have to do something about this now, next year, 10 years from now, but now. So it has been a galvanizing element. 

Reed 20:47 

Tomas, do you have anything to add? Or I got another question for you? 

Monarrez 20:52 

No, no, I definitely agree. I mean, I think both what Matt and Ananya are saying right, like COVID just kind of brought everything into brighter contracts, contrast, all these inequities that are already in place, just became so much more obvious. And at the same time, it’s kind of a lot of people say that moment is behind us. But I’m glad to hear Matthew say like, we use this moment of crisis where everything wasn’t shocked to try to introduce some change that maybe otherwise, you know, some change for good that maybe otherwise it would have been harder to do. So glad to hear that is happening.  

Reed 21:29 

So Matthew, you are involved in school planning for a large public school system? How has the pandemic affected school planning, and in particular, addressing equity and the return to school? 

Palmer 21:45 

With a large topic there, they’re answering the second soundbite here, I think the reality is, is that we we do tend to think about things in binary fashion or in a uniform distribution. yes, no, or All right, I think we’re really understanding is that it’s very contextual. Certainly think about the grade span K through 12. Right. We’re also hearing stories of innovation that are emerging, particularly for middle and high school students. And so many examples are beginning to come out where our community in our school system are coming together to support innovative learning models. But broadly speaking, there does tend to be clustering and spatial patterning, I’d say to integrate demographic patterns as well. And in-person instruction versus virtual attendance, locally here was relatively 5050 at the elementary school level. But then within that we had two-thirds of one school return and 1/3 of the school returned. So it does have two friends that one could associate and I think we did see about a 70% virtual attendance preference as we get into the upper grades. So I can’t pay generalities there. But I do think there’s quite a bit that we as practitioners and researchers and advocacy advocates, we’ll be looking at. I can see Tomas already thinking through all the data that we’re going to be crunching and understanding and unpacking. But to his point as well, we’re still in it right now. 

Reed 23:27 

Ananya, you were at the student member of the school board in Montgomery County, Maryland, when you proposed a school boundary analysis that would look at patterns of segregation in the school system as a sort of precursor to redrawing school boundaries. Why? Why did you pursue that and how would you describe the reaction from community members about it? 

Tqdikonda 23:53 

Sure, so I began on the McHenry County School Board in August 2018. And prior to my arrival on the board, there had been several boundary decisions that took place that there was some controversy around but within the board and in the community, and one of the things that fellow students and I observed was that options when completing these boundary studies to facilitate school integration and increased diversity in schools were not pursued. And so students and other students and I were alarmed by this because we had grown up in a school system that prides itself on its diversity. Montgomery County, Maryland has three of the most diverse cities in the nation. And so and but yeah, we had all had experiences that didn’t necessarily amount to that just because our schools had so much de facto segregation. So as a result of that, because see, my role on the board was to represent the student interest. And so as a result of that advocacy and commitment from students who I worked with, and my own personal drive to address this issue of school segregation that we had learned was something that we were supposed to attack decades ago, I proposed an analysis that would essentially look at school boundaries from the perspective of student body diversity and school facility utilization. So really looking at where we have disparities in seats available at schools, and how we can reallocate students to ensure that we were also meeting our commitment to student body diversity. So one of the things that immediate responses from the community was that we would bus students across the county and have them have students sit on buses for hours, which it was quite scary to hear some of that, because it sounded very similar to all of the arguments that were made during the civil rights era against bringing black people into society and integrating society so that there was not division by race. And so in a district, again, prides itself on this diversity on this inclusion. It was some of the same individuals who outwardly expressed that commitment to diversity and inclusion that came forward and said they didn’t want their schools to have black and brown children or they didn’t want their schools to have poor children, or they didn’t want their children to go to school, out of school that was known to be for black and brown children are for poor children. So that was a and there was a lot of definitely a lot of community lash back after the proposal of the analysis. But I firmly believe that it was something that needed to be pursued, because we need a proactive approach to addressing de facto segregation. We can’t just wait for a time when it’s convenient to address the issue of segregation. We because the longer we wait to address the issue, the more generations of students we’re unjustly serving, by having separate and inherently unequal schools. 

Reed 27:00 

This is a question for you and on you, but I want to open it up to everyone else afterwards. But how would you say perceptions of schools might shape school segregation in a place like Miami county or in other places? 

Tadikonda 27:12 

Absolutely. So there are definitely perceptions of schools that are very tied to the racial demographic and socio-economic demographic of that schools. And that’s led several parents who they shared this when they came to advocate against the analysis to to state that they selectively bought a home near a school that is ranked higher. And so we know that, that these school ranking sites very much play into racial and socioeconomic lines for the preservation of certain institutions of power. So definitely the idea of school rankings especially in a, in an area like Montgomery county, where there are a lot of families who have high educational backgrounds and high wealth margins. A lot of parents will buy homes in order for their student to go to a particular school, which then reinstates the cycle of certain schools having more resources because these affluent parents buy homes and more expensive areas because a school is rated a certain way, and then they continue contributing to that school. And that school is able to continue growing, while other schools that don’t necessarily have as a fluid of a student demographic, don’t have that same resource in backing, because no matter how much the district can say they equitably fund all of our schools and fund with the lens of equity in mind. At the end of the day, a lot of the student experience is shaped by how the community can donate and facilitate activities for students that really shapes the student experience. And it also shapes which teachers want to go and teach were based on the difficulty of the student population. We also definitely see that student teachers who are more experienced have a tendency to lean towards these schools that are higher ranked. So it definitely reinforces the cyclical nature of inequity and injustice. 

Reed 29:16 

Any Anyone else? Any thoughts? 

Monarrez 29:20 

Yeah, I think that’s just really powerful. I totally, totally agree with anon. Yeah, I mean, in terms of the evidence that we have on these topics, there’s really good sort of research coming out sort of confirming, I guess, using quantitative methods and the sort that parents on average, at least from a paper I read in New York City don’t don’t value school effectiveness per se, right, they’re not looking for a better instruction, they’re looking, if anything, a statistical model will tell you that they pulled the composition of the student body to be a more important feature of the school than sort of instructional quality. And, you know, this is some important result. Because when there is a lot of discussion about sort of the potential benefits of increasing choice or that letting people go wherever they want, and or these, like free market forces in the public school system. The notion is that people are always just seeking a better education, just better instruction, right, and where I think the sort of consumption value, the sort of, you know, luxury value of having over being able to attend certain schools, and other others is really powerful. And I think, in a lot of these districts in the US, like Montgomery county, like DC, like New York City, like it’s these sort of really good public schools that are somehow fenced off, and you know, and the access is really kind of limited and sort of perserve for that wealthy faction of the population. And I wonder what others think about how we can sort of start cutting through that and how do we try to shift perceptions of schools is something that I think is really important to try to think about. 

Palmer 31:10 

I can share locally here in Durham that we serve currently, two-thirds of our counties, students. So roughly nearly 20,000 students here that attend either charter private rooms. It said that an incoming family in Durham Public Schools has 49 options. Durham public schools is incoming kindergarten or has 49 options, Durham public schools, only one of them. So, to Thomas’s point, nine years point, there is definitely a behavioral psychology and economic sort of pattern of what we see. And I would point to two things briefly, just just as that it’s important to think about the disparity between the perception of quality and the actual data, that’s something that we continue to highlight, or our local community. And I would also point out that, where we get that information from can vary, demographically and socioeconomically. So it’s important to be aware of where people get information, how they get information. And then lastly, I would also suggest, again, that that there is a peer factor associated with the decisions that we make. We’re looking around us to see what other people are doing. And that can be a reinforcement in any direction. Something we’ve done locally here in Durham is just a simple campaign like a yard sign program that says we are proud family Brogdon middles. And that’s a visual reinforcement of a value state. But it’s simple. So that’s just one example of what other schools here in Durham are doing. But there’s many more things that’s just a sliver of our campaign, I wouldn’t want to misrepresent the totality.  

Reed 32:57 

That’s a really interesting example. And we’ve talked a little bit about, you know, how the perceptions might shape decisions around schools. We talked a little bit about how the role of parents and their personal choices can shape segregation. But I’m curious if you all know any examples of times when parents have sort of reversed that trend, like are Is there a role for parents in helping to integrate schools or just go against the grain? 

Tadikonda 33:27 

Montgomery county, there’s definitely a strong parent community who intentionally speaks about how they chose to move into more diverse regions of the county so that their students could go to school in a more diverse environment. And I particularly know of quite a few white parents who have spoken about that. And I think that that’s really impactful and important because it should be common sense for students to want to go to school in a diverse environment, but as Tomas showed in his presentation, whites Students are the most racially isolated demographic right now. And, and there’s also a lot of conversation about what it means to move Black and Brown students from their communities to whites, predominantly white schools versus the other way around, and the undue social burden that that’s created if you try to move Black and Brown students, as opposed to bringing white students into predominantly minority schools. So I definitely think that those parent communities who talk about how they recognize the importance of diversity, the importance of diversity in their child’s education and upbringing, are helping push the needle. And sometimes I so much wish that they were as as much in volumes as the parents and community members who do just the opposite. 

Reed 34:53 

So you were the student school board member that helped to lead a conversation about diverse schools? Could you talk more about the role of students and the student perspective and these conversations? 

Tadikonda 35:06 

Absolutely. So I. So I can point to several instances throughout the process when students would come and testify. Several Black and Brown students who would come and testify at our board meetings, and would talk about how if they were from a school that was predominantly white, how isolating that experience was, and how difficult it was for them to focus on their education. And the time when they felt so racially isolated in their classroom environment. Students would often talk about how in schools where they were the only student of color sometimes or one of the few students of color, they would go into AP classes or honors classes, and always get asked by teachers, whether they actually were in the right classroom. So there was definitely a lot of emotionally charged, sharing on behalf of students, which I’m so grateful that they that students came forward and were willing to share that, because it shouldn’t be on them to have to come forward and share some experiences that hold a lot of trauma, honestly, just to convince policymakers and leaders that school integration is important and that these racially isolated school environments are not conducive to the best possible outcomes for all students. So that whole year when all of the conversations around school boundaries was was happening at its height, and even after my departure went between my departure and when the pandemic hit, when those conversations were also at their height, students were at the forefront. And they constantly shared that that diversity in their classrooms was what shaped their experiences in McHenry County Public Schools, if they went to a school that offered them that opportunity. So really grateful for the student voice. And I feel that it’s really driven the conversation, at least in Montgomery county, especially through the forums and the community engagement opportunities where students have showed up and said that that’s that school diversity is what they want for their educational experience. And, and students are the key stakeholders in our schools there, they should be the number one priority, their needs and their desires for their classroom experience should be the number one priority. So I’m grateful for their continued advocacy. 

Reed 37:22 

Matthew, you’re involved with a large school system, sort of like low carbon County, but that it’s big? And you have there have been actually some efforts to improve integration and dirt in public schools. Could you talk a little bit about that? And why why something that you feel or why or is how you talk to committee members about why people should value integrated schools. 

Palmer 37:45 

Thank you, then that’s a good segue. We’re very fortunate to have administrative and public, both elected as well as community-level focus on equity. We are also a growing community. We now tip past 300,000 residents at a county level and continue to grow well beyond that, especially with recent announcements through our local business community with Google and Apple. And so we’re going to continue to grow. And yet we have major problems today. We have schools that are adjacent to one another one is reduced lunch rates at 20% and the adjacent one with 99%. reduced lunch eligibility. So our integration efforts are both I would say both racial and cultural with respect to black, Asian, we are at 1% Latino at a district level. And so some of our efforts around integration have to do not only racially but also socially, economically with a free and reduced lunch eligibility. To that point, we’ve been looking at it through the three phase two Right growth, equity and access and access being a key question. We need to work as a community through tough questions like should all children have access to the same programmatic choices? Or should that be restricted by your home address? Those are big questions that we as a community, are really turning the corner. And as we sharpen, no pun intended, but as we sharpen our pencils, and really get into the business of taking steps towards operationalizing, the concepts and values of equity integration, our work lies ahead. And so we’ll be we’ve already completed phase one. And we’ll be going deeper throughout the course of this summer, both with our school choice program or magnet program, which currently has 42% of our students are in some iteration of a school choice program. And then the remaining 58% of students in neighborhood regional schools that vary with respect to their boundary sizes, some of our school boundaries, stretch 15 miles, we already had, at this point, much work to do, to bring around growth, equity and access those layers that we’re pursuing and jointly growing as a community with the objective and an equitable outcome and ensuring that access is distributed for all families. In the county, so much work ahead, we look forward to sharing that as we go. 

Reed 40:23 

Right? We’re going to transition to question and answers soon. So I’m gonna give my lap for a final question a pitch to Tomas first, and then open it up to everybody else. So one of the things that I often hear when talking about segregation in schools is that we can’t integrate schools until we integrate in neighborhoods. So I’m curious to know, what do we need to do to make our schools and our neighborhoods more integrated? Is it about housing? Is it about is it really just about the school? What are some things that you’ve seen that players are doing? 

Monarrez 40:54 

Yeah, thanks for that question. That’s a hard question. But I think this moment is kind of, we’re starting to realize at least in the research world, and we’re starting to hear a little bit sore from the Biden administration world, like HUD and Department of Education, but they’re really starting to realize that these two problems, you know, go hand in hand, right. And, and, and, and it’s seven. And when you read the history, when you read like the the Richard Rothstein book, you know, it tells you, sometimes schools were placed in a manner the way they were placed in the 1930s, to reinforce segregation, right, like the way that schools were placed, or sometimes housing policy was set up to make sure that school integration didn’t take place, like these things have always interacted with each other. And I think at the end of the day, you know, we have touched a lot on school boundaries today. Because they, you know, I know, a lot of the major school districts are kind of moving away from boundaries and into school choice and these types of things. But just any way of thinking that we can kind of split that link between, you know, housing segregation, and neighbor and school segregation is going to be important, like, thinking about my he’s talking about two adjacent schools that are so different, and they probably share a boundary, could we, I’ve always thought of these boundaries that are so unequal, right, and the housing values are so different. What would happen if you like six agd? If you turn that line that is like, you know, all white people on the top and all black people on the bottom? Why can that line be a big six ag that is grabbing people from both? Right? I think once we have sort of a sense that the quality of a public school within a district or Hey, that’s also a problem, right? Like in a city, that you’re not getting a completely different product by enrolling in school a on this side of the street versus school B and this other side of the street. I feel like that’s how we’re really going to get at both school and neighborhood segregation at the same time. That’d be exciting. But I think Ananya really, really kind of brought brings it home for me that it really does take a lot of this kind of like, like sort of work on the ground, right? And really talking to everybody that is involved, securing you know, these kind of like psychological nudges, and Matthews is talking about maybe, maybe one, a picket sign is small, right, but maybe a bunch of those things together, nudging people and having us have that sense of we’re all sharing this public good together is the way to go. Yeah.  

Reed 43:31 

All right. It is 3:17. Now, so I’d like to open it up to the audience for q&a. You can feel free to leave your question in the chat. I think we’ve got a couple already. So let me go in here. Let’s see. Let’s see. Here’s a question for Ananya in regards to parent choices in McHenry County. Our parents Willing to allow their students to travel further in order to attend a diverse school? 

Tadikonda 44:07 

Sure. So there’s definitely This is definitely one of the core arguments against integrating schools is that students, parents don’t want their students to be bused across the county. But the reality of the situation is there’s a lot of opportunity in adjacent schools to increase diversity. And I think this really touches on one of the points that we didn’t quite get to get to today. But that’s that. It all depends on the way you frame the question, especially when you talk about our communities of color. If you ask a parent, from a minority community who attends a school, that is less resourced, and predominantly black and brown, if they want their child to go on a bus for 10, more minutes, every morning and 10 more minutes back? Well, I think the natural response is to say no, because you don’t, you don’t want to put your child through that. And you don’t want to have to travel more if you want to get to the school. But if you flip that question a little bit or nuance it and actually reveal under the under the surface, what it means to go to a school 10 more minutes away. If it means functioning AC, if it means Mac books in the library, if it means teachers with years and years of more experience, then I’d be really curious to know how that response might change. And so I think this narrative of parents don’t want their children traveling more, all depends on the way you frame the question to them. If it means high-end, academic and personal growth outcomes, well, I can’t necessarily imagine a parent who wouldn’t want that for their kids. But the notion, especially for parents from more privileged backgrounds who can offer more support at home for their kids, is that they don’t want any degree of further inconvenience, to allow this progress to happen. So so when we really dissect it, though, and we help people understand that, that integrated schools aren’t just good for our students from historically marginalized backgrounds. They’re good for every single student in our schools. That’s what really can catalyze some hopeful, progressive change in the minds of these parents who don’t support integration in the name of not wanting to send their students further from home. 

Reed 46:40 

Got another question? This is from Paula. Is there research about disproportionate discipline during COVID? Ie truancy charges for knock on zoom school for Black and Brown students or other discipline? Because pre pandemic disproportionate discipline against students of color was rampant? 

Monarrez 47:06 

Not that I’m aware of No, but that sounds like a great idea for a research project. In general, yeah, I would like think this the whoever’s asking this question knows, like, we already had such large gaps in discipline rates between racial groups that, you know, it would be it wouldn’t be surprising to know that they persisted into the COVID and remote schooling days, but I haven’t seen anything specific on it. 

Reed 47:36 

Let’s see. One other, please feel free to drop a question in there. We have lots of statements. Maybe I’ll read some of those and get reactions. Let’s see. Marie. Miriam says we need all schools funded equitably. Progressive education models smaller class size, equity means districts that are needier. We give the schools more funding versus less historically. Let’s see what else we got here. See, here’s a question from Gwen. The issue will become how many students are allowed per teacher per classroom. How much space in the schools to accommodate more students looks like overcrowding will be a result. So good teachers are only assigned in certain areas. I believe this is a question about how you decide where to draw school boundaries and how much capacity is taken into consideration. I know that was a big concern of Montgomery county. Is that been a consideration in Durham as well? 

 Palmer 48:46 

Absolutely. Absolutely. And I will say briefly, we have the unique privilege here in North Carolina not only to solve those problems, but also that our legislature has enacted grade level into teacher training. all caps and 18 students in kindergarten 16 in first grade 17. second third. So that makes planning. We don’t have enough time today to get into that. Just further complexified it I will say that briefly, we are theories in accordance with exactly that, that we’re looking at those classroom level ratios and then Ananya use the term earlier that I would look back up, which is attendance divided by capacity was utilization. Ideally, in a boundary, you’d have about 85 to 90% utilization. So that allows for the ebb and flow within the school year and natural growth to occur. We’re currently in a district level well over 100%. So no time today to cover it all. But the answer is yes. 

Reed 49:53 

Let’s see other comments. See, state grading systems can create the bias and misperceptions as well. That’s from Sara Lee. Ramona writes, school segregation increased as a result of white flight, we see the trend reversing as suburbanites are returning to the urban centers by gentrification. Today, urban schools are all but diminished given consolidations and school closures. As displacement occurs, segregation will shift to inner rings and charters will serve new urbanites as they have children. So again, whites are benefiting off the backs of poor, disenfranchised students. We’ve talked a little bit about, I think, school choices in more of a suburban context. But I’m curious. You know, What do y’all see in terms of sort of revitalization of urban areas? And how that might impact our school demographics? And is it a potential for integrated schools as more affluent members return to cities? Or is it just going to repeat old patterns? 

Monarrez 51:00 

I think it presents an opportunity for sure. I, I’ve done a little bit of research on the impact that charter schools have had on segregation, both in urban and suburban districts. And we are generally finding just not very exciting things, right. Like, segregation is going up a little bit because of the charter movement. And charters are very specialized. And I think that’s kind of one of these fundamental trade offs that are difficult to deal with, when thinking about integration that if you have a school, a charter school that say, opens in some gentrifying neighborhood and in DC or New York or something like that, it’s typically going to be geared either a towards serving historically marginalized groups, right, and just serving them right, and getting them to college and just high expectations or whatever, or is going to be something specialized. And, you know, kind of more catered towards like that suburban and 10 predominantly white type of type of communities, right. So I think if charter schools or all these different models are popping up, like centralized choice and things that are happening, these gentrifying cities, if those are designed with integration in mind, pursuing integration, I think they could achieve it, or at least they won’t worsen it. Hopefully, they could achieve it. I can’t say that what the evidence, but if they’re not, is what Ananya and Matthew have been saying is like a, you just leave it on its own de facto and wait for things to sort of fix themselves, because we’re all going to become better. It’s not going going to happen, right? You need to set up the rules of the game so that equity is more naturally the result that will happen than otherwise. 

Reed 52:47 

Got a good question from Karen. So in the podcast, the promise season two, one of the folks being interviewed on the issue of school segregation says, quote, If Black people could do something about the way America is and the way things are, the way things are being done in schools and in relation segregated schools, it would be done. Evidently, school segregation is a white issue. Do you all agree or disagree with that statement? 

Monarrez 53:22 

I guess I will keep talking. I think I agree. I think on my beginning my presentation, that’s why I chose to sort of highlight this statistic that white students are the most racially isolated. I think, white folks are the ones that fight back against these things. We do have a small sort of maybe not small, but a growing faction and sort of the progressive movement among folks of color that are saying, You know what, I don’t need integration. My parents are traumatized from integration. But I think it’s because they have it’s, it’s it’s kind of the way you frame the question. Like what like has been said, like, if you frame it in a different way, we’re not saying, hey, let’s try that crazy thing from the 70s. Again, right? It’s, it’s more about let’s make public schools actually for everyone and equal enough within program duration so that there isn’t all this natural quality happening. 

Palmer 54:21 

Yeah, I’d like to dovetail off of Tomas’s point and pick up on Ananya’s point earlier, which is that we must have at a district level standards. It can’t be that one school afford to certain learning environment condition, and then another as a wholly different experience. There’s an importance to saying, what do we as a community value in our schools and what must every school have? We’ll stop. And if we afford that, I think we’re bringing a great deal to the table. I can’t speak directly to, to all of I think we’re so much time today. I will say in term, one of the prevailing challenges, and I think this Western masters point as well as that, in the last two years, we’ve lost a number of African American middle-class families that have opted out of the school system for alternative choice. And so it may be good to look at these things. And like, they’re very dynamic right now than ever right now. And I think the models we’re all working through and trying to lead through the living experiment to a certain degree, this is an precedented time, maybe a moment of opportunity. 

Reed 55:37 

We’ve got one minute left. So before we close out, I want to thank everyone for being here. Does anyone want to make any closing remarks? No, no? No user? 

Tadikonda 55:57 

Did you want to go first? 

Palmer 56:00 

I will defer to you. Please. Go ahead, though. 

Tadikonda 56:04 

Sure, definitely. So I just wanted to share that I think it’s really important from being on the front lines of doing this work on a school board. In the policy space, I think what I’ve recognized is the magnitude of impact community organization and advocates can have, at the end of the day, the public bodies that make decisions are driven by community members who come and advocate because they are elected officials. So when they see that there’s a synthesis of community support for a certain idea, they’re more likely to push forward the needle on that specific issue. And what’s happened and what my observation has been, as the people who are sometimes an often in the minority, who are against this progress and change are sometimes the loudest voices, which can really skew the perspectives of these elected officials in terms of what they believe is the community consensus on a specific issue. So I really like to advocate to you all who are here today, if this is something that you care deeply about, and that you would like to be a part of the future of our generations and generations of children in this country. Please, please advocate to your local school boards. They are the ones who make the decisions on these issues and they listen to the people who come forward to them. And that’s what shapes their decisions. So thank you so much for having me on this panel today and looking forward to staying connected with advocates like you. All right.  

Reed 57:35 

Thanks, everybody. Thanks for being here. And I guess that’s it, I hope. I hope y’all have an excellent day. 

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