Panel Discussion Examines 'New Segregation' in Texas Public Schools

by Morgan Montalvo

WOAI News

St. Philip's College and the Texas Tribune last evening co-hosted a public forum on what some call a new form of school segregation in Texas, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

The presentation was the capstone of a year-long look by the Tribune into decreasing numbers of white students attending inner-city and low-performing schools, and what those campuses can do to increase classroom diversity.

For panelist Diana Herrera, a retired Edgewood ISD teacher who, earlier, as an Edgewood student, took part in the walkout that sparked a landmark school equity funding case, there's one solution:

"We're celebrating our 50th class reunion, you know, this year," Herrera told News Radio 1200 WOAI, "and I said, "Here we are, our classmates that walked out and we're still fighting for the same thing.' " Something simple, equity in funding, educate our children."

The 1968 Edgewood v. Kirby school funding equity case, although ultimately unsuccessful, was the first of several similar civil suits that prompted Texas lawmakers to address school funding and ultimately adopt the "Robin Hood" funding plan that redistributes taxes more affluent districts to property-poor districts.

School finance reform is a priority for the 2019 Texas Legislature after having been declared one of two "emergency" issues by Gov. Greg Abbott.

St. Mary's University law professor and panelist Albert Kauffman represented several property-poor local districts, including Edgewood ISD, and pointed to what he considers several barriers to Texas public school diversity, including the state's geographic "district" system that often separate urban from suburban campuses. 

"If the school districts were larger and were encouraged to attract students from other areas, if there were a little bit more imagination to how you draw attendance zones for schools, there could be an increased desegregation.

"Given the segregation of neighborhoods in San Antonio, it's going to be hard to do a great deal," Kauffman said.

Some districts, said Kauffman, are attempting with varying degress of success to attract more suburban white students, and also address internal neighborhood socioeconomic disparities, by introducing more specialty and "magnet" programs to dilute campus poverty percentages.  

Critics of the multiple-local district model say it encourages"white flight" from poor areas and promotes funding inequity. Supporters of multiple school districts in metropolitan areas contend that smaller educational jurisdictions give parents more voice in trustee boardrooms and preserve the "neighborhood school" concept.

PHOTO: A Tuesday evening public forum at St. Philip's College examined what some consider a "new segregation" in Texas public schools based upon low percentages of white students enrolled at urban and low-performing campuses. Photo by Morgan Montalvo

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