February 22, 2005

Letting parents choose, but only if they make the right choice

Babealicious RightWingSparkle thinks that legislators in Lincoln, Nebraska, are trying to engineer their preferred ethnic makeup for local schools:

Dick Eisenhauer is tired of watching white families take their children out of the schools in his Nebraska district and enroll them in smaller, outlying ones where there are virtually no poor or Hispanic students. Like many of Nebraska's school systems, the Lexington district where Eisenhauer is superintendent has seen an influx of Hispanics, largely because of jobs at the meatpacking plants, and an accompanying exodus of white students to public elementary schools just outside town.

And there is nothing Eisenhauer can do about it. Nebraska law allows students to switch schools without giving a reason. "It bothers you when people come into your town and make comments like `You've got lots of Mexican kids,'" Eisenhauer said. "I feel distressed if they would opt out for that reason."

The situation in Lexington and elsewhere in Nebraska has caught the attention of the state Legislature, which is considering a bill to thwart what some say amounts to legal segregation in the schools. The proposal would force the outlying elementary-only schools to merge with larger kindergarten-through-12th-grade districts. That could mean the closing of the smaller schools.

So let me get this straight. In Nebraska, it is completely legal for parents to choose where to send their kids to school. So parents - most white, some not - are exercising that choice and driving their kids further out to suburban elementary schools; schools that, by the way, are completely open to any kids. There's nothing stopping any parent from sending their kids to the suburban schools. In-town schools and suburban schools - all parents have a choice.

But because the results are not politically correct, state legislators want to do away with that choice. There's really no other explanation for it, is there? And what sort of article would this be without inflammatory statements about the parents who are exercising their legal choice?

Cecilia Huerta, director of the state's Mexican-American Commission, said other Nebraska communities with large numbers of Hispanics are likely to have the same situation. "People in Lexington and Schuyler do not want their kids being polluted by Latin Americans and Hispanics," Huerta said. "They think they're not going to get the quality of education if they have a diverse classroom."

Parents are moving their kids because they want them to be in a small school instead of one that is massively overcrowded.

Chris Dvorak, a white parent who has two children who attend a school outside Schuyler, said she sent her children there to avoid overcrowding in town, not to get away from Hispanics. "I would have done the same thing if they were all white kids," Dvorak said.

There are 45 students enrolled at Dvorak's children's school, compared with more than 850 at Schuyler Grade School.

This is the part that galls me the most:

Some senators are afraid the state will face legal challenges if the Legislature does not stop the trend toward separate white and Hispanic schools. "It is unconscionable," said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Ron Raikes.

What? There is nothing official that is keeping the schools segregated. Any parent who wants to drive their kid to an outlying school can do so. What's the legal challenge here? That it should be illegal for parents to choose when they don't make the "right" choice? What's unconscionable is that legislators think it's their place to put a stop to parents exercising legal school choice just because they don't like the ethnic breakdown that results.

What's more, aren't the inner-city schools now less crowded because the suburban schools are there? What if some Hispanic parents were planning on getting their kids away from the crowding? Shouldn't they have the choice to buy a car and move their kids to a smaller school? Or do their kids exist just to provide feel-good diversity for the white kids?

RWS notes:

What do you think will happen? Private schools will flourish and you will have the exact same situation. Government trying to force parent's hands is just not going to work.

No, but that doesn't mean they won't be dumb enough to try it.

Posted by kswygert at February 22, 2005 09:22 PM