Reviews | When a school desegregates, who is left behind?

Several years ago, nearly a century after the Dearings were kicked out of their home, Piedmont opened up its exclusive school district to...


Several years ago, nearly a century after the Dearings were kicked out of their home, Piedmont opened up its exclusive school district to children who don’t live within the city limits. Now the district is looking for 200 Oakland students to enroll in its schools. When explain this decision at The San Francisco Chronicle, Piedmont School District Superintendent Randall Booker cited a desire for greater diversity in both the student body and the faculty.

Piedmont’s decision may not just be motivated by goodwill or a desire for desegregation. The reality is that while Piedmont has gotten richer – a friend who grew up there and whose parents still live there described the transition as “a city of lawyers that turned into a city of CEOs of technology” – it has also aged a lot. In the 1990 census, 14.6% of the inhabitants of Piedmont were over 65 years old. By 2020, that number had risen to 21.5%.

A generation that would normally have educated their children, then retired and eventually moved out of one of Piedmont’s 5,000 square foot mansions decided to stay put. And there are certainly no skyscrapers being built in all of Piedmont, so young families looking to move there for schools tend to be left out of an absurdly competitive real estate market.

As a result, overall enrollment in schools in Piedmont fall to 2,464 last year from 2,692 in 2017. Prior to this school year, funding for schools in California was largely determined by attendance at a school. But starting this year, that same funding will be based on a combination of registration and attendance figures. As a result, a rapidly declining population could lead to fiscal devastation, even in a place like Piedmont. The 200 new Piedmontese students therefore solve two problems: the lack of diversity and under-education.

The Piedmont situation was created in large part by California Proposition 13, the 1978 law that essentially freezes property tax values ​​as of the date of purchase. Owners of a house in Piedmont bought in, say, 1980 for $700,000 will only pay a few thousand dollars a year in taxes, even though their house may now be worth over $4 million. This has not only put a hard cap on the amount of taxes that can be collected for services such as public education, but it has also resulted in neighborhoods that never renew themselves, especially in areas of wealthy landowners.

To date, there has been almost no resistance to the plan to open the district from parents in Piedmont, many of whom see the need to increase enrollment and diversify the student body. It is certainly atypical for a city like Piedmont. Recently, the wealthy city of Darien, Conn., floated a similar idea to Piedmont, offering to allow 16 students from Norwalk, a more diverse working-class town, to enroll in local kindergarten. (The proposal was ultimately rejected.) By comparison, Piedmont’s plan is far more ambitious. The 200 students who live outside the city would make up about 8% of Piedmont’s student body.

On the face of it, it looks like wealthy white and Asian parents are doing as demanded of them by advocates for diversity and school desegregation while trying, in their own way, to live up to standard progressive Bay Area politics. Moreover, no one really disputes the positive effects that integrated schools have on white students and students from minority groups. There is also the moral imperative for cities that were built on histories of racist violence and discrimination. They can take their past into account by adopting substantial policies that would help share some of their amassed wealth, especially when it comes to public schools.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Reviews | When a school desegregates, who is left behind?
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