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Stop disparity before it starts

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

To the editors:

I read your Summer 2005 issue (Focus on Segregation & Equity) cover-to-cover in one sitting! It was comprehensive, illuminating, and very well done.

I am extremely concerned about racial equity and the achievement gap. And I was pleased to see your publication give them the weight they deserve. I am more committed than ever to advocating fairly funded public schools and closing the racial achievement gap.

But while Ron Whitehorne’s opinion article, “Where have all the White kids gone?” made an excellent case for why White families might pull their kids out of a public school as soon the school population becomes predominantly minority, to cite that as the only reason and highlight it shortchanges some of the other reasons Whites and other families might choose private over public education.

The article discusses the greater likelihood of such issues as lack of resources, lack of funding, high teacher turnover, less-qualified teachers, and fewer gifted programs in predominantly minority schools. Given those facts, it almost becomes a “chicken or egg” argument: what happens first?

Do White families immediately pull their kids from schools as soon as the student population reaches a certain percentage of minority students – with the issues discussed above arriving afterwards? Or do White families pull their kids out, not because of the color of the children, but because those very issues are beginning to arise?

As a teacher who cares about educational equity, I’d certainly hope the latter. But more than anything, I would like to work on a way to stop the disparity that occurs when a school becomes majority minority.

Donna Mooney
Longstreth Elementary School