I posted this on my trip home from the hospital earlier today. I made a mistake and hit “publish” before I wrote the post. Here is the post that was supposed to accompany the title!

In a speech to the Education Writers Association, Arne Duncan said that racial isolation has gotten worse in the past two decades, including (one assumes) during his own tenure in office.

An article in Education Daily by Frank Wolfe (sorry, don’t have the link) says:

“While the Education Department has promoted a number of programs and measures to improve the achievement of disadvantaged students, the singularly thorny problem of racially isolated schools has remained and has worsened, Education Secretary Arne Duncan acknowledged on Tuesday.
“While [Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483, 107 LRP 36247 (1954)] struck down de jure segregation as unconstitutional, de facto school seg- regation has worsened in many respects in the last two decades,” Duncan told the Education Writers Association national seminar in Nashville. “Since 1991, all regions of the nation have experienced an increase in the percentage of black students who attend highly segregated schools, where 90 percent or more of students are students of color. Here in the South, more than a third of black students attend such racially isolated schools. In the Northeast, more than 50 percent do.”

What? Who should be held accountable for this backsliding on our nation’s commitment to equality of educational opportunity (not separate but equal)?

The US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has powerful enforcement powers. What are they doing about this retrograde trend? Are they demanding that charter schools reach out and seek integrated enrollments? What have they done in Chicago and Néw York City, both highly segregated urban school districts. What have they done about the proliferation of all-black vouchers? Why has Duncan been so forceful in advocating on behalf of racially segregated charter schools? When will he be held accountable for his failure to do anything to promote racial integration? How has he used the considerable powers of his office to make a difference?

The Department of Education responded to questions by Education Daily, defending its record.

“Six decades after Brown, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is vigorously working to steer America away from racial isolation,” ED said in a statement in response to questions from Education Daily®. “When we find examples of race segregation and discrimination, we put a stop to it. We negotiate settlements with districts to bring them into compliance with our civil rights laws. We carry a huge hammer. Any district that refuses to work with us faces the prospect of our withholding federal funds. Once those agreements have been signed, we closely monitor their implementation — sometimes for years. We issue guidance to schools on their responsibilities to ensure racial equality. We provide grass roots technical assistance at our regional OCR offices around the country. The goal that drives our work is simple — to promote excellence in education that’s colorblind and equal for all.”

Here is an example of empty bureaucratic blather. The US Department of Education has not played a forceful or effective role. If it had, segregation would not be worsening. Why don’t they just apologize and say, “We have really fallen down on the job. Our boss wants more charter schools, even though they are more segregated than the surrounding district. He likes to go to all-black schools and celebrate their success. Actually we have been sitting on our hands where racial integration is concerned, just like the last Bush administration. Frankly, racial integration is not on our radar screen these days. We can’t afford to offend the charter lobby. Sorry, our hands are tied.”