A few years back, I went to Michigan to speak to a large group of superintendents, whose schools collectively enrolled half the students in the state. I learned from them about the pernicious effects of school choice. The state wiped out all district lines for purposes of enrollment. Students can enroll in any public school without regard to district lines, and schools are paid by the state based on numbers enrolled. Consequently, every district commits a portion of its budget to poaching students away from the neighboring districts. Each district spends about $100,000 each year on advertising, in hopes of getting more students and the money attached to them.

All this is background to Jennifer Berkshire’s incisive piece about how school choice promotes segregation. Jennifer recently visited Betsy DeVos’s hometown, Holland, Michigan, and was there to view the Tulip Time parade. As she watched the high school marching bands pass by, she saw a vivid portrait of segregation on display.

She writes:

“First, some background. During the endless runup to DeVos’ confirmation hearing last year, it was the Wild West-style school choice she’d pushed in Detroit that garnered most of the attention. But DeVos was also behind Michigan’s inter-district choice policies that, starting in 2000, *disrupted* neighborhood attendance zones, just as the proposed Trump/DeVos education budget seeks to do. In Michigan, school choice has become the new white flight as white families have fled their resident districts for schools and districts that are less diverse. The most dramatic example of this may be in DeVos’ own home town of Holland.

“The choice to segregate

“Since Michigan adopted the school choice policies DeVos is now pushing across the country, Holland’s white enrollment has dropped by more than 60%, as students decamped for public schools or charters in whiter communities nearby. The students who remain in the Holland Public Schools are now majority Hispanic and overwhelmingly poor—twice the schools’ poverty rate when Michigan’s school choice experiment began. Many of these students are the children of migrant farm workers who came to this part of the state to pick fruit; school choice enabled Holland’s white families to pick not to attend school with them. One in three students in Holland no longer attends school there, and since the money follows the child in the Mitten State, yet another DeVos priority, white flight has eaten the district’s finances too.

“In 2000, Holland had fifteen schools. Now it has just eight. Of nine Holland schools that once served elementary students, half have closed. By 2009, even the elementary school where DeVos’ mother once taught had been shuttered. As students flee for schools in communities like Zeeland, the future of Holland’s public schools looks increasingly dire. Already there are mutterings in this wealthy, Dutch-dominated community that the school population *doesn’t represent* Holland. And as DeVos well understands, a community that has little stake in its schools is unlikely to shell out money to pay for them…

“The Trump/DeVos education budget was made public on the 63rd anniversary of Brown vs. Board. DeVos’ vision isn’t just a retreat from Brown—it embodies the spirit that animated its opponents to set up segregation academies in Brown’s wake. The budget that bears her imprint would encourage and even incentivize white flight. We don’t have to speculate about where all this leads. The outcome of the kind of school choice policies that DeVos has pushed for decades in her home state and now wants every state to embrace has been starkly measurable segregation. And even that is an understatement. What I witnessed in DeVos’ hometown last week was extreme sorting on the basis of race and class. That the top education official in the country thinks this is a good thing is appalling.”

Folks, our Secretary of Education is encouraging racial and social segregation. She won’t stand in its way. She doesn’t care, she won’t act to stop it, she wants to subsidize it.

Were he alive, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would denounce her actions. How dare she and Trump claim they are advancing “the civil rights issue of out time!” They are reversing the progress made since 1954 with “all deliberate speed.”