Coming on May 17, 2019,
the 65th anniversary of the historic
Brown v. Board of Education ruling
Tim DeRoche exposes the dirty little secret of America’s public schools: Attendance zones are used by school districts to keep most children out of the best schools. These elite schools are “free” and “public” in name only, since wealthy families are often paying tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to live within the zone and keep others out.
Separated by Law argues that attendance zones are bad policy – and perhaps even unlawful. Such policies segregate our communities (by race, by income, by geography) and drive housing prices up. The existence of these exclusionary zones is a shameful echo of the redlining practices of the previous century, which saw government agencies systematically deny services (like mortgages) to certain geographic areas that were dominated by racial minorities. With attendance zones, Americans of all races are denied fair access to the best public schools…. based solely on the stroke of a bureaucrat’s pencil upon a map.
Collaborating with Gloria Romero, the former Democratic majority leader of the California State Senate, DeRoche reviews state laws and shows how the concept of public schools “open to all” has been perverted over the years into a closed system that protects the interests of the wealthy. Under the cynical guise of “open enrollment,” many states have passed laws that require school districts to discriminate against families based on where they live.
The final chapter of the book reviews potential legislative and policy solutions, as well as potential legal challenges to these harmful laws and policies. DeRoche urges us to heed Justice Antonin Scalia’s call for an educational system “in which parents are free to disregard neighborhood-school assignment, and to send their children (with transportation paid) to whichever school they choose.”
After reading Separated by Law, you will never see the inequities of our educational system in the same way.