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FEBRUARY 2013261American Journal of Education119 (February 2013)2012 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.0195-6744/2013/11902-0003$10.00School Choice Policies and RacialSegregation: Where White Parents’ GoodIntentions, Anxiety, and Privilege CollideALLISON RODATeachers College, Columbia UniversityAMY STUART WELLSTeachers College, Columbia UniversityA growing body of school choice research has shown that when school choicepolicies are not designed to racially or socioeconomically integrate schools, thatis, are “colorblind” policies, they generally manage to do the opposite, leadingto greater stratification and separation of students by race and ethnicity acrossschools and programs. Since white, advantaged parents are more likely to gettheir children into the highest-status schools regardless of the school choice policyin place, we believed that more research was needed on how those parentsinteract with school choice policies and whether they would support changes tothose policies that would lead to less segregation across schools. Our interviewswith advantaged New York City parents suggest that many are bothered by thesegregation but that they are concerned that their children gain access to the“best” (mostly white) schools. The contradictions inherent in their choices arereconcilable, we argue, by offering more diverse and undivided school options.Throughout the history of American education, various school choice policieshave been devised to accomplish different goals. For instance, prior to the CivilRights Act of 1964, southern school districts implemented so-called freedom-of-choice and tuition voucher programs specifically to assure that schools re-mained racially segregated. Then, in the era of school desegregation, variousschool choice programs, including magnet schools and voluntary transfer plans,were created to do the exact opposite, namely, to promote racial integrationand more diverse schools (see Wells 1993).More recently, popular school choice policies, including charter schools,voucher plans, and open enrollment programs, have been enacted in mostElectronically published December 7, 2012
School Choice and Segregation262American Journal of Educationstates to foster greater competition for students among schools. These plansare designed specifically to infuse market-based principles into government-funded schools and thereby foster innovation. Interestingly enough, given thehistory of school choice in the United States, these newer school choice policiesare not designed to specifically address issues of racial segregation (Wells 1993).In this way they are considered “colorblind.”Still, a growing body of research has documented a strong positive corre-lation between increasing racial/ethnic segregation in public schools and thegrowth in these popular so-called colorblind and more market-based schoolchoice policies, which do not explicitly promote racial integration (see Meadand Green 2012; Mickelson et al. 2008; Wells and Roda 2008). In other