This post is written in response to a post at Aunt B’s place concerning the proposed Metro Nashville Public School cluster changes. It was originally a comment on her blog but it seemed a bit long for a comment.
I think the resegregation argument is a non-starter based on the current and proposed enrollments of Metro Nashville Public Schools. Even only looking at high schools one can see that Pearl-Cohn is no racial exception. Pearl-Cohn is currently 88% black and proposed to be 91% black, certainly the highest on Metro, but two other schools have black populations greater than 80% (Whites Creek and Maplewood). A total of 6 out of 11 high schools are currently a majority black population (above plus Stratford, Hunters Lane, Hillsboro) and 7 of 12* will be majority black under the proposed plan (add Antioch to above schools).
To evaluate economic disadvantage one can look at the statistics for the Free and Reduced Meal (FARM) program. Currently, 7 of 11 schools have a majority of students in the FARM program including 3 greater than 70% participation (Pearl-Cohn, Stratford, Maplewood). Under the proposed plan, 8 of 12 high schools will have a majority of students in the FARM program with ‘only’ two above 70% (Stratford and Pearl-Cohn). All schools in the Pearl-Cohn cluster currently have greater than 70% (some near 90%) participation in the FARM program. The proposal exacerbates that issue by increasing some of the percentages at some of the Pearl-Cohn cluster schools. However, this is a bigger problem than just the expansion of the Pearl-Cohn cluster to include some neighborhoods that have been transported to Hillwood and Hillsboro.
Based on the numbers, I don’t see that switching the districts to neighborhood schools in the Pearl-Cohn cluster (and minor tweaks elsewhere) is in any sense a resegregation of schools. We are already there.** The population estimates for Davidson County by race are white-66%, black-28% yet the high school population in Metro Nashville Public Schools is roughly white-32%, black 53% (calculated). Currently, only one Metro high school has a majority of white students, that is McGavock at 50% white. The proposed changes would make Hillwood the lilliest of them all at 63% white (still under the population numbers, especially in that part of town) and make that ‘only’ the second Metro high school with a majority of white students.
Given the history of destruction that inner city neighborhoods have endured from the introduction of interstate highways dividing communities to the forced busing of students to the suburbs, I think it is high time that neighborhood schools are given an opportunity. It already can’t get much worse and the added emphasis on the local community can only help…hopefully.
**In evaluating the data, I would say the segregation is a public school-private school segregation rather than a segregation between the various zoned public schools given the average household size being roughly the same between white and black. I can’t find any comprehensive data on Metro nashville private schools or the Metro magnet schools which would impact any complete evaluation of segregation based on public-private school.
*Cane Ridge is a new high school coming on-line with no current stats but they have projected stats.