School choice is a good thing. But what about when it leads to racial isolation? In Pinellas County (St. Petersburg) Florida, a district rule capping black enrollment in any given school at 42 percent has been around since 1971. But it ends this year. Students just beginning elementary, middle, and high school (i.e., kindergarteners, sixth graders, ninth graders) will be allowed to apply to any district school of their choice. And judging from a recent survey of parents, increased racial isolation could follow, because a majority of parents (black and white) plan to send their children to schools near home--homes located in racially homogeneous neighborhoods. Uncomfortable with such de facto segregation, the Pinellas School Board considered retaining the rule but was advised by legal counsel that such a move would probably be overturned in court. (In fact, the Supreme Court will hear two similar cases this December.) Pinellas parents, like those everywhere, should have the right to send their children to schools they choose. And the district, instead of obsessing over social engineering, should focus on making every one of its (many) schools academically excellent, attractive to parents of every race, and worth sending one's child to.
"School choice: close to home," by Donna Winchester, St. Petersburg Times, September 28, 2006