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The Superintendent and Segregation

As a child of parents who grew up in the segregated south in the 1940s and 50s, I got more annoyed than usual when I read Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz blamed school choice and vouchers as a contributing factor for increased segregation in Indiana schools.

In an interview with Chalkbeat Indiana, Ritz said vouchers were to blame for a rise in segregated schools….

Ritz acknowledged the importance of diversity in Marion County, and she, too, brought up school choice and vouchers in particular. She said her effort to pause the expansion of the state’s voucher program could perhaps play a role in decreasing segregated schools, although she didn’t elaborate.  

The problem with Ritz’s claim is that not only is it wrong, but the data tends to show otherwise; that vouchers and choice actually increase integration.

An analysis of voucher use by Chalkbeat showed that while 71 percent of Indiana’s K-12 student population is white, only 60 percent of the vouchers users are white.  And a majority of them qualify for free and reduced lunch.

Secondly, in Indianapolis Public Schools, prior to the voucher program the district’s white population was 20.9 percent, that most recent number was 20.4 percent, virtually unchanged.

And third, and perhaps most telling, Chalkbeat looked at two Indianapolis Catholic high schools that participate in the voucher program.  Both schools had more integrated populations as a result of school vouchers.

Now there is a question as to whether charter schools add to segregation in some areas, however I would argue any segregation as a result of charter schools is more de facto than de jure (purposeful) because charter schools in Indiana tend to pop up in highly urban areas, which is where a majority of their population originates.

So for the Superintendent of Public Instruction to say vouchers and choice are partially to blame for an increase in segregated schools is factually inaccurate. Maybe the next time Ritz wants to talk about segregation, she should have a conversation with my parents.  They could probably teach her a lesson or two, or three, or four.