The Corner

Obama vs. School Choice

My new Bloomberg View column is on the underhanded tactics the Obama administration is using against school choice. The latest is legal action against Louisiana’s program. Here’s a bit about one of the perversities of the administration’s argument that school choice might promote racial segregation in the schools:

The Justice Department is . . . measuring school segregation in a perverse way. It treats a school as integrated when it matches the racial composition of the school district. Yet the districts are themselves segregated — and tying school attendance to residency makes that segregation worse. Neighborhoods with good public schools have higher property values, which makes it harder for poor black families to move into them. Americans who have enough money exercise school choice when they buy their homes.

Greg Forster, a researcher who favors school choice, addresses the measurement problem by comparing schools’ racial makeup to that of their metropolitan areas. He points out that seven studies have found that school choice promotes racial integration — measured correctly — while one found it has no impact. No study has found that it promotes segregation.

And even if school choice did set back integration, I go on to argue, that wouldn’t clinch the case against it.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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