January 14 Forum Acknowledgements
The District and Equity Initiative Parent Committee extend their appreciation to the following community members who shared their time and expertise. Donna Rogers-Beard (historian, retired Clayton High School teacher) began the evening, grounding us in local history. Thomas Wack (attorney) then discussed the legal history of school desegregation and the impact of the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education, as realized locally in the Liddell litigation. Susan Buse (attorney) brought this forward with discussion of current legal parameters and presented Clayton student attendance categories. The evening ended with a conversation with Susan Uchitelle (first administrator of the voluntary interdistrict transfer program - VICC) and Don Senti (retired superintendent, School District of Clayton) on the realities of administering VICC in Clayton. This discussion was facilitated by Sean Doherty (current superintendent, School District of Clayton). Thank you!
January 14 Forum Questions/Comments & Responses
Your Questions/Comments are in bold, our responses/comments are in italics.
It’s not just numbers of African American children in our classrooms. What about the achievement gap?
It is about numbers, and it is about classroom equity in achievement and opportunity.
The numbers: For these 3 nights, we are addressing desegregation (undoing historical black/white segregation of our schools) and racial diversity (providing integrated classrooms), past and moving forward.
Why talk about the numbers now? Because Clayton School District’s school demographics are changing: The percentage of our student body that identifies as African American has declined from 23% in 2004 to 15% today, trending toward 6% over the next 10 to 15 years.
Posted below are two of the graphs presented on Night 1 (January 24).
Achievement/Opportunity Equities: We can teach our children once they are in our classrooms, which brings us to this second and critical topic. This issue – of how well Clayton schools support our African American students - deserves its own 3+ nights of focus.
Here’s a preview – in 2016, the Board of Education unanimously adopted the Equity and Excellence – African-American Achievement Initiative (see this website’s Equity and Excellence homepage). The Initiative leverages data to bring sharp focus and accountability to racial disparities in opportunity and achievement across the learning spectrum. District work under this Initiative is challenging and on-going, and, yes, there is a lot yet to do.
Graph 1: Clayton School District (CSD) Total Student Population / Total African American Student Population:
Graph 2: CSD Breakdown of African American Student Population by Attendance Category:
Definitions for Graph: Attendance categories/impact on racial(black) student % of student population:
*VICC: Voluntary interdistrict transfer program continues court ordered desegregation action. It provides the option for African American St. Louis City resident students to attend participating St. Louis County schools, and for non-African American County residents to attend City (typically magnet) schools. From 2003 to 2018, VICC enrollment in Clayton School District has trended from 16% to 8%.
*Resident: Clayton District African American resident student population is 3-4%.
*Statutory Tuition: Per Missouri law, students residing in districts losing accreditation may attend schools in a nearby district. Clayton District has received students residing in Wellston, Normandy and Riverview Gardens districts. Each of these districts had/has student enrollment over 90% African American. This attendance category impacts Clayton’s African American student racial percentages. Currently no neighboring district is unaccredited. Clayton is transitioning out remaining Statutory Tuition students. 0-2%.
*African American Enrollment under Clayton Board of Education policies for nonresident students:
Employee children <1%, and
Private tuition/contract 0%.
Support our African American teachers – think inclusion, not assimilation.
The African-American Achievement Initiative (on this website and mentioned above) includes focus on hiring and retaining highly qualified and racially diverse staff, which requires cultivating an inclusive professional environment that continues to prioritize excellent teaching.
How many of our teachers are black?
2% of District teachers are black. Overall District staff is 11% black.
Is this about money or our kids?
Yes. The uncomfortable reality is that money is one of the tools the District needs to support and educate our children. While a tool and not a goal, funding is critical. It is a factor in every basis for enrollment, and is an historical part of Clayton’s participation in VICC. The District purpose was, and remains, supporting and educating our children – each of them. Hold on to this for discussion at the last forum night (Night 3, February 11) – what can we do to best educate and empower our children for their futures, and what does it take to finance it?
We need to hear more history.
Apologies for those technical difficulties. While Mrs. Rogers-Beard handled it like a pro, we did miss out on some pictures and information. You may have to wait for her upcoming book publication. Susan Uchitelle and Don Senti will be around for our next two meetings and for informal discussion.
Another history question -
Why did Clayton’s African American resident population drop from the 1950s to 1989?
During this time period, the City of Clayton purchased homes and rezoned areas to allow for development of the current business district. This history is captured by Clayton alumna, Emma Riley (with guests including Mrs. Rogers-Beard), in Displaced and Erased, which you can find at the following link: https://vimeo.com/213255255.
The next series of questions are specifically about court desegregation actions and about VICC – the City/County transfer program:
Why is VICC enrollment declining? Are St. Louis City families no longer signing up?
While VICC is only one basis impacting CSD’s African American student enrollment, it remains the most significant. And, yes, VICC enrollment has declined, and, absent a change in course, will continue to decline. For the upcoming school year, VICC currently intends to reduce overall spots and to accept only siblings of current students.
Is it a lack of demand?
No. For 2017- 2018 school year: 17% of children who applied to VICC were accepted. From its start in the Liddell litigation, City family requests for their children to be part of the school transfer program have exceeded spots made available by VICC.
Reason for declining VICC numbers: VICC has decided to wind down its number of students. Its stated reason: Court decisions may limit the length of desegregation actions. Please keep reading, as that segues into the next question (has VICC reached that limit?).
Desegregation remedial actions end once Unitary status is found - “What is Unitary Status?”
Brown v. Board of Education held that public schools cannot be operated as racially segregated, or dual systems. Where they were, courts found constitutional violations and harm, and ordered specific actions to desegregate schools. That’s how the interdistrict transfer program (VICC) began.
How long should those orders and actions continue? Once the court finds a school district has desegregated its schools, or reached “Unitary Status,” then court remedial actions and oversight should end.
Is VICC board winding the transfer program down because court found Unitary Status has been reached?
No. Court oversight of our region’s desegregation efforts ended in 1999, with districts and students continuing to participate in VICC voluntarily. Now, 20 years later, has VICC gone on too long? The district court does not think so. In 2017, it dismissed a suit against VICC, finding that desegregation “remedial means are still necessary” and that “unitary status has not been achieved.” **
So why is VICC taking the position VICC should end?
Like so many things law, there is room for debate. Like so many things race, it is complicated. For cases under Brown v. Board of Education, with findings of constitutional wrongs and desegregation orders, courts look to see if the constitutional harm has been remedied – for “Unitary Status.” Distinct from this are the cases where schools have voluntarily (outside of court findings or orders) adopted policies that consider race. Courts have been increasingly strict in whether or how schools can consider race for school placements or acceptances. And, beyond the written case law, there is the current national climate on race. Add to this, continued debates on what is best for St Louis City and county schools and neighborhoods, and for our families.
There is also a financial component to VICC’s decline in numbers. VICC is funded by state statute. The state pays districts with a time lapse – the state pays this year for the number of students the district had 1 or 2 years ago. It’s the timing. VICC, by reducing its number of students each year, receives more current tuition money than it has current students. This is part of VICC’s budget structure.
How are City students chosen by VICC?
African American St. Louis City families apply, then VICC selects students through a lottery. For the 2017-2018 school year, 17% of applicants were selected.
Speakers romanticized ‘diverse education.’
Diversity, though related to constitutional racial (de)segregation, stands on its own in court cases and research. See below. This series is intended to educate and spur community voice. There may well be competing research and positions out there – let’s have the conversation!
“Diverse Teams Feel Less Comfortable – and that’s Why They Perform Better,” Harvard Business Review, Rock, D.; Grant, H,; Grey, J., 9/22/2016
"Diversity encourages students to question their own assumptions, to test received truths, and to appreciate the complexity of the modern world, ...This larger understanding prepares graduates to pursue innovation in every field of discovery, to be active and engaged citizens equipped to wrestle with the great questions of the day, and to expand humanity's learning and accomplishment." excerpt from joint amicus brief filed by 16 universities (incld’g Washington University), in Students for Fair Admissions v. ..Harvard College (2018)
Resources addressing institutional/structural realities, efforts:
· https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/13/us/minneapolis-single-family-zoning.html (public investment)
· https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/16/technology/microsoft-affordable-housing-seattle.html (private investment)
2) School Segregation (de- and re-segregation)
3) Educational Value of Diverse Learning Environments:
· “Diverse Teams Feel Less Comfortable – and that’s Why They Perform Better,” Harvard Business Review, Rock, D.; Grant, H,; Grey, J., 9/22/2016
“Unending Struggle: The Long Road to an Equal Education in St. Louis,” by Uchitelle, Susan, Heaney, Gerald W. (November 1, 2004)
* ”VICC” -Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation
** E.L…White v. VICC, case no. 4:16CV629 RLW (E.D.Mo. 2016), 8th circuit aff’d dismissal of action against VICC for lack of standing, No. 16-3242 (8th Cir. 2017) (2017)