If you’ve listened to MN news or Twin Cities Talk radio (i.e. Chris Baker 10/21)
you will have heard how angry some Eden Prairie parents are that their kids may wind up going to school with lower-income students, many of who are students of color. A friend of mine had conversation with one angry parent who said, “…diversity is ok, but I’m going to introduce my kids to it when I want to, I don’t want the government forcing it on me.”
Beginning in September, the Eden Prairie school board announced new boundaries for the schools. Their rationale and the new boundries are shown in this link.
I hear Eden Prairie has great schools, I know people who work and attend there. The primary concern of the board is the concentration of low-income students into one school. One of the elementary schools has 43% of its students eligible for free and reduced lunch, the other three elementary schools have from 9.5% – 23%. The low income students in Eden Prairie are largely comprised of students of color, with a significant number being Latino and East African Immigrants, as well as African Americans. These families are mostly concentrated in a few geographic areas.
It appears the board was concerned for all students and explain that the average time for bus rides will remain the same and natural boundaries are being followed. Why would a parent not want the best for all the kids in your community? In the documents linked above, the school sites both social and economic reasons for evening out the economics and in effect the racial diversity in the schools.
Research indicates that high concentrations of families in need in any school can lead to…
- Diminished success for the students over time,
- A segregated community, and
- Diminished property values in the community around its schools.
Proactive measures like this boundary change will create the best conditions for success of all of our schools.
I would add that the research of decades of experience proves that the tried and proven segregationist tactics of the angry parents will result in:
- Dumbing-down the white rich students and decreasing their chances for success in an increasingly diverse world.
- Increasing the social isolation of low-income students and increasing the possibility they will turn to gangs to fill their social identity needs.
- Increasing the level of racial and economic tension in the High-School as the students will not have been together in elementary schools and will be more likely to view each other as threats, not as neighbors.
- Decreasing the property values around the “undesirable schools” Who wants to by a home where the elementary schools are “questionable?” – hence hastening the decline of Eden Prairie as a bastion of wealth and “all-american” values.
I can understand the angst of some of these parents. I mean they could have bought a lovely $700k on the Minneapolis lakes, avoided the nasty commutes, and sent their kids to integrated schools.
True, many people have great and noble reasons for living in communities like EP. (I’m not knocking you if that is your case.).
But for others, their decision to spend more and drive further was simply in order to be more isolated (and hopefully safe). And now, here comes “those” people moving right into their community.
I know there are lots of strong churches in Eden Prairie, I hope they will soon preach a sermon series on “Welcoming the Stranger, and Loving your Neighbor.” For some reason these ideals rarely get beyond our church doors, into our streets, or even our school board meetings. Welcome and love are not easy to live out, anger and treats are the natural reaction when one’s comfort level is threatened. But, how are we called to live?