Myth #1: School choice will lead to social, racial, and economic stratification of students in American schools

The idea that the current government school system is a "melting pot" of students from diverse backgrounds and that school choice will somehow disrupt it is false. Government schools in fact rarely represent a broad cross-section of the American population, and there is little or no evidence to suggest that schools-of-choice are or will be any less diverse than their government counterparts.

 The Facts:

  • The current system—whereby government assigns students to schools based on the neighborhoods in which they live—has already created a stratified school environment. Government schools are stratified by race and income because, as sociologist James Coleman discovered in his research, students are assigned to schools according to where they live.127 Government schools therefore ensure stratification of students because districts are drawn geographically and neighborhoods are typically organized around socioeconomic factors. School choice removes or reduces the importance of geographic and political boundaries, thereby encouraging greater social, racial, and economic integration of students.

  • Private schools currently enjoy a socially, racially, and economically diverse student body. Many inner-city private schools already reflect greater diversity than their government counterparts because their student bodies are not determined by arbitrary political boundaries, but rather by parents of every background seeking the best education for their children. Researchers Jay P. Greene and Nicole Mellow of the University of Texas at Austin found that "private schools tend to offer a more racially integrated environment than do public schools." In their study, "Integration Where it Counts: A Study of Racial Integration in Public and Private School Lunchrooms," Greene and Mellow argue that one of the primary reasons for this fact is that public schools tend to replicate the segregation found in their attendance areas while private schools tend to draw from variety of neighborhoods.128

  • Segregation in inner-city government schools has increased rather than decreased. In 1968, nearly 40 percent of Detroit government school students were white, but in the 1994-95 school year, only 6 percent of the student population was white. Many of these government schools reflect little social, racial, and economic diversity. 129

Government schools are stratified by race and income because students are assigned to schools according to where they live.

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