School integration is back. Congress should adopt it.


And here in Boston, the school committee is considering permanent changes to exam admission policies in an effort to bring more economic and racial diversity to some of the city’s top-performing classrooms.

Now President Biden is proposing a $ 100 million grant program to sow more of such efforts – a small but significant investment in a strategy Washington has avoided for too long. Congress is expected to approve the measure. And here in New England, school officials should play hard for federal dollars.

Desegregation is a touchy subject in these areas, given Boston’s heartbreaking experience with court rulings bus, which started in the 1970s and largely failed to achieve integrated schools. But the resounding success of the Metco program, which sends City students at suburban schools for decades, shows that integration has worked even in a notoriously rejected area.

And nationally, the registration is strong. Rigorous research by Rucker Johnson, professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley, shows that court-ordered desegregation in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s translates into big gains for black students. Attending an integrated school for an additional five years increased high school graduation rates by 15 percentage points. It also increased family income by 25 percent in adulthood. Students who attended integrated schools had better health outcomes and were less likely to go to jail, Rucker found. And there was no negative impact on white college students.

A series of Supreme Court rulings in the 1990s ended hundreds of desegregation orders and contributed to the re-segregation American public schools.

But some of the most important integration efforts that have survived have yielded real benefits. Recent research shows that Metco participants who attend suburban schools significantly outperform their city peers in high school graduation rates and university enrollment.

This is not to say that integration is a foolproof strategy for academic improvement. But it is clearly underutilized. And it is proven that it can deliver important non-academic benefits as well, reducing bias and better preparing students for an increasingly multicultural workplace.

The Biden initiative would provide planning grants to districts or district consortia interested in integration. Recipients could draft new school assignment boundaries designed to promote greater diversity, develop weighted lotteries that take into account students’ socio-economic backgrounds, or plan schools that would be strategically located on the border between poorer communities. and the richest. The measure would also provide a handful of implementation grants for school districts that have already developed well-thought-out integration plans.

The subsidy program, which builds on a measure passed by the House with bipartisan support last fall but stuck in the GOP-controlled Senate, includes several smart provisions. For example, it would give priority to the inter-district, urban-suburb plans that are most conducive to integration. It would also give a boost to school districts that coordinate with local housing agencies. One possible avenue: to help families use housing vouchers to rent apartments in communities with more efficient schools.

But while the grant proposal marks a serious effort to integrate the nation’s public schools, Washington can do more. The White House is calling for a relatively modest increase in an existing grant program for magnetic schools that promote integration. Congress is expected to increase the stake – quadruple current funding to match a separate line of $ 440 million for charter school grants.

Integration should also be a priority as Congress weighs a huge infrastructure bill. If lawmakers include substantial federal dollars for school building in the package, they should prioritize projects that promote inclusion.

And any federal push on inclusive education should be met by parallel efforts in the states. Here in Massachusetts, lawmakers are considering their own incentives for school building projects that promote diversity. They are also considering a state-level grant program for districts pursuing integration. The legislature should approve both.

If federal and state lawmakers work together on integration, they can make a real difference in the lives of thousands of students. And by giving more white, black, Latino, Asian, poor and well-off children a chance to sit in the same classrooms and learn from each other, they might even take a step forward to piece together our fractured democracy.

Editorials represent the views of the Boston Globe Editorial Board. Follow us on Twitter at @GlobeOpinion.


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