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The complicated history of school choice in Boston

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A Boston Public Schools bus traveling down Dorchester Avenue. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

WBUR, June 2024

By the middle of the 20th century, Boston Public Schools used a practical, intuitive—and inequitable—system to place students into schools. Most kids went to class in a building near their home, which meant enrollment mirrored the city’s segregated neighborhoods. Over time, schools became predominantly Black or predominantly white. And the district provided schools that served mostly Black students with fewer resources and worse facilities. Those schools also featured larger classroom sizes and more teacher turnover.

That was the state of affairs in 1972, when Black parents in the city, with the help of the NAACP, filed a class action lawsuit alleging the School Committee was deliberately segregating students by race. It took two years before federal Judge W. Arthur Garrity would rule on the case and shake Boston’s school systems to its core. On June 21, 1974, Garrity sided with the parents and ordered the school system to begin desegregating schools by compelling students to attend schools outside their neighborhoods to achieve racial balance. The order—which sparked fiery street protests and accelerated a white exodus from the district—was in place for 13 years.

Fifty years on, the city’s public schools are still wrestling with some of the same realities that drove Garrity to intervene.

Continue reading at WBUR.

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