How to address opportunities and challenges of economically diverse schools — that's the topic Michael Petrilli ponders constantly, as executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a think tank focused on K-12 school systems.
To prevent white flight, upper- and middle-class families must also see the value of sending their children to socioeconomically mixed public schools, he says. As it turns out, many middle-class families, in a shift from recent years, are considering sending their children to big-city schools to expose them to a range of individual students. Some families have chosen to migrate from suburbs to cities such as Denver; Oakland, Calif.; and Washington.
"This creates new opportunities but also new challenges," Petrilli says. But the question remains: Will the schools simply become gentrified, or will school boards and parents work to keep them mixed.
In his recent book, The Diverse Schools Dilemma: A Parent's Guide to Socioeconomically Mixed Public Schools, Petrilli makes the case for and against sending kids to these economically mixed schools.
Below are edited excerpts of his conversation with the Next America.
NA: Is the solution to make all the schools economically and racially integrated, or to improve schools with higher concentrations of poverty?