This letter originally ran in the Hamilton Spectator.
Re: Poverty and segregation(Editorial, Jan. 31)
While poor kids in Niagara get a school to call their own, the people of Raleigh, N.C., opted for integration over segregation.
They recognized that kids can’t learn and teachers can’t teach in schools that are overrun by poverty. So they decided that no elementary school could have more than 40 per cent of its students qualifying for subsidized lunches. Along with integrating low income students into middle class schools, Raleigh created magnet schools to bridge the divide. Family incomes and circumstances became irrelevant. All that mattered was the students’ talents, passion and potential. Test scores went up and Raleigh today ranks among the top U.S. cities for economic growth and social well-being.
With the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board looking to consolidate and close schools to deal with falling enrolment, now may be the time to borrow from Raleigh’s playbook and give low income families something they rarely get — choice. Let’s give families a real choice when it comes to their kids’ education. That freedom to choose and the power of integration may prove to be their kids’ best shot at a better life and one of our city’s most powerful poverty-to-prosperity solutions.
And here’s hoping the rest of us find the courage and the will to welcome families from Hamilton’s lower city into our schools and neighbourhoods.