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PRRAC update January 20, 2011

Welcome to the PRRAC Update! Every other Thursday, PRRAC sends out a brief digest of news, recent publications, and other points of interest related to our work in housing, education, and health. We welcome feedback and encourage you to forward to others. To join the PRRAC email list, click here.

Balancing the "right to return" and the right to desegregated housing opportunities in HUD's new Choice Neighborhoods Initiative

Building on our past work with the "HOPE VI" program, PRRAC has continued to advocate for a more balanced federal public housing redevelopment policy that protects families by requiring one-for-one replacement of demolished housing units, a right to return for residents who wish to move back to a redeveloped mixed income housing community, and an affirmative obligation to place additional low income replacement housing units in higher opportunity communities throughout the metropolitan area, especially in areas with high performing, low poverty schools. Last week we submitted comments on the upcoming funding notice for the "Choice Neighborhoods" program (HUD's proposed successor to HOPE VI). This follows up on other recent advocacy, along with fellow civil rights and housing organizations, on the controversial Choice Neighborhoods bill in the last Congress - legislation which was extraordinary in its disregard of basic fair housing standards. In the new Congress, we expect that most of the policy formulation in public housing redevelopment will continue to be at the agency level.

Wake County's return to segregated neighborhood schools attracts national attention-again.

Wake County was back in the news last week as the Washington Post reported on the school board's decision to dismantle a long-standing successful racial and socio-economic integration plan. For years, the plan has required that no school have more than 40 percent of its students qualify for free or reduced price lunch. An ambitious student choice and assignment plan as well as the creation of magnet schools gave Wake County positive ratings on national rankings of large school districts. A recent conservative shift in the school board, with several candidates promising a return to neighborhood schools, foreshadowed the eventual demise of the plan.

The NAACP has filed a Title VI complaint with the U.S. Department of Education alleging that the district intentionally created a system of racially segregated schools by making changes to the student assignment plan. In addition, the complaint argues that changes to the plan will result in non-white students attending significantly lower-achieving schools than white students. The complaint is filed on behalf of the nearly 700 students that have received school reassignments. You can find the complaint here.

Last week, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan responded to the Post article, arguing that the move towards racial isolation in Wake County was "not a positive outcome for children of any color or background." Furthermore, the Secretary urged school boards not to implement changes like those made in the district. Read the Secretary's letter to the editor here. PRRAC, and other members of the National Coalition on School Diversity, have encouraged the Department of Education and Congress to more aggressively incentivize districts to maintain or implement student assignment plans that decrease racial and economic isolation. See

Compiling better data on charter schools

PRRAC recently joined with several other national civil rights organizations to provide comments on the proposed National Charter School Resource Center Authorizer Survey, 75 Fed. Reg.

69985 (November 16, 2010). The survey, first of its kind, seeks to collect "data critical to tracking the activities of and evaluating the quality of charter school authorizers nationwide." The letter proposed an expanded data collection effort to include information on student demographics, teacher quality, financial information, enrollment practices, efforts to use charters to increase racial diversity, and single-sex charters. A recent issue brief by the National Coalition on School Diversity encourages federal policy to create charters that foster diversity and slow the expansion of racially and economically isolated charter schools.

Other new resources

An analysis of the new American Community Survey data from the media site Remapping Debate looks at national residential segregation patterns down to the Census Block Group level. According to Remapping Debate, "Notwithstanding some upbeat stories that played in the press at the end of December, the U.S. is still a nation where 'pockets of segregation' are everywhere to be found." Check out Mapping and analysis of new data documents still-segregated America.

Finally, some interesting new jobs are posted in our job bank: Senior Policy Fellow, K-12 Education Policy, Connecticut Voices for Children, and Civil Rights Attorney/Policy Analyst at Texas Appleseed (monitoring the landmark fair housing settlement on Texas disaster recovery funds) - if your organization has openings please feel free to send them in!

Philip Tegeler

Saba Bireda

Poverty & Race Research Action Council

Washington, DC

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