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PRRAC Update June 9, 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.

How important is racial diversity in education and transportation policy?

"Investing in Innovation": After last December's inclusion of racial diversity as a competitive grant priority for U.S. Department of Education programs, we were once again disappointed to see the priority missing from an important competitive grant program. In its "Final revisions to priorities, requirements, and selection criteria" for the "Investing in Innovation" program, the Department explicitly rejected our calls to include incentives for racial and economic integration in the final program rule. In contrast to Secretary Duncan's repeated public pronouncements on diversity, the Department continues to direct more focus and funding to policies to improving achievement in racially and socio-economically isolated schools, without corresponding incentives to decrease the isolation and segregation of those schools. The Department's official response is copied below (suggesting that the door is not permanently closed to adding priorities in the future, in spite of their absence from the rule):
"Comment: A number of commenters recommended additional priorities for the Department to use in future i3 competitions, including priorities on promoting diversity, expanding learning time, supporting school start-up models, and using technology to improve instruction.

"Discussion: While the Department recognizes the importance of the issues and topics mentioned by the commenters, this notice is not intended to specify the absolute or competitive preference priorities that will be used in a given year's i3 competition. Rather, the purpose of this notice is to provide the Secretary with the flexibility to use any of the absolute or competitive preference priorities announced in the 2010 i3 NFP in any future i3 competition. When designing future i3 competitions, the Department may consider using other priorities, including the priorities recommended by the commenters as well as the Secretary's Supplemental Priorities, published in the Federal Register on December 15, 2011 (75 FR 78486-78511). If in a future competition the Department decides to propose a new priority or revise an established i3 priority, rather than select from existing priorities, the Department would comply with any applicable rulemaking requirements.

"Changes: None.
TOD in high opportunity areas? The growing discussion around transit oriented development and affordable housing often begins and ends with development planning around transit stops in city neighborhoods that are potential sites of gentrification. These investments are obviously important, but transit oriented affordable housing development in high opportunity suburban communities is equally important, and can often give low income children access to higher performing, less racially isolated schools than schools located near city transit stops. Our latest presentation on transit oriented development draws on the success of New Jersey's Fair Share Housing Center in siting low income housing near transit in "high opportunity" New Jersey communities. This presentation was developed for the "Social Equity Caucus" of the smart growth organization Transportation for America (PRRAC is a member of the caucus).

Other news and resources

Westchester Violations of Court-Ordered Desegregation Order Spur Bid for Court Enforcement: After almost two years of non-compliance by the County, and frustrated by the Justice Department's failure to enforce its own court ordered settlement agreement (that includes active development of low income family housing in predominantly white areas of Westchester County), the Anti-Discrimination Center of New York (original plaintiff in the case) has filed a motion to intervene and enforce the settlement. "Faced with Westchester's comprehensive and unrelenting violations of its housing desegregation obligations under a federal court Consent Decree, and with the failure of the federal government and its Monitor to enforce those obligations, the Anti-Discrimination Center ("ADC") has moved for Court enforcement of the Decree. Read ADC's memoranda in support of its Motion to Enforce and its Motion to Intervene. "The entry of this Consent Decree was supposed to mark the moment -- for Westchester and for the country -- when serious steps would begin to be taken to overcome the residential segregation that continues to plague our society," said Robert Stroup, ADC's co-counsel and a partner at the law firm of Levy & Ratner. "Instead, we have seen almost two years of Westchester continuing the same attitudes and polices that landed it in trouble in the first place." ADC's Executive Director Craig Gurian, the attorney who initiated and co-counseled the underlying multi-year case against Westchester County, said: "The federal government promised that it would hold Westchester's feet to the fire. Instead, Westchester's 21 months of violations haven't even yielded a request from the federal government to the Court to hold an informal conference, let alone an effort to compel the County to obey the Decree."

School integration updates in rural North Carolina and New Jersey and a guide to managing integration in diverse metropolitan suburbs -- check out the latest newsletter of the National Coalition on School Diversity.

"Why Race & Place Matter," by Judith Bell and Mary Lee (published by PolicyLink and The California Endowment). "This new report builds off long-standing research showing that life outcomes can be dramatically improved by changing the economic, social, and physical environments we live in."

"Simply Unacceptable: Homelessness and the Human Right to Housing in the U.S." (from the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty) assesses the U.S. response to homelessness using international human rights standards.

Philip Tegeler
Saba Bireda
Poverty & Race Research Action Council
Washington, DC

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