Derrell Bradford def⁠i⁠nes No More L⁠i⁠nes on Educa⁠t⁠⁠i⁠on Gadfly Show

April 22, 2024

April 22, 2024

This month, Derrell Bradford, president of 50CAN and board member at yes. every kid., joined the Education Gadfly Show, a project of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, hosted by Fordham President Michael Petrilli and Associate Director of Research David Griffith.

What followed was a spirited and thought-provoking conversation on the topic of ending exclusionary school zoning laws by 2030 – the chief goal of the recently launched No More Lines Coalition, of which 50CAN and yes. every kid. are a part.

The panel presented compelling and passionate arguments from many sides of the debate, shedding light on the complexities and implications of such a transformative change for education today.

While Petrilli agreed that neighborhood boundaries should not determine a student’s educational trajectory, he expressed skepticism that abolishing school district lines would be a workable solution, since many communities feel protective of their neighborhood schools.

Bradford noted that we must prioritize aspirations over address in school admissions and highlighted the historical context of exclusionary school district lines and the discriminatory practices embedded within the current system of residential assignment.

School district boundaries of today largely mimic historical redlining from the 1930s, government policy which delineated different neighborhoods with labels like “desirable,” “best,” and even “hazardous.” These had the effect of keeping Americans of differing race and/or socioeconomic status from living near one-another.

Because school district boundaries in many cities mirror these lines, kids in the 21st Century are denied access to public schools that would best serve their needs.

The attendance zone for coveted Mount Washington Elementary School in Los Angeles excludes minority neighborhoods labeled “hazardous“ or “declining“ on the government‘s redlining map from 1939 (Roche, A Fine Line).

Given that parents and guardians have been investigated, prosecuted, arrested, and even jailed for enrolling their kids in a public school that better meets their needs outside of their government-assigned school, it’s clear that education today is not built to serve families.

Bradford emphasized the need to guarantee all kids access to public schools, no matter their address, noting that in some cities, zones are drawn block-by-block and efforts to redraw them often become local lightning rods.

The conversation concluded with a call for bold and decisive action to untangle the web of incentives that perpetuate disparities in education. All agreed on the need for transformative change to ensure that every child has equal opportunities for education, regardless of their zip code.

As we look ahead to a future of equal access and opportunity for all students, these discussions serve as a reminder of the importance of challenging traditional norms and advocating for policies that prioritize equality, access, and excellence in education. The No More Lines Coalition’s goal to eliminate all school district boundaries by 2030 is a bold call to policymakers in every state to empower families.

Listen to the whole show on