Are White Kids Getting Shortchanged by Alabama’s Desegregation Order?

Education officials in Alabama’s Huntsville City Schools have approved nearly 300 student transfer requests from those enrolled in failing schools. Every single one is an African-American student transferring out of a majority African-American school to a school where the student population is chiefly white.

Although the Alabama Accountability Act allows officials to approve transfers out of underperforming schools, only 6 transfers were approved under the AAA. The rest were granted in compliance of a 43-year-old federal desegregation order.

More than 500 students applied to leave bad schools in the district, but officials say their hands are tied because there are no more slots remaining in better schools after desegregation-related transfers.

Superintendent Casey Wardynski said that’s all the Huntsville system had space for after handling the federal transfers.

That’s despite 502 requests to flee the nine “failing” schools in Huntsville.

And Huntsville, realizing it was out of space, cut off the “failing” school requests about a week early, said Wardynski.

Letters are going out now and parents will learn who received a transfer by next week. School officials say transfers are based on space available and on who applied first.

Although white students can use the same desegregation order to ask for a switch from a majority white school to a majority black school, no such requests were received in Huntsville this year. White students aren’t eligible for a switch the other way around because each of the 9 schools from which students can transfer are majority black.

According to Challen Stephens of the AL.com, the situation is not that unusual in Alabama or elsewhere.

That’s not unusual. Indeed, 71 out of the 74 neighborhood schools listed as failing across Alabama are majority black. Two are racially split. A middle school in Geneva County is the only predominantly white “failing” school in Alabama.

But in Huntsville, race still matters. They’re called majority-to-minority transfers, and are intended to increase diversity. For example, black students are not eligible to transfer out of the predominantly white Grissom High, and white students are not eligible to transfer into Grissom High.

This is far from being the first controversy regarding race that has plagued Alabama this year. Previously, state education officials came under fire after adopting Plan 2020 – which sets different student academic metrics based on race – to replace the current accountability regime laid out by No Child Left Behind.