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Why We Should Consider Socioeconomic Integration Efforts

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According to News One Education, President Obama's proposed 2017 education budget seeks $120 million for greater socioeconomic integration in schools across the United States. The money will go towards a competitive federal grant program called Stronger Together. The program will support school districts so they can foster a diverse number of students from varying economic backgrounds within their schools.

If Obama's request is granted, the funding would go to districts with significant achievement gaps and those districts with problems revolving around socioeconomic integration, Education Week says. The money would help schools create a socioeconomic integration plan or implement an existing strategy.

No district would be required to participate, but it would increase the options for those communities who are interested, wrote Acting Education Secretary, John B. King, on Medium.com.

King points out that students from high income families graduate from college at a rate six times higher than lower-income students.

The same goes for high school: Despite the fact that the graduation rate is on the rise in the U.S., the average gap between poor and non-poor students is 15.6 percent points.

Some education advocates disagree with the president's priorities, and feel he should prioritize racial integration over socioeconomic diversity in schools. America's schools are more segregated today then they were in 1968, a turning point in the civil rights movement.

Jeff Simmering, director of legislative series for the Council of the Great City Schools, told Education Week that racial re-segregation has further isolated minority students in many school districts. He points out that racial isolation still plagues the country's elementary and secondary school systems, and the new socioeconomic integration proposal redirects focus and funding away from the need for traditional integration of students.

Simmering does not believe Congress will grant the $120 million for socioeconomic integration. He told Education Week that the funding Obama wants for greater socioeconomic diversity should go toward Title I grants that assist low-income students or the nation's magnet schools.

I think that we shouldn't be so quick to dismiss this idea. As Secretary King pointed out, the graduation gap between socioeconomic classes is greater than between races, so perhaps this socioeconomic integration really can make a positive difference.

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The opinions expressed in Education Futures: Emerging Trends in K-12 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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