A name from the past - former Boston City Councilwoman and U.S. Rep. L. Day Hicks - has been pretty much consigned to the Orwellian memory hole in educational-policy circles in the last few years.
Hicks committed two unforgiveable political sins. One was her prediction, which turned out to be accurate, that mandatory Boston school integration across class lines would cause middle-class flight.
The other prediction was her equally accurate observation that the typically upper-middle-class activists pushing for such integration were safely ensconced in suburban or exurban school districts sufficiently distant from such initiatives so that their own kids wouldn't be affected.
Mrs. Hicks, the reviled antibussing voice of the '70s, died five years ago; the only recognitions of her insights which you'll find in the contemporary educational literature are the uncredited changes in their integration talking points.
They're surfacing now in the context of Burlington's proclaimed intent to carry out Socio-Economic-Status integration in a couple of the low-SES elementary schools by turning then into "magnets" so attractive to middle-class families that they'll voluntarily send their kids to them.
Thus, integration advocate Richard Kahlenberg of the Poverty and Race Research Action Council no longer defends the 1954 Brown v. Board SCOTUS decision for black or low-SES kids benefitting from sitting next to white or middle-SES kids; his new claim is that white or middle-SES parents demand higher-quality schools, and black or low-SES parents don't, and so "low-income schools spend about half of what more affluent schools spend per pupil" and are therefore worse.
So I looked up spending, by State, in the 50-State Comparison published by the Taxpayers' Network. Top-spending "State" for 2006-7 was the low-SES District of Columbia public school system, at $16,540 annually, per pupil.
The national average was $9,557. Top median-family-income State, Connecticut, was 7th at $13,005. Vermont, at no. 20 for household income, spent more ($13,385) than no. 2-for-income Maryland and less than such now-high-poverty cities as Boston, with a 26 percent poverty rate and $14,602 in per-pupil spending in 2002, as reported in the 2005 National Digest of Educational Statistics.
Kahlenberg does better when writing on SES and behavior, when he recognizes that "good schools require an orderly environment. Low-income schools report disorder problems twice as often as middle-class schools".
Disorder, of course, equates to the diversity-of-behavior medium-and high-SES parents don't want their kids exposed to. The do-as-we-say, not-as-we-do group of high-SES parents includes President-elect Obama; his kids are now attending the private University of Chicago Laboratory School. They will soon take seats at Washington's elite Sidwell Friends School - private, of course.
Remarkably, a few ideology-driven high-SES parents will put their kids in the public domain, for example, President Jimmy Carter and his wife. Most won't: the list includes such recognizable figures as the Bidens, the Clintons, and the Gores, and such anonymous numbers as public-school teachers, who send their kids to private ones at about twice the rate (22 percent) for non-teachers (11 percent). It's an example of ideology trumped by parental pragmatism.
Mrs. Hicks was excoriated by the gentry-left for her (accurate) comments about "rich families in the [Boston] suburbs" pushing for integration of the South Boston schools while their own kids attend safely at Lexington or Sudbury, and more so for her (accurate) predictions that white flight would re-segregate Boston schools, which are now at 86 percent black or Hispanic from the less-than-20-percent in her day.
The notion of SES-integration, voluntary or forced, hadn't yet surfaced, but I'd guess she'd predict a similar outcome, not for the race-class identifier used in the '70s decade by advocates (and recalled in the '00s decade by Fourth Estaters sich as Peggy Noonan) but for the unpleasant-behavior question which has yet to achieve much recognition, a passing acknowledgment by such as Kahlenberg notwithstanding.
I'd predict that history will repeat itself - not that a modern Louise Day Hicks will or won't surface, but that the middle-class objections to exposing their kids to unattractive (and even dangerous) diversity-in-behavior, which were lost behind the race labels, will resurface; these will resurface behind or even in front of the SES-labels.
Most middle-SES families will continue to flee school districts, like Burlington, which try to social-engineer on that basis.
Former Vermonter Martin Harris lives in Tennessee.