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The Carrot or the Stick for School Desegregation Policy: Magnet Schools or Forced Busing

Christine Rossell

Publication Year: 1990

"An in-depth, carefully researched analysis.... The book is particularly useful for public policymakers, school administrators, and faculty and for graduate students in educational policy studies." —Choice This is the first study comparing the long-term effectiveness of voluntary desegregation plans with magnet programs to mandatory reassignment plans. In a survey of school personnel and parents in 119 school districts, Christine H. Rossell finds that the voluntary plans with incentives (magnets) ultimately produce more interracial exposure than the mandatory plans. Her conclusion contradicts three decades of research that judged mandatory reassignment plans more effective than voluntary plans in desegregating schools. Rossell examines the evolution of school desegregation and addresses a number of issues with regard to public policy. She questions how to measure the effectiveness of school desegregation remedies, suggesting interracial exposure as a criterion because it reflects the white flight that threatens to minimize the effects of such programs. She analyzes the characteristics of magnet schools that are attractive to white and black parents and the effect of magnet schools on the quality of education. The magnet plans studied here are qualitatively different from the old freedom-of-choice plans implemented in the South and majority-to-minority plans implemented in the North in the 1950s and 1960s. Rossell compares this public choice model of policy-making with previous mandatory efforts and examines court decisions that indicate a growing belief in the effectiveness of voluntary compliance for achieving school desegregation. "A significant achievement.... Assembling the most comprehensive data base and the most persuasive analysis to date on relative effectiveness of voluntary versus mandatory desegregation plans, Rossell concludes not only that mandatory desegregation techniques cause long-term white flight, but also that the white loss is large enough to render 'mandatory magnet' plans less effective than 'voluntary magnet' plans." —Contemporary Sociology "A very well-written analysis of...a topic of major policy significance...to policy researchers, educational policy-makers, lawyers and judges, sociologists, and members of the sophisticated public involved in school desegregation matters." —Jeffrey A. Raffel, University of Delaware

Published by: Temple University Press


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pp. vii-ix

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pp. xi

THIS BOOK compares the desegregation effectiveness of voluntary plans with magnet schools to mandatory reassignment plans with magnet schools. In doing this it addresses a number of issues in the field of school desegregation and public...

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1. The Past and the Future of School Desegregation Remedies

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pp. 1-28

FROM THE perspective of black Americans, the 1980s must appear to be a time of retrenchment and lack of momentum- even ofloss of some hard-won gains of the 1960s. The civil rights conviction of the 1960s that "we shall overcome" has become...

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2. Defining School Desegregation and Its Goal

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pp. 29-40

THE COURTS have proceeded incrementally in defining school desegregation. In 1954 school desegregation was simply the elimination of discrimination. Indeed, 15 years elapsed before there was any change in that legal concept. By contrast, as early as 1964 the Office for Civil Rights...

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3. A Comparison of Voluntary and Mandatory Desegregation Plans

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pp. 41-110

THIS CHAPTER describes the magnet school plans of 20 school districts and compares the desegregation effectiveness of the two types of magnet plans, voluntary and mandatory. The sample was selected from a larger 119-school-district sample in...

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4. What Is Attractive About Magnet Schools?

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pp. 111-146

AN IMPORTANT assumption of the public choice model of school desegregation policy is that citizens are capable of making programmatic choices among schools. If money is poured into magnet schools that are also given special themes or curricula, parents will compare the resources of that school with those ...

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5. What Have School Desegregation Plans Accomplished?

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pp. 147-182

ONE OF THE MORE important issues concerning desegregation remedies has been their "reasonableness." The public perception of the behavior of the Warren Court and the federal courts in the early 1970s on school desegregation issues has been that they were "out of control," imposing extreme and radical...

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6. Conclusions and Recommendations

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pp. 183-216

THE ISSUE of which model of policymaking-the "command and control" model or the "public choice" model-is more relevant to school desegregation is part of an ongoing philosophical debate among intellectuals. The debate focuses on the nature and causes of the reaction of white Americans to the mandatory...


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pp. 217-228


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pp. 229-242


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pp. 243-258

Index of Court Cases

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pp. 259-260

E-ISBN-13: 9781439903568

Publication Year: 1990