Follow the lead of Gateway Cities on school integration

The Gateway Cities Journal

Follow the lead of Gateway Cities on school integration

Seventy years after Brown v. Board of Education and 50 years after the Boston school busing crisis, a new report by the state’s Racial Imbalance Advisory Council (RAIC) finds nearly two-thirds of Massachusetts schools are racially segregated. MassINC sought to draw renewed attention to this issue, as well as growing segregation by income, with the 2022 study Choosing Integration. RAIC cited our report and acknowledged its core argument —the increasing concentration of students of color in high-poverty schools explains a sizeable share of the persistently large racial and ethnic achievement gaps in Massachusetts.

Gateway Cities leaders have long sought to increase integration in public schools. The desire to make their inclusive urban communities exceptional learning environments for all students was at the core of the education vision that MassINC co-developed with Gateway City mayors and education leaders in 2013.

For the past decade, state education leaders have been unwilling to acknowledge the problem of growing segregation and join with urban districts in seeking solutions, which the RAIC report boldly acknowledged. State-level inaction is especially jarring given the near universal concern that state leaders voice over the recent Supreme Court ruling against affirmative action at Harvard. Diversity in college classrooms is equally important, but this is too little, too late for many students of color, who never make it to college because they were trapped in high-poverty, under-resourced schools throughout their entire K-12 education. And by forgoing efforts to increase integration in primary and secondary schools, we deprive all students of the benefits they gain from learning in diverse settings.

A big reason for inaction is education leaders don’t see viable solutions to segregation. This lack of vision is largely because they face intense pressure to act fast on behalf of today’s students. But if we want all students to reach their full potential, there is no way around it. We must pursue comprehensive and long-term integration policies at both the state and local level so we are not having the same conversation with the next generation and the generation after that.

Efforts to promote truly mixed-income communities in both urban and suburban areas are essential. This means taking advantage of all the new state funding going into housing production to modernize our affordable housing tools to support mixed-income development. At the same time, we need to ensure that urban schools are attractive to all families, including those with the means to choose where they live.

While this will require an array of strategies, key among them will be deep investment to improve the physical conditions of urban public schools. Too many of these buildings are cramped with poor air quality. They are devoid of art rooms, auditoriums, cafeterias, and gyms, which most families expect for their children. And they are even more lacking in the specialized lab and technology platforms that are increasingly required to meet 21st century learning standards.

Over the past year, MassINC has been working with housing and education leaders from Gateway Cities to explore strategies for implementing a comprehensive approach to building mixed-income neighborhoods and schools that we call school-centered neighborhood development. We will share our learnings in a new report later this year. We are also in the midst of launching a related research project looking closely at how Massachusetts makes long-overdue investments in urban school buildings.

As we consider these issues, we should appreciate that public opinion has changed dramatically over the past 70 years. A 2022 survey from the MassINC Polling Group found Massachusetts residents from all backgrounds and across the political spectrum want integrated schools and believe state leaders can and should do more. Behind this finding is an understanding that diverse K-12 schools benefit all students. We must not repeat the mistakes of the past by waiting for litigation and asking judges to solve these complex problems from the bench. It’s time to undertake this important work together.



In a big move that’s received little attention, the House version of the Housing bond bill doubles the cap on the state historic rehabilitation tax credit to $110 million annually.

Trinity Financial breaks ground on the new Curtis Apartments, an innovative mixed-income public housing redevelopment in Worcester.

New Bedford city councilors are set to hear more on the plan for a downtown business improvement district.

Sec. Hao visits New Bedford and shares information on state resources to help grow immigrant-owned small businesses.

Lawmakers from Lowell and Springfield say the economic development bill should do more for regions outside of Boston.

Springfield wants nonprofits to pitch in to help lower property taxes.

Short on shelter, New Bedford explores homeless camp solutions.

The Urban Institute offers five strategies to address unsheltered homelessness.

A new study out of Kansas says housing crisis is about affordability not supply. The New York times says the latest housing market trends are more nuanced with significant variability across the country. And Governing asks how small is too small?

John Gee reviews a new history of South Coast economic development by Shaun Nichols, a professor at Boise State University.



Sixty percent of Massachusetts public school students attend a racially segregated school, according to a report from a state education advisory board.

Schools in Salem and Peabody receive funding through the state’s workforce training grant program. This week, the state awarded $15 million in the latest round of funding to 65 high schools, colleges, and other education institutions.

The Berkshire Eagle investigates why so many students leave the public schools in Pittsfield to take classes at other schools, taking $4 million with them.

Worcester school leaders urge state lawmakers to account for inflation in a state funding formula, with districts across the state facing an estimated $465 million shortfall.

A new map from the Century Foundation dissects multiple sources of school segregation within metro areas.



The MBTA is barely treading water.

South Coast Rail start is delayed another year.

Congressman Seth Moulton is once again pushing the economic benefits of the North-South Rail Link project, saying it would be more of a boon than an expansion of South Station.

A new Brookings Institution report says state bond banks are the best kept secret in infrastructure finance in America.



Researchers are finding new ways to make parks cooling centers. Meanwhile, libraries are going to the dogs this summer in Worcester.


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