It’s a controversial question. Due to the economy, more middle-class families are passing on private schools in favor of the local public school. This is good for the schools, since studies show urban schools benefit educationally from an influx of middle class students and parents because of the resources (most notably time and money) that accompany them. And this brings up the old question of race in the classroom.

Whether the middle class impact on urban schools is beneficial or sustainable depends on the attitude of the parents themselves and on whether they focus on making the school as a whole better instead of just making the school better for their child only.

Education expert Erin Horvat says, “The resources that these parents can bring are linked to class. If you’re a parent that has time to volunteer in your child’s class, you’re going to do that. If you’re working two jobs, you’re not going to have that time. Middle class parents also feel more than poorer parents that they have the right to throw their weight around.”

The middle-class (and usually white) influx of kids into urban (often minority) schools, may help rebalance a recent trend: urban school districts across the country have shifted back to managing segregated schools following the recent lifting of court-ordered desgregation plans. School desegregation, once a central piece of social and educational policy, has been ended by an increasing number of federal courts in recent years in urban school districts.

When desegration polices are removed, schools are designated as “unitary,” which means they are expected to implement a variety of policies focusing on school improvement, school choice and neighborhood schools, among other alternatives. Racial balancing of schools is no longer a priority. Researcher Claire Smrekar says, “As the return to neighborhood schools accelerates, schools resegregate, and magnet programs assume new roles.”

While few people want to return to the days of “busing,” when middle class white students were forced to attend black ghetto schools, the current lack of integration concerns some educators. But maybe this is something we no longer need to worry so much about. After all, could a racially prejudiced electorate have elected a black man President?

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