I grew up in Waterloo, Iowa, on the wrong side of the river that divided white from black, opportunity from struggle, and started my education in a low-income school that my mother says was distressingly chaotic. I don’t recall it being bad, but I do remember just one white child in my first-grade class, though there may have been more. That summer, my mom and dad enrolled my older sister and me in the school district’s voluntary desegregation program, which allowed some black kids to leave their neighborhood schools for whiter, more well off ones on the west side of town. This was 1982, nearly three decades after the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that separate schools for black and white children were unconstitutional, and near the height of desegregation in this country. My parents chose one of the whitest, richest schools, thinking it would provide the best opportunities for us. Starting in second grade, I rode the bus an hour each morning across town to the “best” public school my town had to offer, Kingsley Elementary, where I was among the tiny number of working-class children and the even tinier number of black children. We did not walk to school or get dropped off by our parents on their way to work. We showed up in a yellow bus, visitors in someone else’s neighborhood, and were whisked back across the bridge each day as soon as the bell rang.
Madison is expanding its least diverse school….