School district mapping experts, financial experts and racial diversity experts were called to help a federal judge decide whether to allow Gardendale to separate from the Jefferson County Alabama school district.
The judge has to decide because the Jefferson County school system has been under a desegregation order since 1971. Several other localities have separated but the issues here are many. Can Gardendale separate and still maintain the desegregation order? Will the area’s separation have a negative financial impact on the rest of Jefferson County? Will minority students feel welcomed in the Gardendale school system?
Jefferson County, the ACLU and others aren’t so excited about the prospect; however, attorneys for Gardendale insist that this separation will be no different than the others before it.
Jefferson County Schools are Bad
By any objective measure, Alabama public schools are not good, ranking 37th among states in 2106. And Jefferson County schools are middle of the pack compared to other Alabama schools. Yet, the Birmingham area happens to have some of the state’s best schools just across town.
They operate outside the Jefferson County school system.
Clearly, there is a formula for great local schools. However, it doesn’t exist in Jefferson County. If Gardendale escapes, so does a significant amount of funding. Some students benefit while it’s highly likely that it will get worse for those trapped and left behind.
Mapping Expert Testimony
The expert testified that Gardendale could be overpopulated for the entire 13-year transition period of the separation plan.
Financial Expert Testimony
The accountants and school board members confirmed that the Jefferson County school system would be negatively affected from a financial standpoint as a result of the separation.
Diversity Expert Testimony
The diversity experts testified that the Gardendale district would be less diverse.
Sadly, there is no need for experts. No one reading this was surprised to hear the answers. After listening to all of the testimony the judge ended up where she knew she’d be at the beginning.
She faces a terrible choice. Jefferson County schools have been awful for generations. They aren’t going to improve regardless of her decision. All she can do is allow some kids to potentially benefit while guaranteeing that things will get worse for all the others. The other choice is to continue to force all students to languish in an underperforming school system.
Author: Chris Semones, CEO, Expert Witness Network.