Grooms, Ain Akilah
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Voluntary interdistrict desegregation programs were designed specifically to address racial segregation in public schools by providing minority students from urban areas with free transportation to suburban schools. This study uses the voluntary interdistrict desegregation program currently in operation in St. Louis as its foundation, focusing on the ten year period following the lifting of the court order in 1999. Parents of past program participants have openly admitted to enrolling their children because of access to a “better education.” The purpose of this study was to investigate: (1) suburban implementation of the voluntary transfer program, (2) the financial resources available in St. Louis and in the suburban districts to which students have been assigned, and (3) the variation in the distribution of the resources available in the suburban communities and their effect on the graduation rates of the Black students. This policy analysis had two distinct subsections: an implementation analysis and an equity analysis. The implementation analysis, relying in part on Stone’s (2001) civic capacity framework, examined suburban implementation of the policy. The equity analysis, based on the framework created by Berne and Stiefel (1984), used weighted least squares and quantile regression analyses to investigate the variation in the distribution of the resources available in the suburban school districts and in the academic outcomes realized by Black students in suburban schools. The results of the implementation and equity analyses indicated that suburban interest in continued participation the program was based primarily on funding and reimbursement, rather than diversity. The number of transfer students from St. Louis participating in the program had consistently declined over time. These results also revealed that district wealth (local tax effort) and geographic location within the county tended to have the greatest effect on achievement for Black students in the participating suburban districts. Overall, results indicated that despite interest in the program on the part of St. Louis families, control over the program remains in the hands of the suburban elite, and led to competing objectives: diversity versus resources.