"It’s that much harder to integrate classrooms when the communities where children live are still so segregated," writes Emily Badger of the incomplete legacy of Brown v. Board of Education. Making the task of segregating public schools so difficult is the fact that of all the populations in the country, children are the most likely to be isolated from other racial or economic groups: "Since the Civil Rights Era, residential racial segregation across the U.S. has steadily declined. But segregation among school-aged children has startlingly lagged behind this progress. In the communities where they live, black and white children -- as well as the poor and non-poor -- are more isolated from each other than adults in the U.S. population at large."
The connections between housing policy and education policy lead Badger to ask the questions: "What if we made a more concerted effort to integrate schools by integrating neighborhoods? What if we tried to improve the educational prospects of low-income minority students by breaking down barriers to affordable housing in the communities where good schools exist? What if we wielded zoning laws and housing vouchers as levers of education policy?"
The article includes analysis of a number of policy examples that address these questions, including inclusionary zoning, excluding federal funding to communities that adopt exclusionary zoning standards. On the former point, Badger details a study by Heather Schwartz finding better test scores for low-income students that attended high quality schools due to an inclusionary zoning program in Montgomery County, Maryland.