Richard Kahlenberg


Richard D. Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation, is author of All Together Now: Creating Middle-Class Schools through Public School Choice (Brookings Press, 2001) and the coauthor (with Halley Potter) of A Smarter Charter: Finding What Works for Charter Schools and Public Education (Teachers College Press, 2014).

Recent Articles

Can Separate Be Equal?

The classroom is where poor and middle-class kids should meet -- to the benefit of both.

(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
For generations, those seeking to break the cycle of poverty have divided into two camps: integrationists, who believe that separate schools and neighborhoods for rich and poor perpetuate poverty, and community organizers, who want to "fix" inner-city communities and schools rather than move people around. Generally speaking, integrationists have had stronger social-science research on their side, while community organizers have claimed to be more politically realistic. During the Democratic presidential primary campaign, candidates Barack Obama and John Edwards neatly embodied the two approaches. Edwards proposed expanding housing vouchers to allow low-income families to move to better neighborhoods while Obama called for increasing funding for the Community Development Block Grant program. In the education arena, Edwards proposed giving middle-class suburban public schools a financial incentive to recruit low-income urban students trapped in failing schools. By contrast, Obama...

Obama: Stay Away From Notre Dame's Commencement

Abortion has nothing to do with it. A progressive president shouldn't support an institution that reserves 25 percent of its admissions seats for legacies.

The University of Notre Dame has traditionally invited new presidents to address its student body at commencement. (Flickr)
Conservative Catholics have been berating Notre Dame for extending a commencement-speaking invitation to a pro-choice president. We agree that President Barack Obama shouldn't speak at Notre Dame -- but abortion has nothing to do with it. Notre Dame practices pervasive discrimination in its admissions policies. Every year the school reserves 25 percent of the seats in its entering class for children of alumni. These "legacy preferences" result in applicants being granted or denied admission based not on their merit but on their ancestry. Notre Dame's quota for right-ancestry students -- as reported in Daniel Golden's book The Price of Admission -- offends an American egalitarian tradition dating back to the Revolution. The Founders overthrew a semi-feudal order where rank and status were inherited rather than earned. In Gordon Wood's memorable phrase, the Revolution was "a vindication of frustrated talent at the expense of birth and blood." After transcribing the self-evident truth...

How the Left Can Avoid a New Education War

A battle is brewing between portions of the civil-rights community and teacher unions over the future of liberal education policy.

Just as Democrats have finally settled on a nominee and begun to unite, a major new fight has broken out between competing factions in the liberal education-policy community. One group argues that poverty should not be used as an excuse for failure and sees teacher unions as a major obstacle to promoting equity through education reform. The other group says education reform by itself cannot close the achievement gap between rich and poor and black and white without addressing larger economic inequalities in society. The battle, which can broadly be characterized as one between portions of the civil-rights community and teacher unions, is a movie we've seen before -- most explosively in the New York City teacher strikes of the 1960s -- and it doesn't end well. Sen. Barack Obama should follow the lead of legendary teacher-union leader Albert Shanker and recognize that both sides in the debate need to bend. The first coalition , led by the self-described "odd couple" of the Rev. Al...

The New Look of School Integration

A bad Supreme Court decision overturning race-based integration programs in Louisville, KY, and Seattle, WA, has produced a positive result. A new initiative in Louisville does something even better for children -- it integrates them by class.

When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down racial-integration plans in Jefferson County (Louisville), Kentucky, and Seattle, Washington, last June, some feared the decisions spelled the end of America's commitment to Brown v. Board of Education . But last Wednesday the Jefferson County school board unanimously voted to adopt a new plan that emphasizes integration by socioeconomic status, which is more legally viable and educationally sound than integration based on race alone. The revised plan, which considers parental education and income levels in addition to race, may very well represent the future of school integration in the United States. Louisville's schools, like most throughout the South, were de jure segregated by race prior to Brown . Local officials resisted the Brown decision for years, but in 1975 the district was subject to a federal court order to desegregate. Under the plan, students were bused to ensure that all schools were between 15 percent and 50 percent black...

A World Without Teacher Unions?

Despite the myriad criticisms of teacher unions, their abolition would be a huge loss for supporters of public education -- and for the American labor movement as a whole.

For many, Labor Day marks the end of summer and a time to return to school; others see it as a day to contemplate the role of trade unions in American society. For one group in America -- leaders and members of teacher unions-- it represents both, but this Labor Day, they have little to celebrate. Teacher unions are widely seen as disastrous for education. The attacks predictably come from conservatives, but they also come from some liberals and moderates. Earlier this year, for example, Apple's Steve Jobs declared at an education reform conference: "I believe that what's wrong with our schools in this nation is that they have become unionized in the worst possible way." Jobs was particularly angry that unions sometimes stop bad teachers from being fired. "This unionization and lifetime employment of K-12 teachers is off-the-charts crazy," he concluded to enthusiastic applause from the audience. So it seems worth asking: what would life be like without teacher unions? In the 1950s,...