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

Reviving the Fair Housing Act at 50

New efforts in progressive states focus on affordability—which would also diminish segregation.

(AP Photo/Noah Berger)
On April 11, 1968—50 years ago today—Lyndon Johnson signed the federal Fair Housing Act, which outlawed racial discrimination in the sale and rental of housing units. The act, passed in the wake of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, represented a major advance for human freedom and racial justice. While discrimination in housing remains a problem, the act enabled many middle-class African Americans to move out of segregated high-poverty neighborhoods. The black/white residential dissimilarity index (where zero is perfect integration and 100 is apartheid) declined from 79 in 1970 to 59 in 2010. The bad news, however, is that local governments have frustrated the Fair Housing Act by adopting “exclusionary zoning” laws that discriminate based on income—and disproportionately affect people of color. These ordinances limit housing to single-family homes and ban apartment buildings or other multifamily dwellings from entire neighborhoods. As a...

Acting Education Secretary Champions Economic, Racial Integration

Acting Education Secretary John B. King has signaled that racial and socioeconomic integration will now take center stage in federal education policy.

(Photo: AP)
When President Barack Obama recently tapped former New York State education commissioner John B. King Jr. to replace Arne Duncan as secretary of education, the move was seen as a vote for continuity. The two men share views on most hot-button education issues: the Common Core, teacher accountability, and charter schools. But King may be poised to champion a new issue not emphasized by his predecessor—or any other education secretary in recent memory: combating racial and economic segregation. Duncan’s failure to prioritize school integration in his “Race to the Top” agenda was a bitter disappointment to civil-rights activists. Now they are looking to King to revive an issue that many argue is essential to improving performance at struggling schools. King’s commitment to racial and economic integration as a key tool to boost school performance was on full display in his first major speech as acting education secretary this month, delivered on the birthday...

The Class-Based Future of Affirmative Action

Progressives must move on from the idea of race-based admissions policies. 

AP Images/Paul Sakuma
Although many liberals have expressed initial relief that the Supreme Court decision in Fisher v. University of Texas did not kill affirmative action outright, when the dust settles it will become clear that the ruling made it substantially harder to justify race-based affirmative-action programs. The Court adopted a new, higher standard, requiring that judges "must ultimately be satisfied that no workable race-neutral alternatives would produce the educational benefits of diversity." Unlike the earlier ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger , the Court won't simply take the word of universities that race is a necessary consideration; universities will receive "no deference" on that issue, the Fisher Court ruled. Procedurally, the Justices simply sent the case back to the lower court, but make no mistake: The ability to use race as a qualification for admission has been scaled back by this decision. Counterintuitive as it may seem, this step back represents a unique opportunity for...

It's Not the Teachers' Unions

Contrary to conventional wisdom on the right -- and now the left -- unions have actually been at the forefront of education-reform efforts.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (Flickr/House Education and Labor Committee)
The resignation of Washington, D.C., Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee concludes the latest chapter in the ongoing war between free-market education reformers and teachers’ unions. Many Rhee supporters blame union opposition for the electoral defeat of Rhee’s boss, Mayor Adrian Fenty, and see unions as the biggest problem in education. In the much-discussed documentary, Waiting for Superman , in which Rhee is painted as a heroine, Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter declares, "It's very, very important to hold two contradictory ideas in your head at the same time. Teachers are great, a national treasure. Teachers' unions are, generally speaking, a menace and an impediment to reform." The dichotomy (teachers good, unions bad), which has been a staple of conservative rhetoric for years, has taken hold among the center-left as well. Like Alter, the director of Superman , Davis Guggenheim, is a self-described liberal who nevertheless paints unions as the central problem in urban...

The Affirmative Action Trap

Obama is weighing in on the University of Texas's affirmative action policy, but it may be politically dangerous for him to do so.

For a Democratic administration to support racial affirmative action -- as the Obama administration is doing in a contentious lawsuit challenging the University of Texas at Austin's racial-preference admissions policy -- may seem natural and predictable. The administration filed an amicus brief with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, siding with the university in a lawsuit filed by two white students. But given President Barack Obama's past rhetoric on the issue, the decision to enter the fray is somewhat surprising -- and fraught with political danger. As a candidate, Obama sent mixed signals on affirmative action, sometimes suggesting support for the policy and other times suggesting that he was willing to place a greater emphasis on helping economically disadvantaged students of all races. When asked by ABC's George Stephanopoulos whether Obama's own daughters deserved affirmative action in college admissions, Obama replied that no, his daughters should "be treated by any...