METCO And Diversity Through Busing

John Bazemore / AP

(John Bazemore/AP)

What is METCO?

The Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO) is a state funded, voluntary, educational desegregation program designed to combat racial imbalance in school districts. Roughly 3,300 students from Boston and Springfield are bused and enrolled school in 37 suburban school districts.

The program is voluntary, meaning that parents choose to enroll their children and suburban communities choose to participate. This is opposed to instances of court-ordered busing.

METCO has been in existence since September 1966, when, in an effort to desegregate school districts in the state, seven suburban districts agreed to accept about 220 black students from Boston.

What’s the point?

The program allows students to attend schools in districts that they would otherwise be barred from accessing and helps foster some racial diversity in districts where it may be lacking.

METCO says that their purpose includes providing “the opportunity for children from racially-imbalanced schools in Boston and children from isolated suburban schools to learn together in an integrated public school setting.”

How do I register for METCO?

To register for the Boston METCO waiting list, a parent or guardian must go to the Boston METCO office at 40 Dimock St., in Roxbury, during business hours, 9 a.m. -to 7 p.m.

To register for the Springfield METCO waiting list, a parent or guardian must go to the Springfield METCO office located at the PACE Center, 91 School St., in Springfield.

Parents should bring their child’s birth certificate and proof of residency.

How long does it take to be accepted?

Applicants may be on the waiting list for three to four years before parents are contacted to begin the referral process to a new school district.

The METCO Placement Department may be contacted by phone at (617) 427-1545.

” credit=”David Goldman / AP

Who takes METCO?

Students wishing to participate in METCO must be non-white and reside in the Greater Boston or Springfield metropolitan areas.

Any student whose parents sign him or her up for METCO is eligible for a placement. Students are placed on a waiting list and chosen for placement when their number comes up depending on where there are district openings.

Most often METCO students may be enrolled in grades K-12 in participating districts. However, some districts choose to accept METCO students starting in first grade and others may only accept high school METCO students. This decision is left up to the individual districts.

In general, students accepted into METCO are allowed to stay in the program until the graduate.

But METCO is just for low income students, right?

Nope. Family income does not factor into being accepted to METCO.

The common misconception that METCO students must be from low-income families may stem from a stereotype that minority families living in inner cities are poor.

Do parents get to choose which district their child is enrolled?

Parents do not get a choice of which community their child is enrolled within.

However, parents may decline a placement for any reason and ask to have their child placed back on the waiting list. Placement preferences, in some cases, may be given to siblings at the discretion of that district’s METCO Director/Coordinator.

Joanne Abbott, 12, center, of Boston as she eats her lunch at East Junior High School in Braintree, Mass., on Sept. 8, 1966, the first day of METCO busing. (AP)

Joanne Abbott, 12, center, of Boston as she eats her lunch at East Junior High School in Braintree, Mass., on Sept. 8, 1966, the first day of METCO busing. (AP)” credit=”AP

If my family participates in METCO, will my child find themselves the only person of color in the classroom?

This is a definite possibility. The Scituate school district says “since many METCO programs across the Commonwealth are relatively small in student numbers, and since the minority population in receiving districts is usually minimal, there is a possibility that [a] child could be the only person of color in his or her classroom.”

What are the districts that accept METCO students?

METCO school district listings, directors, and contact information may be found here.

Placement procedures vary among districts. Specific placement procedure questions can be obtained by contacting the METCO director in each district.

A school district’s participation in the program is voluntary. A district may join at any time by getting approval from its school committee and contacting the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

However, the DESE website notes that “given the low reimbursement and the present level funding of the program, it is unclear exactly how a school district could join without additional overall funding to the program itself.”

How is METCO funded?

Credit The Pioneer Institute

Credit: The Pioneer Institute/WGBH

The program is funded by a grant from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that must be approved annually by the legislature. The FY14 State Budget made just over $18 million available for METCO.

Participating school districts usually receive a portion of the METCO funding in the form of a grant.

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