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The White House is calling for greater socioeconomic integration in classrooms across the nation. President Barack Obama’s proposed education budget includes a $120 million line for Stronger Together, a competitive grant program that will enable school districts to attain a diverse mix of students from different economic backgrounds.

Education Week says the funding would go to districts with “big achievement gaps and problems with socioeconomic integration.” It would help them either to design a socioeconomic integration plan, or implement an already designed strategy.

“No district would be required to participate, but it would increase the options available for interested communities and enhance the research base for effective strategies,” Acting Education Secretary John B. King writes on medium.com.

According to King, who Obama plans to nominate as his permanent education secretary, students from high-income families graduate from college at a rate six times higher than lower-income students.

“And it’s hard to miss the fact that when the children of welders and bankers are confined to separate schools, access to opportunity is not equal,” King writes. “It’s no secret whose school ends up with the resources to succeed — from shiny new buildings with updated technology, to AP courses that will set them up for success in college.”

But some education advocates argue that the president should prioritize racial integration over his emphasis on socioeconomic diversity.

“Racial re-segregation has further isolated minority students in many school districts,” Jeff Simering, director of legislative services for the Council of the Great City Schools, told Education Week.

Simering added, “Racial isolation still plagues the nation’s elementary and secondary school system. The new socio-economic integration proposal redirects attention and funding away from the continuing need for traditional integration of students.”

He doubts that a divided Congress will appropriate the funding the president seeks. Simering told Education Week that the $120 million should go toward magnet schools or Title I grants that benefit low-income students.

In addition to funding Stronger Together, Education Week reports that the president’s integration plan includes $115 million for magnet schools and $17 million for charter schools to support desegregation efforts.

SOURCE: Education Week | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty