Naomi Zarin’s impassioned op-ed about Portland school choice (“White Portlanders must address racist perceptions of schools,” Nov. 28) overlooked a more fundamental issue: White Portlanders are opting out of public schools entirely.

Portland public schools have three times the proportion of nonwhite students as the city has of nonwhite children (48% vs. 15.4%). Where are Portland’s white children going to school?

I lived in Boston as its schools were hollowed out by white parents fleeing to suburban and private schools, and in Durham, North Carolina, after decades of “white flight” resulted in an almost entirely nonwhite public school system. Now I see that “white flight” is emptying the Portland schools, and I’m appalled to know that this is happening here, too.

Maine has been my family’s home state for 10 generations. Our state motto proclaims our history of leadership (“Dirigo”) for the common good. Public schools were created as a common good, designed to build not just individual success but the attitudes required for community success and the skills needed for democratic governance.

What will it take for us to remember what we value most and to begin again to live it?

Carlene Hill Byron

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