Harvard Law School’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice (CHHIRJ) and the Pioneer Institute have jointly published the first comprehensive review in nearly a decade of the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO), the nation’s second-longest running voluntary school desegregation program.

METCO Merits More: The History and Status of METCO, co-authored by Susan Eaton, research director at CHHIRJ, and Gina Chirichigno, a post-doctoral researcher at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University, highlights METCO’s positive track record and includes data on student enrollment, performance, demographics, graduation and college attainment rates, waiting list, and funding. The program, one of eight voluntary inter-district school desegregation programs in the country, was created in 1965 by a coalition of parents and educators, both African American and white, who were dissatisfied with the segregated status of education during the Civil Rights Movement.

The program allows “students who would otherwise attend urban school districts to attend schools in what are still predominately white suburbs,” Eaton said in an interview with WGBH’s Callie Crossley Show on June 7.

“Today, nearly 3,500 students participate in the program, and tens of thousands of people have graduated from the program in the greater Boston area,” she said.

The report details METCO’s successes and future challenges:

“METCO enjoys enduring popularity among urban families, suburban educators and state legislators. In the program’s initial year, just seven suburban communities participated. … In 2011, 37 districts are participating,” the authors said. “In spite of its popularity, METCO has faced budget cuts in recent years, forcing local communities to cut back on services. In 2008, METCO’s budget was $20.2 million. Three years later, in 2011, lawmakers slashed METCO’s budget to $16.5 million.”

METCO is expected to experience another budget cut in 2012, the Callie Crossley Show reported.