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School Segregation: A Lesson not Learned (Part 1)

March 23, 2016
This school year, non-white students made up more than half of all public school students. While this may sound like good news for proponents of diversity in schools, it actually covers up a larger problem. Since the late 1980’s a disturbing trend has emerged among American public schools: the rapid and dramatic resurgence of segregation.

Students of minority groups attend schools with fewer and fewer whites and white students attend schools that are almost exclusively white. Almost 60 years after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, school districts are still grappling with the problem of racial segregation in our school system.

To put it simply, school districts today are at their highest levels of segregation since 1968. During the 1968-69 school years, 14 years after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, 77% of Black students and 55% of Latino students attended public schools that were comprised of 50% to 100% racial minorities. In the 2009-2010 school year, more than 74% of Black students and 80% of Latino students attended schools that were 50% to 100% racial minorities.[1] In addition, the average white student attends a school where 77 percent of his or her peers are also white.[2] A report from the UCLA’s Civil Rights Project puts it even more bluntly, finding that “fully 15% of black students, and 14% of Latino students, attend ‘apartheid schools’ across the nation, where whites make up 0 to 1% of the enrollment. This is the dirty little secret of public education. For all the talk about the declining racial achievement gap and rising graduation rates for minority students, policy makers have remained silent on the shocking and massive resegregation of public schools.

Source: New York TimesSource: New York Times

Policy makers and academics have explored some causes for this deeply troubling phenomena. One reason for school resegregation is due to the rollback of court ordered desegregation policies. For about 15 years after the Brown decision in 1954, school districts remained segregated and there was virtually no indication of progress until the late-1960s. During this time, local school districts faced immense legal pressure to desegregate because of two developments: the Civil Rights Act of 1964, when Title VI of the act threatened to cut federal funding for school districts that were still segregated and the Green v Kent County case where the court struck down a “free choice” plan that gave school districts flexibility in determining their desegregation methods.[3] These policies in combination with a barrage of civil rights litigation forced many districts to issue court ordered desegregation plans for their schools. So the 1970s and 80s were the peak of the desegregation efforts. But in the 1990s, several Supreme Court decisions in the cases of Dowell, Pitts, and Jenkins declared that these court ordered desegregation plans were never meant to be permanent and many of the school districts that were under court oversight have since been released.[4] Researchers from Stanford University analyzed 200 school districts that terminated their court ordered desegregation polices since 1990 and found that “following the release from court order, white/black desegregation levels begin to rise within a few years of release and continue to grow steadily for at least 10 years…. This is not to say that segregation patterns revert to those of de jure segregation present in the South prior to the Brown … but segregation does increase substantially relative to levels attained under the court orders.” [5]

Another reason for this rapid resegregation is the growing residential segregation within American communities. In the 1950s segregation largely occurred within school districts as black and white students living just blocks apart went to different schools. Today poor and minority students are separated from wealthy mostly white students by municipal boundaries, and property tax lines. School desegregation plans were in fact a significant stimulus of white flight as many middle class white families fled from urban communities to the suburbs.[6] A case in point is Clifton Junior High in Maryland, Virginia. Before desegregating in 1957, the school had 2,023 white students and 34 black students. Ten years later, the school had 12 white students and 2,037 black students.[7] As white families moved to the suburbs, they left in their wake urban school districts with higher poverty, more concentrated minority enrollment and diminishing property tax revenues. Furthermore, many of these newly established suburban communities started enacting exclusionary zoning laws in a not so subtle attempt to deliberately price out low income and minority families from their neighborhoods. Municipalities began enacting minimum lot size, square foot and yard size requirements and these practices persists even until today. Many residential neighborhoods actually pride themselves on ‘2-acre zoning’, which as the name suggests, prohibits the building of homes on lots smaller than 2 acres.[8] The cumulative effect off all these policies was that suburban schools became much richer and whiter than their urban counterparts. Thus residential segregation also has a part to play in the ongoing phenomena of school resegregation.

 

This article is Part I of a Wonk Tank multiple-part piece on school resegregation. Watch for the next part to come in the next few weeks!



  [1] Guillaume, Andrea M. K-12 classroom teaching: A primer for new professionals. Pearson, 2015.

 

  [2] Spatig-Amerikaner, Ary. “Unequal Education: Federal Loophole Enables Lower Spending on Students of Color.” Center for American Progress(2012).

 

  [3] Lutz, Byron. “The end of court-ordered desegregation.” American Economic Journal: Economic Policy(2011): 130-168.

 

  [4] Ibid.

 

  [5] Reardon, Sean F., Elena Tej Grewal, Demetra Kalogrides, and Erica Greenberg. “Brown fades: The end of court‐ordered school desegregation and the resegregation of American public schools.” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management31, no. 4 (2012): 876-904.

 

  [6] Zhang, Haifeng. “School Desegregation and White Flight Revisited: A Spatial Analysis from a Metropolitan Perspective.” Urban Geography32, no. 8 (2011): 1208-1226.

 

  [7] Higginbotham, F. Michael. Ghosts of Jim Crow: Ending racism in post-racial America. NYU Press, 2015.

 

  [8] Hall, Eliza. “Divide and sprawl, decline and fall: A comparative critique of Euclidean zoning.” U. Pitt. L. Rev. 68 (2006): 915.
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  • <h3>Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED®)</h3><p><strong><img width="180" height="79" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/79/481_fred-logo.rev.1407788243.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image481 lw_align_right" data-max-w="222" data-max-h="97"/>An online database consisting of more than 72,000 economic data time series from 54 national, international, public, and private sources.</strong> FRED®, created and maintained by Research Department at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, goes far beyond simply providing data: It combines data with a powerful mix of tools that help the user understand, interact with, display, and disseminate the data.</p><p> Quick link to data page: <a href="http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/tags/series" target="_blank">http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/tags/series</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
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  • <h3>National Center for Education Statistics</h3><p><strong><img width="400" height="80" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/400/height/80/479_nces.rev.1407787656.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image479 lw_align_right" data-max-w="400" data-max-h="80"/>The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education in the U.S. and other nations.</strong> NCES is located within the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences. NCES has an extensive Statistical Standards Program that consults and advises on methodological and statistical aspects involved in the design, collection, and analysis of data collections in the Center. To learn more about the NCES, <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/about/" target="_blank">click here</a>.</p><p> Quick link to NCES Data Tools: <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/datatools/index.asp?DataToolSectionID=4" target="_blank">http://nces.ed.gov/datatools/index.asp?DataToolSectionID=4</a></p><p> Quick link to Quick Tables and Figures: <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/quicktables/" target="_blank">http://nces.ed.gov/quicktables/</a></p><p> Quick link to NCES Fast Facts (Note: The primary purpose of the Fast Facts website is to provide users with concise information on a range of educational issues, from early childhood to adult learning.): <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/" target="_blank">http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/#</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Congressional Budget Office</h3><p><img width="180" height="180" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/180/380_cbo-logo.rev.1406822035.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image380 lw_align_right" data-max-w="180" data-max-h="180"/>Since its founding in 1974, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has produced independent analyses of budgetary and economic issues to support the Congressional budget process.</p><p> The agency is strictly nonpartisan and conducts objective, impartial analysis, which is evident in each of the dozens of reports and hundreds of cost estimates that its economists and policy analysts produce each year. CBO does not make policy recommendations, and each report and cost estimate discloses the agency’s assumptions and methodologies. <strong>CBO provides budgetary and economic information in a variety of ways and at various points in the legislative process.</strong> Products include baseline budget projections and economic forecasts, analysis of the President’s budget, cost estimates, analysis of federal mandates, working papers, and more.</p><p> Quick link to Products page: <a href="http://www.cbo.gov/about/our-products" target="_blank">http://www.cbo.gov/about/our-products</a></p><p> Quick link to Topics: <a href="http://www.cbo.gov/topics" target="_blank">http://www.cbo.gov/topics</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
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  • <h3>National Bureau of Economic Research (Public Use Data Archive)</h3><p><img width="180" height="43" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/43/478_nber.rev.1407530465.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image478 lw_align_right" data-max-w="329" data-max-h="79"/>Founded in 1920, the <strong>National Bureau of Economic Research</strong> is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization dedicated to promoting a greater understanding of how the economy works. The NBER is committed to undertaking and disseminating unbiased economic research among public policymakers, business professionals, and the academic community.</p><p> Quick Link to <strong>Public Use Data Archive</strong>: <a href="http://www.nber.org/data/" target="_blank">http://www.nber.org/data/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
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  • <h3>USDA Nutrition Assistance Data</h3><p><img width="180" height="124" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image485 lw_align_right" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg 3x" data-max-w="1233" data-max-h="850"/>Data and research regarding the following <strong>USDA Nutrition Assistance</strong> programs are available through this site:</p><ul><li>Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) </li><li>Food Distribution Programs </li><li>School Meals </li><li>Women, Infants and Children </li></ul><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.fns.usda.gov/data-and-statistics" target="_blank">http://www.fns.usda.gov/data-and-statistics</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>The World Bank Data (U.S.)</h3><p><img width="130" height="118" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image484 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg 3x" data-max-w="1406" data-max-h="1275"/>The <strong>World Bank</strong> provides World Development Indicators, Surveys, and data on Finances and Climate Change.</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://data.worldbank.org/country/united-states" target="_blank">http://data.worldbank.org/country/united-states</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>