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Resegregation Rising

November 21, 2013

Two recent articles with different slants came to the same conclusion: our schools are re-segregated to the point where Brown vs. Board of Education is effectively repealed.

Common Dreams blogger Paul Buchheit attributes the resegregation to a combination of privatization and the inherent inequality built into the system of taxation and offers links to reports that support these assertions.

The Civil Rights Project at UCLA shows that “segregated schools are systematically linked to unequal educational opportunities.” The Economic Policy Institute tells us that “African American students are more isolated than they were 40 years ago.”


According to a Center on Education Policyreport, private schools serve 12 percent of the nation’s elementary and secondary students, but only one percent of disabled students. Forty-three percent of public school students are from minority families, compared to 24% of private school students.

Meanwhile, as teachers continue to get blamed, the Census Bureau tells us that an incredible 38 percent of black children live in poverty.

Worse than the resegregation trend is the de-funding that goes along with it:

A Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) report revealed that total K-12 education cuts for fiscal 2012 were about $12.7 billion.

Almost 90 percent of K-12 funding comes from state and local taxes. But in 2011 and 2012, 155 of the largest U.S. corporations paid only about half of their required state taxes. That comes to $14 billion per year in unpaid taxes, more than the K-12 cuts.

In summary: schools are becoming more segregated; state and local funding for schools is diminishing in an amount roughly equal to state and local tax cuts offered to corporations; and the increasing number of black children being raised in poverty are attending revenue starved schools…. and the poor performance is the fault of teacher’s unions and can be “fixed” by holding them more accountable.

Earlier this month the Atlantic magazine offered a more dispassionate perspective on resegregation phenomenon, suggesting it was the result of demographics and housing patterns. The demographic reality in America is this:

Whites are nearly a minority in the U.S. population under the age of five, and Census projections predict that by 2043, whites will no longer be the majority of the U.S. population overall. “There’s going to be fewer whites in minority schools because there are fewer whites in the population,” said Fiel.

So if we are trending toward a world where “minority” students are in the majority, are we are trending toward a re-definition of “segregation”? The short answer is “NO”. The problem is that the housing patterns result in what I would call the “Bronxville syndrome”, which is illustrated in the map below. North of NYC on the map is a small unshaded area surrounded by green shaded areas: that is Bronxville and the Atlantic describes the difficulty of solving this resegregation phenomenon in a few paragraphs:

The darker the green, the larger the the black population in the school district. Notice that there are several dark-green (i.e. majority black) districts bordering off-white (i.e. majority white) ones. The Mount Vernon City School District near New Rochelle, for example, has a 62.1 percent black population. On its northern border lies a little off-white dot: the Bronxville Union Free School District, whose population is 0.6 percent black. Student achievement in those districts is similarly divergent: In Mount Vernon, 68 percent of students pass New York State’s high-stakes Regents exam; in Bronxville, 100 percent pass. You can see other, similar contrasts near Newark (on the southwestern side of the map) and on Long Island (on the eastern side).

“The biggest barrier to reducing racial isolation…is racial imbalance between school districts in the same metropolitan area/nonmetropolitan county,” Fiel wrote in his American Sociological Review article.

Inter-district segregation does not come with an easy solution. Creating integrated schools in these areas would require students to travel across district lines—a form of desegregation policy that has been struck down by the Supreme Court.

“We need new policies and new ways of addressing segregation because it’s on a much larger scale now,” Fiel said.

There are no easy answers to resegregation, no easy answers to the poverty that plagues many of the re-segregated systems… but starving public schools serving children raised in poverty of resources and testing children raised in poverty more frequently are clearly steps in the WRONG direction…

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