Too Many Black Kids in 'Apartheid Schools'

Releasing a new report on educational segregation, the Civil Rights Project asks why neither presidential candidate has addressed this "threat to the nation's success as a multiracial society." 

Posted:
 
classroom_092012_400jrw
Thinkstock

The authors of a new Civil Rights Project report on education with findings about deepening segregation in American schools want to be clear about one thing: Simply sitting next to a white student does not guarantee better educational outcomes for students of color. Rather, they say, the research they've summarized shows that segregated schools are systematically linked to unequal educational opportunities as well as high dropout rates and fewer resources.

That's bad news for black students, according to "E Pluribus ... Separation: Deepening Double Segregation for More Students." Released this week, the report on national trends shows that, although residential segregation has declined for African-American families, school segregation remains high, with the greatest increases in the Southern states that led the national school integration efforts of the 1960s.

That leaves 15 percent of black students and 14 percent of Latino students in what the Civil Rights Project calls "apartheid schools," where whites make up only 0 to 10 percent of students. Additional report findings include the following:

In spite of the dramatic suburbanization of nonwhite families, 80% of Latino students and 74% of black students attend majority non-white (50-100% minority) schools.

Eight of the 20 states reporting the highest numbers of students attending schools under "apartheid conditions" are located in the South of Borders states -- a pattern the Civil Rights Project calls "a significant retrenchment on the civil rights process.

Half of the black students in the Chicago metro area and one third of the black students in New York attend "apartheid schools."

White students account for about 64% of the total enrollment in the Northeast, but the typical black student attends a school with only 25% whites.

"These trends," says Civil Rights Project Co-Director Gary Orfield, "threaten the nation's success as a multiracial society."

With that view of the significance of the segregation patterns, it's no wonder the Civil Rights Project wishes the presidential candidates would address the issue. "We are disappointed to have heard nothing in the campaign about this issue from neither President Obama, who is the product of excellent integrated schools and colleges, nor from Governor Romney, whose father gave up his job in the Nixon Cabinet because of his fight for fair housing, which directly impacts school makeup," Orfield said.

For policymakers who do make it their business to reverse the trend toward school segregation, the report includes suggestions on how to do so without the use of mandatory busing. Some ideas: Giving priority in competing funds to pro-integration policies, challenging the operation of choice and charter policies so that they foster rather than undermine integration and helping communities undergoing racial change to create voluntary desegregation plans.