Segregation Gains Ground 60 Years After Brown

Jesse Holland and Kimberly Hefling, AP, May 15, 2014

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Progress toward integrated classrooms has largely been rolled back since the Supreme Court issued its landmark Brown v. Topeka Board of Education decision 60 years ago, according to a report released Thursday by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA. Blacks are now seeing more school segregation than they have in decades, and more than half of Latino students are now attending schools that are majority Latino.

In New York, California and Texas, more than half of Latino students are enrolled in schools that are 90 percent minority or more, the report found. In New York, Illinois, Maryland and Michigan, more than half of black students attend schools where 90 percent or more are minority.

Project co-director Gary Orfield, author of the “Brown at 60” report, said the changes are troubling because they show some minority students receive poorer educations than white students and Asian students, who tend to be in middle-class schools. The report urged, among other things, deeper research into housing segregation, which is a “fundamental cause of separate-and-unequal schooling.”

Although segregation is more prevalent in central cities of the largest metropolitan areas, it’s also in the suburbs. “Neighborhood schools, when we go back to them, as we have, produce middle-class schools for whites and Asians and segregated high-poverty schools for blacks and Latinos,” Orfield said.

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John Rury, an education professor at the University of Kansas, said the work at UCLA has revealed how many of the advances in desegregating schools made after the Brown ruling have stopped–or been reversed.

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Around the country, only 23 percent of black students attended white-majority schools in 2011. That’s the lowest number since 1968.

Advocates point to rulings by federal courts that have freed many of the schools from Brown-related desegregation orders since the 1990s. That, they say, is leading the country back toward more segregated schools.

At the same time, there’s been a demographic change in public schools. Between 1968 and 2011, the number of Hispanic students in the public school system rose 495 percent, while the number of black students increased by 19 percent and the number of white students dropped 28 percent, according to the Education Department.

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