May 20, 2016

School segregation returns


 report released this week by the Government Accountability Office illuminated the extent to which school systems across the US are, once again, becoming more segregated. The report found that more than 60% of schools with high levels of poor students were racially segregated, which the report defined as being at least 75% black or Latino.

The study reviewed federal data from 2001 to 2014 and found 16% of all US schools were both racially segregated and poor, increasing from about 7,000 schools in 2001 to 15,089 by 2013 to 2014.

Compared to other schools, the GAO report found, segregated schools offered fewer college prep, science, and math classes to take, and a disproportionate number of students were either held back in ninth grade, suspended, or expelled.
There have been large-scale protests waged by teachers who have faced the prospect of working without pay. Photograph: Carlos Osorio/AP
Green said the Milliken decision is one of the “main culprits” in what has happened to his alma mater.
Despite the supreme court’s 1954 landmark decision that US schools must be desegregated, Detroit’s school system remained effectively segregated, stemming in part from an accelerated white flight. When the NAACP legally challenged the state of Michigan in 1970 to end the district’s segregation, at first, the federal courts agreed something needed to be done: A plan was crafted to bus students in from suburban districts and was upheld by an appellate court.
But the plan was quickly stamped out. In 1974, the US supreme court in a 5-4 ruling shot down the efforts in Detroit, saying desegregation measures had to remain inside district boundaries.
In a column he co-wrote for the Detroit Free Press, Green argued that “we need advocacy and policies for all schools to be equitable, and racially and socioeconomically diverse across metro Detroit so that all children can learn to grow up in a diverse nation.”
Compared to suburban districts, he said, citing the GAO report, segregated schools have less access to courses needed to exceed in college – and, in some cases, a lower level of teacher experience. Indeed, a plan approved by the Michigan house to overhaul Detroit schools would allow uncertified teachers to be hired by the district.
“So I think there’s also a resource argument that has to be made [for integration],” he said.
The GAO recommended that the US department of education “more routinely analyze” civil rights data to identify disparities and said the federal justice department could “systematically track key information on open federal school desegregation cases to which it is a party to better inform its monitoring”.
Eve Hill, US deputy assistant attorney general, wrote in a response letter to the report: “The Department carefully monitors each open desegregation case to which the United States is a party on a case-by-case basis, recognizing that each case is unique.” The justice department is involved in 178 open desegregation cases, stemming from court orders that originated in the 1970s and 1980s.
Green said the GAO report underscores the spirit of the Brown v Board of Education decision.
“It’s not just about putting white bodies and black bodies together,” he said. “It’s about understanding what they said in 54, that racially segregated and separate schools are inherently unequal.”

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