Sixty Years After Brown V. Board of Education, American Schools Are Resegregating Along Race, Class Lines

Public school children living in poverty

A new report from UCLA states that 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education, American public schools seem to be resegregating. According to the report, America appears to be developing a two-tier public education system—one well-funded system for white, suburban residents, and another poorly-funded system full of largely Black and Latino students.

“Desegregation progress was very substantial for Blacks, and occurred in the South from the mid-1960s to the late 1980s. Contrary to many claims, the South has not gone back to the level of segregation before Brown,” said the report titled, Brown at 60: Great Progress, a Long Retreat and an Uncertain Future. “It has lost all of the additional progress made after 1967 but is still the least segregated region for Black students. The growth of segregation has been most dramatic for Latino students, particularly in the West, where there was substantial integration in the 1960s, and segregation has soared.”

Gary Orfield, a professor at UCLA and one of the co-authors of the report, said Black and Latino students who begin their educational careers in poorly-funded, low-performing schools have a significant disadvantage.

“If you get in a really poor-performing high school, you probably were in a weak elementary school,” Orfield told The Guardian. “Let’s say your family’s poor, and then your chances of going to a really great state university are basically nonexistent. It’s deeply unhealthy for a place where a majority of people are non-white.”

Part of the problem is the way American public schools are funded. Local schools are funded by property taxes, so people in suburban areas, where people own nice homes, have well-funded public schools which can attract the best teaching talent. However, if you live in a low-income area, where most people rent, you might end up going to a poorly-funded school, which often gets inexperienced teachers. The only solution for low-income families is to try to move to a neighborhood that has good schools, although, that’s easier said than done. A Black woman, who was homeless at the time, was jailed for enrolling her son in a different school district. It was her father’s address. Even still, prosecutors accused Tanya McDowell of stealing more than $15,000 in educational funds from the Norwalk, Conn. school district.

Interestingly, the northeast has the most segregated schools. According to the UCLA report, 65 percent of Black New York students go to schools without any white classmates. However, the South is far from perfect, with some areas stubbornly remaining segregated. The NAACP has filed a suit against the Halifax County school district in North Carolina. Halifax, which has a population of 7,000 people, has three school districts—two Black, struggling districts and one white. The area also has three superintendents, three school boards and three bus departments.

William Barber II, president of the local NAACP chapter, accused the district of violating the state’s constitution, which guaranteed equal opportunities for every child.

“We believe that the factors of resegregation are undermining the ability of students to receive their constitutional dues,” Barber said.

According to The Guardian, Meredith Richards, a professor at Southern Methodist University, has conducted research showing incidents of “racial gerrymandering” that create exclusively white school districts.

“It’s happening most in suburbs and exurbs, where there’s a lot of rapid racial growth, especially of Hispanic and Asian people,” Richards said.“It’s also particularly severe in the south, in places where there used to be de jure desegregation.”

The UCLA report also showed integration efforts had slowed to a trickle. Courts have been striking down desegregation cases, even at the highest level. In 2007, the United States Supreme Court struck down an integration law in a 5-4 vote. Chief Justice John Roberts seemed to think the best way to deal with racism and segregation was by ignoring it.

“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,” he wrote.

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