A new report issued this week found that public schools in the South have become more racially segregated, 60 years after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision that ruled segregated schools unconstitutional.
The report, released May 23 by UCLA’s Civil Rights Project and Penn State University’s Center for Education and Civil Rights, found that in 2014, more than one in three Black students in the South (35.8 percent) attended a school that was intensely racially segregated, meaning 90 percent of students were nonwhite. That is a 12.8-percent increase from 23 percent in 1980.
For the first time, the number of Hispanic students enrolled in schools in the South surpassed Black enrollment, the study also found.
A higher percentage of segregation was found among Southern Hispanics. The study found 41.8 percent of them attended intensely segregated schools, a 4.5-percent increase from 37.3 percent in 1980.
The study examined schools in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.
“It is clear that the region is now moving backward in terms of the progress it made in desegregating schools,” the study’s authors concluded. “In fact, some states have recently created overtly racist policy proposals and rhetoric that simply ignores the reality: the region’s future depends on developing the talents of the people who live there and are the fastest-growing segment of the population.”
The study also examined segregation in charter schools, which have become an increasingly popular alternative to the public schools. Enrollment has quadrupled to more than 700,000 in the past decade, with 4.4 percent of all students in the South attending a charter school in 2014.
But charter school enrollment in the South is only 31-percent white, while the region is 43-percent white, the report said.
“One of the things that seems particularly noteworthy is that in the last decade, enrollment in charter schools in the South has increased substantially and that Black and Latino students have lower exposure to white students in charter schools,” said Erica Frankenberg, a co-author of the report and co-director of Penn State’s Center for Education and Civil Rights.
“That, along with changing enrollment in public schools, and the end of desegregation efforts in some southern communities are factors to explain why this is occurring.”
The authors concluded the report with suggestions to policymakers and communities on how they can help reverse the segregation trend:
- Educators and communities need to make a commitment to lasting diversity.
- All school-choice programs need voluntary goals, policies and practices that foster diversity and integration.
- School staffs need training in handling three-way diversity among Blacks, whites and Hispanics.
- Magnet schools should include dual language immersion programs, now being actively developed, for instance, in North Carolina.
- State officials need to firmly oppose breaking up school districts in ways that intensify segregation and create white enclaves.
- Fair housing policies to locate subsidized housing in decent school areas are critical. Local communities can build on the work being done in New Orleans and Texas.
- Finally, deeper research of housing and school segregation trends at the district, stateand regional levels are necessary to understand the new dimensions of separation and inequality.