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Brown Can’t Retire at 65

School segregation increasing as we mark 65th anniversary of Brown v Board of Education

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As the nation marks the 65th anniversary of the landmark Brown v Board of Education ruling declaring segregation in public schools unconstitutional, the UCLA Civil Rights Project has published new research on school enrollment patterns and increasing segregation in the nation’s schools.

Harming our Common Future: America’s Segregated Schools 65 Years After Brown covers the transformation of the nation’s public school enrollment from primarily a two-race white and black school population, to a truly multiracial population re-shaped by a surging Latino population and the emergence of a significant population of Asian students. Despite increased diversity in the U.S. population, the new research finds the segregation of black students expanding across the nation, and the majority of Latino students attending schools that are extremely segregated. Asian students attend schools where on average one quarter of other students are Asian. The report also shows serious double segregation by both race and poverty for Black and Latino Students and largely middle class schools for whites and Asians. White students, which no longer represent a majority of the nation’s school enrollment, are the most racially isolated with the lowest exposure to students of other races in their schools, an issue that should be viewed with concern given rapidly occurring changes in the nation’s demographics and culture, and research clearly showing the benefits of exposure to diversity for all students.

“As we mark it’s 65th anniversary, the promise of Brown appears a distant vision in our dangerously polarized society,” says Professor Gary Orfield, the co-director of the UCLA Civil Rights Project. “Segregation is expanding in almost all regions of the country. Little has been done for a generation. There has been no meaningful federal government effort devoted to foster the voluntary integration of the schools, and it has been decades since federal agencies funded research about effective strategies for school integration. We have to do more.”

Key Findings of the report include:

  • Since 1988, the share of intensely segregated minority schools—schools that enroll 90-100% non-white students, has more than tripled from 5.7% in 1988 to 18.2% in 2016. Historically many of these intensely segregated minority schools have also had high concentrations of low-income students.
  • By 2016, 40% of all black students were in schools with 90% or more students of color. Segregation for black students has expanded in all regions of the country, except for the midwest.
  • In 2016, Latino students, on average attended a school in which 55% of the students were Latino. And in 2016, 41.6% percent of Latino students attended intensely segregated nonwhite schools. The largest share (46.2%) of Latino students attended intensely segregated schools in the West. California is the most segregated for Latinos, where 58% attend intensely segregated schools. In the South in 2016, 41.9% of Latino students attended intensely segregated schools.
  • White students are now a minority across the nation’s public school enrollment comprising less than half (48.4%) public school students in 2016, a decline of eight percentage points from 2006. Yet white students are the most segregated.
  • Suburban schools in our nation’s largest metropolitan areas had only 47% white students in 2016, a 10% decline in a decade. About a seventh of these suburban students were black, and 27% were Latino. There was considerable segregation within the suburbs, where both African American and Latino students typically attended schools that were about three-fourths nonwhite. White students in these same large suburbs attended schools where on average two-thirds of the enrolled students were white.

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown decision, the most important decision of the 20th century, held that segregated education was ‘inherently unequal’ and created irreversible harm to segregated students,” concludes Orfield. “As a nation we have failed to live up to its promise and that harm   is apparent. More than six decades after the Brown decision our nation faces a critical moment in which we must address the importance of integration. We must act now.”

Harming our Common Future: America’s Segregated Schools 65 Years after Brown, is a project of the UCLA Civil Rights Project with the Center for Education and Civil Rights at Pennsylvania State University. The report was produced in collaboration with researchers at Loyola Marymount University, North Carolina State University and Pennsylvania State University.

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