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American Schools and Segregation

Still Separate and Unequal

American schools are becoming more segregated, and the predominately Black schools often struggle. 

While hyper-segregation has increased across the board, it comes after staggering declines in the South, the “border states”—Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri, i.e., former slaveholding states that never joined the Confederacy—the Midwest, and the West. In the Northeast, however, school segregation has increased, going from 42.7 percent in 1968 to 51.4 percent in 2011. Or, put another way, desegregation never happened in the schools of the urban North.

Today in New York, for instance, 64.6 percent of Black students attend hyper-segregated schools. In New Jersey, it’s 48.5 percent and in Pennsylvania it’s 46 percent. They’re joined by Illinois (61.3 percent), Maryland (53.1 percent), and Michigan (50.4 percent). And these schools are distinctive in another way: More than half have poverty rates above 90 percent.

By contrast, just 1.9 percent of schools serving Whites and Asians are similarly impoverished.

It’s this poverty and segregation that leads to other, more dramatic problems. As shown in a report from the Journey for Justice Alliance, these schools are understaffed, under-resourced, and most likely to face closure. Indeed, of the schools closed by shrinking budgets and “charter-ization,” the vast majority are in communities of color, even as the geography of school dysfunction includes predominantly White areas.

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