Report Finds School Segregation on the Rise

     (CN) — More than six decades after Brown v. Board of Education, a nonpartisan watchdog agency found that K-12 public schools are increasingly segregated by race and class.
     The U.S. General Accountability Office (GAO) report found that public schools have become increasingly isolated for black and Hispanic students, and many of these segregated schools fail to provide these students with the same academic opportunities. At the same time, disciplinary actions are much higher at these schools.
     “Our work shows that disparities in education persist and are particularly acute among schools with the highest concentrations of minority and poor students,” analysts concluded. “Further, black and Hispanic students are increasingly attending high-poverty schools where they face multiple disparities, including less access to academic offerings.”
     U.S. Reps. Robert Scott, D-Va., John Conyers, D-Mich., and former Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., requested the report back in 2014 on the 60th anniversary of the landmark school desegregation case.
     The report released Tuesday, on the ruling’s 62nd anniversary, analyzed U.S. Department of Education and Department of Justice data from 2000 through 2014.
     It found that the number of schools that had high percentages of poor and black and Hispanic students increased from 9 to 16 percent.
     In addition, public schools that were high poverty and comprised of mostly black or Hispanic students — a criterion defined in the report as “H/PBH” — represented 16 percent of all K-12 public schools and 61 percent of all high-poverty schools.
     The number of schools with the worst rates of racial isolation has grown by 143 percent since 2001, the GAO found. Hispanic students tend to be “triply segregated” by race, income and language, according to the report. They are also the largest minority group in K-12 public schools.
     The report also found that “schools that were highly isolated by poverty and race generally had fewer resources and disproportionately more disciplinary actions than other schools.”
     At the same time segregation increased, so did the number of charter and magnet schools. The share of charter schools serving this population increased from 3 to 13 percent over the past 14 years. The share of H/PBH magnet schools also increased from 3 to 5 percent. The number of traditional schools over the same period of time decreased from 94 percent to 81 percent.
     The GAO recommended that the Department of Education more routinely analyze its data by “school groupings and types of schools across key elements to further explore and understand issues and patterns of disparities.” It further recommended that the Department of Justice monitor and enforce open federal school desegregation cases where Justice is a party to the litigation.
     According to Justice Department officials interviewed for the GAO report, as of November 2015 there were 178 of these cases.
     “Justice officials told us they routinely work with districts (and other parties to the desegregation case) to close out those cases where the school district has met its statutory and Constitutional duty to desegregate,” the report states. (Parentheses in original.)
     Conyers, the top ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said the report confirms what has been feared for a long time.
     “There simply can be no excuse for allowing educational apartheid in the 21st century,” Conyers said in a press release. “Congress and the federal government, as well as state and local agencies, must ensure all children receive access to equal education at all publicly funded schools.”
     In the same press release, Scott added that the report confirms “our nation’s schools are, in fact, largely segregated by race and class.”
     “What’s more troubling, is that segregation in public K12 schools isn’t getting better; it’s getting worse, and getting worse quickly, with more than 20 million students of color now attending racially and socioeconomically isolated public schools,” Scott said. “This report is a national call to action, and I intend to ensure Congress is part of the solution.”
     Conyers and Scott introduced the Equity and Inclusion Enforcement Act in response to the report. It would allow individual civil action in education cases involving disparate impact.

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