How segregated is your school district?
January 8, 2018 11:31 AM   Subscribe

School segregation is as bad now as it was 50 years ago. Long-form article heavily saturated with infographics and those blocky pixel people Vox loves to use. Includes an interactive map of many of the school districts across the country, showing percentage of integration of Black and Hispanic students in each school district. Worth taking a look at.

More links if you have the mental capacity today to deep dive into another of the many facets of racial inequality in America.


School segregation didn’t go away. It just evolved.
Vox: More detailed article about the movement of parents seceding to create their own "whiter" school districts when their children are assigned to schools they don't like, focusing on Jefferson County, Alabama.

The Resegratation of Jefferson County NY Times: NYT's take on the same issue.

The Dept of Justice is Overseeing the Resegregation of American Schools. The Nation's article on Jefferson County.

NPR: How The Systemic Segregation Of Schools Is Maintained By 'Individual Choices' Fairly bald-faced racism in Brooklyn when school overcrowding sends affluent children to the "wrong" school.

Do Private-School Vouchers Promote Segregation?The Atlantic: Answer? Yeah, probably.

New Culprit in School Segregation? Private Schools US News: Focus on D.C. school district, pointing out that the private schools there "served only 15 percent of the city's students but almost 60 percent of its white students."

Isolated and Segregated American Progress: Policy paper, "Segregation by income very often moves in tandem with segregation by race." Does a decent job laying out the facts of economic inequalities leading to racial inequalities, but comes to some conclusions and solutions that I'm sure would horrify my public-school teacher friends.

Tried to keep it close to actual articles about segregation as I could find. I've read a ton more stuff focused on charter schools, but wow, that's an explosive topic that has already had it's own posts, and I'm sure will have more.
posted by sharp pointy objects (24 comments total) 54 users marked this as a favorite
 
I thought that first link was fascinating, but it seemed to only tell part of the story. It looked like they only looked at folks who are Black or Latinx, and didn't count Indigenous folks, who are a large part of the minority population in Minnesota. When I was checking Bemidji's and Duluth's school districts, I expected much higher minority numbers due to the nearby reservations.
posted by jillithd at 12:03 PM on January 8


Do those reservations have their own school districts (that may or may not report their stats)? I had the option of going to the reservation school in Jr. High, or walking a mile down a dirt road to the edge of the Chandler school district to catch the bus there. I walked that mile twice each day.
posted by sharp pointy objects at 12:07 PM on January 8 [2 favorites]


Thanks for including extra articles! I was kind of frustrated the Vox headliner didn’t talk about income at all, but of course you’ve remedied that in the body with other articles! Great roundup.
posted by corb at 12:18 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


White people with money, in aggregate, don't want too many neighbors who aren't white people with money. Their ability to act on this desire - to the extent of creating municipalities for the purpose - is the root of this.
posted by PMdixon at 12:44 PM on January 8 [8 favorites]


Lee Atwater literally admitted to this strategy (cw: racial slurs) 40 years ago and people like Samantha Bee and her hubbie are still toeing that line. and now that I look at it, it seems like Full Frontal has never aired a single episode covering this issue

white feminism: loudly yelling 'Trump sucks' and hoping you don't scratch at their veneer of 'wokeness'
posted by runt at 12:45 PM on January 8 [10 favorites]


I checked my current school district in the Vox article, and it's at 14% minority students. When we bought our house a couple years ago, we weren't even thinking about kids yet, so I didn't even check the districts. Now come to find out we're in one of the whitest and affluent districts in Mesa. I feel vaguely weird about it. I remember being one of the only obviously non-white kids in my elementary classes, is that going to be my kid's experience to? Will they handle it as well as I did?

My teacher friends again admit that the schools Baby Objects will be attending are pretty good overall, but AZ is pretty much already scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of school funding and outcomes. I'm already thinking about what I'll have to budget for Zoo, Science Center, Museum memberships, school fundraisers, and other extras just to make up the shortfall for what was available back when I was in school. I'm so, so grateful that I have the means to do this, but at the same time it makes me want to tear down the whole system and start over. I'm not sure parents should have that much 'choice' if they consistently choose to be so frigging racist.
posted by sharp pointy objects at 1:01 PM on January 8 [6 favorites]


The big sin is that schools have different budgets. Taxes should be pooled at the state or federal level and spent so the school budget per student is the same across all districts.
posted by pracowity at 1:29 PM on January 8 [34 favorites]


Even with pooling taxes at higher levels/per student budgets, schools with wealthier parents have higher PTA involvement and funds, and a school with a good PTA has a much greater budget for random supplies and such.
posted by that girl at 1:37 PM on January 8 [11 favorites]


white feminism: loudly yelling 'Trump sucks' and hoping you don't scratch at their veneer of 'wokeness'

I don't want to discount your general frustration, but, as the child of (lowish-income) white people who did send their kids to a highly segregated public-school system and as someone who got, for the most part, a subpar to lousy formal academic education for most of her childhood as a result, I would say that ire directed at people in a system where all the choices are poor or unjust for not choosing correctly as individuals is ire better directed at those creating and maintaining the system. Even blatantly racist individual choices would be much less of a problem with better school zoning, more affordable housing programs, and state-, rather than district-level funding. Take the option away, or at least make it much more expensive.
posted by praemunire at 1:43 PM on January 8 [15 favorites]


praemunire, millionaire media professionals who have an outsized voice in society are, by their very nature, the people who normalize and maintain systems of oppression not just because their capital speaks for them but also because their reputation has an enormous impact on their local politics. the ethics for a public figure speaking to a political issue is vastly different from the ethics of a private citizen doing the same

I hear you on not criticizing that individual white person who says a shitty thing or bolsters white supremacy - intentionally understanding where to invest your emotional labor and physical energy is a very valid conversation. but voiced oppression is also something that you shouldn't choose to ignore. you can call out oppressive behavior in individuals and organize to defeat systems of inequality - good praxis allows for both cultural and legal change at whatever scope. everyone should talk to their racist uncle during the holidays if they have the capacity to do so - just because the result isn't immediately visible doesn't mean that something isn't happening, both in your individual world and everywhere else where those conversations are starting to take place
posted by runt at 1:54 PM on January 8 [8 favorites]


Richard Florida and colleagues at the University of Toronto had a good report in 2015 on the Segregated City. Of course geographic segregation works right alongside school segregation. The report shows that, "Increasingly, Americans are sorting not just between cities and metro areas, but within them as well," which would certainly segregate schools in our hyperlocal school districting systems.

Race remains a key marker of stratification in American society. A broad body of studies documents the connection between race, poverty, and segregation. NYU sociologist Patrick Sharkey points out that “two-thirds of black children who were raised in the poorest quarter of U.S. neighborhoods a generation ago now raise their own children in similarly poor neighborhoods. About half of all black families have lived in the poorest American neighborhoods over the last two generations, compared to just 7 percent of white families.”

Economic segregation and race are correlated, as we have seen (Exhibit 28, 29, and 30). The Overall Economic Segregation Index is negatively associated with the share of residents that are white (-0.43) and positively associated with the shares that are black (0.29), Latino (0.24) and Asian (0.30). Generally speaking, race plays a relatively larger role in educational and occupational segregation than income segregation, with the exception of black population shares. The share of the population that is black is positively related to all three main types of economic segregation. It is slightly more closely related to income segregation, though the differences are modest.

The Latino share of population is also positively related to all three types of segregation, though it is not statistically associated with the segregation of poverty or of the service class. The Asian share of the population is positively related to educational and occupational segregation, but is not statistically associated with income segregation. This again reflects the effect of the segregation of the wealthy.

Conversely, the share of the population that is white is negatively associated with all three types of economic segregation—income, educational, and occupational segregation, though it appears to play a larger role in educational and occupational separation than in income segregation. It has a weak relationship to the segregation of the poor, where it is statistically insignificant.

Generally speaking, our findings suggest that the white share of the population plays a relatively greater role in economic segregation than the shares of racial and ethnic minorities.

posted by hexaflexagon at 1:57 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


Wow, what a great article. Thank you for sharing it, sharp pointy objects.

I have noticed that my daughter, who's in 5th grade here in Austin, is often in the same situation I was in 30-odd years ago in not-exactly-progressive South Florida: often the only black friend of various white classmates.

I've shared this article with various progressive friends, and I hope that some of those who have disappointed me in the past by not understanding -- or not caring -- how vouchers and charter schools and other "choice" proposals either rigidly reinforce the status quo or make things even worse come to a realization that even in self-described liberal strongholds we're not at all free of the shadow of the past.
posted by lord_wolf at 3:26 PM on January 8 [6 favorites]


I hear what you're saying, runt, especially about the increased weight of public figures' choices, but I would tend to distinguish between "racist uncle" and "city dweller sending their kid to private school [or moving heaven and earth to send them to the "right" public school]." Racist uncle's choice to say racist crap at the family gathering is what you might call gratuitous and unrestrained. Individual choice of the unjust at a moment when he was free to choose the just, or at least the neutral. City dweller is closer to, though identical with, someone who keeps buying unethically-produced consumer goods. Faced with that system, there aren't really any "good" choices. Individual virtue will inevitably break down under these circumstances, especially when the nature of the virtue itself remains somewhat murky.

I learned a lot, non-academically, from my stint in those public schools, but I wouldn't send my own child there. I don't think anyone's kids should be subject to that system, and I support attempts local to me now to fix the equivalent system. I feel that we are better off investing in working on the system for everyone than requiring that people send their kids to schools crawling with roaches, starved for materials (one of my early science textbooks [in the mid-80s] said, "When man walks on the moon, we will..."), and generally lacking a curriculum even vaguely suitable to prepare students for a top-level college in order to prove their commitment. Not only is that only going to happen rarely, when it does happen, due to its very rareness, it's not going to fix the problem. Having me and the hippie Jewish couple's kid in my 35-person classroom really didn't do anything to ameliorate conditions there. What's needed is really full-scale integration.

But I don't want to suggest that individual frustrations aren't valid or to dictate your choices as to how to engage with the problem.
posted by praemunire at 3:31 PM on January 8 [7 favorites]


Taxes should be pooled at the state or federal level and spent so the school budget per student is the same across all districts.

At least where I am, that would be a significant cut for the majority-minority schools and an increase for the white schools.
posted by jpe at 3:35 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


The first and only black student I went to public school with was in my senior year. And Agnes was undoubtedly the loneliest girl in Austin in 1967. Not surprising though. My future alma mater, the University of Texas, was the last all-white NCAA football national champion two years later. At least my frequent freshman bridge partner was also the first black football player at the university, albeit at the junior varsity level. This stuff may seem like ancient history to most but not to me...
posted by jim in austin at 3:59 PM on January 8 [4 favorites]


Right, it's not enough to fund on a per-student basis. Students from households affected by poverty are more resource-intensive to teach effectively than students who don't have that background, and you want a need-based allocation scheme. Schools full of well-off white kids don't need as much money as other kinds of schools, but tend to get more. That said, nearly all public schools need more money than they currently get (shout out to McCleary vs. State of Washington).

But I don't think funding schools equitably is really possible in a sustainable way without integration.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 4:13 PM on January 8 [3 favorites]


With integration - or even without it, in those districts already high-poverty- and without more funding though, all you’re creating is a situation where those with the resources to do so remove their kid from the public school system as soon as humanly possible. And it’s not for segregation reasons - it’s that a school that has higher need populations won’t be able to spend money on enrichment to the same degree as one that doesn’t. My (Hispanic) kid is in private religious school now, and the difference in educational quality and community togetherness is like night and day.
posted by corb at 5:13 PM on January 8 [2 favorites]


Equivalent funding on a per-student basis is the "flat tax" of education policy. The most generous thing one can say about it is "equality is not equity" (as has been mentioned upthread).

Over here in Oakland, Ms. Wombat and I are watching with immense schadenfreude as our local high-performing elementary school undergoes a forced integration with the 95% African-American school with which it shares an geographic overlap. The message gymnastics--on the part of the parents who oppose the merger, but "aren't racist"-- are amazing...
posted by turbowombat at 5:27 PM on January 8 [6 favorites]


>>The big sin is that schools have different budgets. Taxes should be pooled at the state or federal level and spent so the school budget per student is the same across all districts.<<

That is the way it is in Oregon but there are still large differences in schools. The "good" schools can raise 100K in a New York Minute for "enrichment" or whatever so the economic disparities persist with vigor. Also, the politics of a large school district seem pretty difficult. I don't think the boundaries for the different draw areas are drawn on the basis of science.
posted by Pembquist at 5:53 PM on January 8 [2 favorites]


"Even with pooling taxes at higher levels/per student budgets, schools with wealthier parents have higher PTA involvement and funds, and a school with a good PTA has a much greater budget for random supplies and such."

"Students from households affected by poverty are more resource-intensive to teach effectively than students who don't have that background, and you want a need-based allocation scheme. Schools full of well-off white kids don't need as much money as other kinds of schools, but tend to get more."


Yeah, but, having spent five years on the school board of a resource-poor urban district where we spent $9,000/student/year, while wealthy suburban districts spent a full $18,000/student/year, I would totally take "equalize spending across the state" as a starting point.

(And, hey, cost of living in the Chicago suburbs is higher than in downstate urban areas, so if we equalize out to about $13,000, that's actually paying for a bit less in the suburbs where teacher salaries (in particular, in terms of fixed costs) are higher than it pays for downstate where cost of living is rock-bottom.)

We actually had a charity-funded program that went into our poorest schools and worked with students and had fantastic results, dramatically increased the number of students achieving at grade level and dramatically reduced disciplinary issues, and the cost was ... $4,000/student/year, or basically exactly what it would cost to bring our student funding up to the state average of $13,000.

Actually, a really good starting point would be to equalize per-student spending across the state exclusive of Title I (poverty) funds, Title III (ELL) funds, and special ed funds.. Have those still follow individual students and don't count them towards the school's state funding level. Then every school gets $13,000/student/year (let us say) from the state pool, and on top of that schools with high poverty levels get Title I funds. That provides equitable education funding to all students in the state from state funding, while reserving federal poverty funds to actually attack the problems of poverty. (Replace ELL/special ed/etc. as needed.)

But back to racial segregation and schools, OH DO I HAVE STORIES, although they're mostly all variations on "omg can you even believe people are this terrible in the 21st century?" Spoiler: Some people are definitely that terrible.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:23 PM on January 8 [19 favorites]


Equivalent funding on a per-student basis is the "flat tax" of education policy. The most generous thing one can say about it is "equality is not equity" (as has been mentioned upthread).

Yes, but it's a step in the right direction.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:17 AM on January 9 [1 favorite]


Problematically conflates ethnicity with race so black and hispanic seem to be equally negatively weighted. They aren't always. Especially in states like florida where certain hispanics identify as white, these school demographics would look a lot different.
posted by toodleydoodley at 1:29 PM on January 9


Well, I was going to check the local maps, but Vox apparently buys their web bullshit by the pallet-load at Costco--there were so many domains I got tired of temporarily whitelisting them trying to find one that would light up the "choose a state" droplist and decided to skip it.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 5:34 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


jillithd is right: I selected Minnesota's Red Lake district, which is almost entirely Native (my cousin used to teach there), and it shows up as "2% black or Hispanic". Same thing with St. Paul's highly Asian neighborhoods. The article is still interesting, but I'm disappointed their data analysis apparently whitewashed Native & Asian people.
posted by superna at 6:14 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


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