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How charter schools and testing regimes have helped re-segregate our schools

How charter schools and testing regimes have helped re-segregate our schools

Sixty years ago tomorrow in Brown v. Board of Education, the United States Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in public education is unconstitutional, writing that “in the field of public education, the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place.”

Yet all these years later, our schools remain deeply segregated along lines of race as well as class—with charter schools and high-stakes testing making matters worse.

Schools today are as racially segregated (PDF) as they were in the 1960s. Recently, ProPublica wrote a deep and haunting exposition on the re-segregation of schools in the South, including Tuscaloosa. Post-Brown, schools in the South became the most integrated in the nation. It took a while—until the 1970s, really—but it happened.

Today? In the South and nationwide, most black and brown children attend schools where 90 percent or more of the students look like them. “In Tuscaloosa today, nearly 1 in 3 black students attends a school that looks as if Brown v. Board of Education never happened.”

Across the United States, per-student spending (PDF) in public schools with 90 percent or more white students is 18 percent higher—$733 more per student on average—than spending for public schools with 90 percent or more students of color. That can’t be attributed to different geographical tax bases alone; 40 percent of the variation (PDF) in per-pupil spending occurs within school districts.A third of the schools with the highest percentage of black and Latino students don’t offer chemistry. A quarter don’t offer Algebra II. Black and Latino students account for 40 percent of enrollment at schools with gifted programs but make uponly 26 percent of the students in such programs.  

Meanwhile, we know that disadvantaged students of color end up being over-represented in the prison-industrial complex. Black students in America’s public schools are expelled at three times the rate of white students. This discrepancy starts at a frighteningly young age; black children make up 18 percent of pre-schoolers but almost half of all out-of-school suspensions. One in five girls of color with disabilities has received an out-of-school suspension. These statistics are much higher than for white peers even for the same misbehaviors.

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