PA schools more segregated than ever, according to study
We want to believe that the word ‘segregation,’ use in any context, is a term of the past that no longer applies to today’s daily vocabulary. But unfortunately it seems to be more present than ever in Pennsylvania.
The report “Is Opportunity Knocking or Slipping Away? Racial Diversity and Segregation in Pennsylvania,” by UCLA Civil Rights Project, reported that “segregation by race and poverty in Pennsylvania is worsening and that there has been little action in recent decades to address this harmful pattern.”
The study, released Jan. 16, examines changes in school enrollment and segregation at the state-level as well across Pennsylvania’s two largest metropolitan areas –Philadelphia and Pittsburgh– using statewide public school enrollment data from 1989 to 2010.
“The increased racial diversity in smaller districts across the state — due especially to an increase in Latino students — provides a real opportunity for policy makers to be proactive in ensuring schools are racially balanced, particularly since we are already seeing a few voluntary plans at the local level,” explains co-author Stephen Kotok. “While curbing segregation by race and class presents a much greater challenge in metro areas, such as Philadelphia, there is a precedent in the state for more aggressive action.”
The last decade, according to the report, has been marked by an almost complete retreat from goals of racial diversity among policy makers. “The consequences of this retreat can be seen across the state, and especially in the Philadelphia Metropolitan Area, where almost 45 percent of all public schools are now majority minority, compared to 31 percent in 1989-1990, and around 31 percent of schools are intensely segregated, as compared to about 20 percent in 1989-1990,” according to the report.
One of the important findings of the report is that the typical Black student in the Philadelphia metro area attended a school with 70.9 percent low-income students, and the typical Latino student attended a school with 66 percent low-income students, “more than three times the share of low-income students in schools attended by the typical white student, 21.2 percent, a higher disparity than that found in nearby states.”
In 2010-2011 high numbers of disparity were also found in majority minority schools that enrolled 76.2 percent low-income students, intensely segregated schools enrolled 84.6 percent low-income students, and apartheid schools enrolled 86.0 percent of low-income students.
The study provides multiple recommendations for those who are seeking to address resegregation in Pennsylvania’s schools including: state and local officials should work to promote diversity in charter school enrollments and consider pursuing litigation against charter schools that are receiving public funds but are intentionally segregated.
“Pennsylvania needs to develop state-level policies that focus on reducing racial isolation and promoting diverse schools. Such policies should address how districts can create student assignment policies that foster diverse schools, discuss how to recruit a diverse teaching staff, provide a framework for developing and supporting inter-district programs,” concludes the report.
If you want to read the full report visit The Civil Rights Project.