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Increased overall diversity has not led to equality in the classroom.
Increased overall diversity has not led to equality in the classroom. Photo: Unsplash

19 million U.S. students attended a racially-segregated public school in 2020-2021

A new report released last Thursday revealed a third of students, roughly 19 million, attended schools where 75% of students were the same race/ethnicity.

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A new report from the Government Accountability Office revealed that nearly 19 million students attended a racially-segregated public school in the 2020-2021 school year, where 75% of students were the same race and ethnicity. 

The revelation perpetuates the notion of racial and ethnic division that continues to exist in the U.S. public school system nearly half a century after The Civil Rights Act of 1964 ended segregation in schools in America. 

District boundaries are what determines what school a student will attend and those same district boundaries contribute to the division of ethnic, racial, and economic lines across the country. The divisions cover school types, regions, and community types, such as urban and rural. While diversity within schools is associated with the racial and ethnic makeup of a particular district, school district boundaries play a role in the division as well. 

The report revealed that district secession, the process in which schools cut governance ties from an existing district to form a new one, is one of key reasons for the shift in the configuration of ethnic, racial, and wealth. It provides a clear picture of the state of the public school system in relation to diversity. 

New districts usually benefit from being wealthier than other districts. For example, the percentage of students eligible for reduced or free lunch is half of other districts. 

The new information revealed that 14% of students, equating to roughly 7 million students, attended a school where a massive 90% of the students were the same race and same ethnic makeup. 

Of the students attending schools where 75% of students were the same race, half were white in stark comparison to 31% Hispanic, 23% Black, 19% American Indian, and 4% Asian students. 

The percentage of students who attended a same race/ethnicity school in 2020-2021 was 38%, just a bit lower than that of 2014-2015 at 42%. The report follows decade old data from the Department of Education. 

In response to the report, U.S. Rep. (D) Bobby Scott from Virginia, chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, said that even while the results “will likely not be surprising to most, every American should be alarmed.”

“We know that school segregation doesn’t just isolate low-income students and students of color; it also deprives them of equal access to educational opportunities and resources,” he said. “We simply cannot allow our progress toward educational equality in America to be further eroded.”

The Government Accountability Office has provided the report to the Department of Justice and Department of Education for further analysis.

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