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School Apartheid: Report finds NY schools are most segregated in the country

Stephon Johnson | 4/3/2014, 9:21 a.m.
Classroom

A new study released by UCLA’s Civil Rights Project about the demographics of New York schools reveals details that may surprise many.

Titled “New York State’s Extreme School Segregation: Inequality, Inaction and a Damaged Future,” the study found that public school students in New York are the most severely segregated in the country. Reviewing the historical context of segregation in New York schools from 1989-2010, the study found that segregation was a perpetual pattern among city schools in particular.

There are many educational problems linked to racially segregated schools, and they’re often intensified by the concentration of poverty, less-experienced and less-qualified teachers, higher levels of teacher turnover, inadequate learning materials and facilities, higher dropout rates and unstable enrollments.

According to the report, desegregated schools produce the opposite results.

John Kucsera, lead author of the report, said that the entire work “runs the geographic gamut: from the upstate metros dealing with transforming demographics and an urban-suburban divide, to Long Island, one of the most segregated and fragmented suburban rings in the country, and New York City, the largest school district in the country.”

In New York City, Kucsera pointed to some of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s policies as having a negative effect on any potential desegregation.

“Perhaps the main limitation with most of the educational reforms under the Bloomberg administration was that policies did not consider diversity, whether racial or socioeconomic, as a program goal,” read Kucsera’s report. “In fact, in the city’s general admission for zoned elementary schools, it explicitly supports the opposite: ‘Race may be considered as a factor in school enrollment only when required by court order.’

“As David Tipson from Appleseed reported, ‘This statement is unclear and appears to be an attempt to summarize U.S. constitutional law. Taken literally, however, the statement is more restrictive than the standard required by the U.S. Supreme Court and represents an unnecessary limitation on the Department of Education.’”

According to the study, across the 32 Community School Districts (CSDs) in New York City, 19 of them had 10 percent or less white students in 2010 and includes districts in the Bronx, two-thirds of Brooklyn districts (central to north districts), half of the districts in Manhattan (northern districts) and only two-fifths of the districts in Queens (southeast districts).

Many of those areas have a Black and/or Latino majority.

Seventy-three percent of charter schools across the five boroughs were considered apartheid schools with less than 1 percent white enrollment, and 90 percent were segregated with less than 10 percent white enrollment in schools in 2010. Only 8 percent of charter schools could be considered multiracial, with a New York City average of 14.5 percent white enrollment.

So-called magnet schools in New York City had the highest proportion of multiracial schools (47 percent) and the lowest proportion of segregated schools (56 percent) in 2010, but 17 percent of those schools had less then 1 percent white enrollment, and 7 percent had over 50 percent white enrollment. P.S. 100 Coney Island, a magnet school, is 81 percent white.

“The department needs to immediately revise this admission policy statement and support student assignment plans with diversity goals for all schools,” read the report. “The ending of the diversity-based admission system in CSD 1 of the Lower East Side is a prime example of the effects of a free or so-called color-blind school choice policy, as the area has experienced rising school resegregation ever since.”