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.”
According to the study, statewide, the proportion of Latino and Asian students has nearly doubled from 1989 to 2010, as the exposure of those groups to white students continuously decreased. Concentration levels have also increased for Black students in segregated minority schools (i.e., where less than 10 percent of the student body is white) and Black students’ exposure to Latino students has significantly increased over the last 20 years. Almost 50 percent of public school students were low-income in 2010, but the typical Black or Latino student attended schools where close to 70 percent of classmates were low-income. The typical white student attended schools where less than 30 percent of classmates were low-income.
Potential congressional candidate and state Sen. Adriano Espaillat sent a statement to the AmNews discussing how he found the report’s results “troubling.”
“Today, I am calling on U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer to put fourth legislation that inhibits segregated schools and school districts from forming,” said Espaillat. “It is clear that Congress has failed to institute desegregation laws that protect our children. I represent a diverse immigrant district, and I know firsthand the daily struggle parents and teachers face. It is time that our city comes together as a unified voice to give our children fair and equal education. Segregation in education, housing, employment or in any aspect of our society is simply unacceptable and harmful to our future.”
When the AmNews reached out to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for comment, one of his spokespeople emphasized the administration’s current educational agenda as a means of alleviating the problems presented in Kuscera’s study.
“No education system works unless every child has opportunity,” said de Blasio spokesperson Marti Adams. “That’s why the mayor and chancellor are focused on big solutions that reach every school and every child—game-changers like full-day pre-K for every child and after-school for every middle schooler.”
A spokesperson for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told the AmNews they would respond to the study’s revelations, but no statement or reply was made by press time.
As for the report, some of the recommendations offered to remedy the situation include altering school choice plans to ensure a promotion diversity, supporting communities experiencing racial change by helping them create voluntary desegregation plans, and creating regional or interdistrict programs in urban and suburban areas.
“In the 30 years I have been researching schools, New York state has consistently been one of the most segregated states in the nation—no Southern state comes close to New York,” said Gary Orfield, co-director of UCLA’s Civil Rights Project, in a statement. “Decades of reforms ignoring this issue produced strategies that have not succeeded in making segregated schools equal. It is time to adopt creative school choice strategies to give more New York children an opportunity to prepare to live and work effectively in a highly multiracial state.”