The 5-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in June to strike down school desegregation plans in Seattle and Louisville has focused public attention on the degree of racial and ethnic integration in the nation’s 93,845 public schools. A new analysis of public school enrollment data by the Pew Hispanic Center finds that in the dozen years from 1993-94 to 2005-06, white students became less isolated from minority students while, at the same time, black and Hispanic students became slightly more isolated from white students.
These two seemingly contradictory trends stem mainly from the same powerful demographic shift that took place during this period: an increase of more than 55% in the Hispanic slice of the public school population. Latinos in 2005-06 accounted for 19.8% of all public school students, up from 12.7% in 1993-94.
In part because whites now comprise a smaller share of students in the public schools, white students are now more likely to be exposed to minority students. In 1993-94, fully one-third (34%) of all white students attended a nearly all-white school (this report defines a school as “nearly all-white” if fewer than 5% of the students are non-white). By 2005-06, just one in five white students (21%) was attending a nearly all-white school.
Mix two parts population growth (among Latino and African-American students) and one part population decline (white students). Fold in a continuing pattern in which whites, blacks and Latinos generally live separately from each other. Let the mixture steep in a much cooler climate – legal, political and social – toward integrating schools.
This recipe for re-segregation is the subject of two new national studies.
Both say the tide of desegregation that roiled America from the 1950s through the 1970s has turned, and the reduction in racial separation that often came via court order and school bus is being reversed.
But there is a twist: Largely because there are so many more minority students than in the past, fewer whites are going to schools that are all-white or close to it.
At the same time, the numbers of all-minority schools are increasing.
Within several years, for the first time, fewer than half of the nation’s kindergarten through 12th-grade students will be white.
This new report released by The Civil Rights Project at UCLA finds that for the first time in three decades, the South is in danger of losing its leadership as the nation’s most integrated schools. The report examines the effects of the dual processes of racial transformation and resegregation on the educational opportunity of students, as well as the relationship between race and poverty and its implications in light of the recent Supreme Court decisions. The report concludes with recommendations for school districts.