The chasms between our school districts are growing wider. Today, half of America’s children live in high-poverty school districts, where they are more likely to experience poor health, be exposed to violence, and attend schools in decaying buildings. This is not always due to a lack of resources in the area, however; often, these high-poverty districts border affluent areas where better-off students benefit from greater funding.
In 1974, the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling in the case Milliken v. Bradley that actually strengthened the hand of segregationists: the justices held that integration plans may not be enforced across school district borders. This outcome cleared the way for district borders to be used as lawful tools of segregation.
Because property taxes play such an important role in school funding, well-off communities have an interest in school district borders that fence off their own neighborhoods from lower-wealth areas and needier students—and most states’ laws allow this kind of self-segregation.
ironically, Madison is currently expanding its least diverse school: Hamilton.