Students Remain Segregated Along Racial and Economic Lines
OF HISPANIC AND BLACK FOURTH AND
EIGHTH GRADERS ARE NOT PROFICIENT
IN READING OR MATH
Jamarria Hall is one of seven plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit claiming the education he and his classmates received in Detroit Public Schools was so insufficient it violated their right to basic literacy. The schools these plaintiffs attended were infested with rodents, cockroaches and bed bugs. They lacked proper air conditioning, leading students and teachers to throw up, faint and develop heat rash. On the other extreme, students were often forced to wear winter coats, hats and scarves when classrooms went unheated during the frigid winter months.1 Students shared decades-old textbooks, sometimes one for every five students. Teachers would be absent for days at a time. In one case, an eighth grade student taught his classmates math for a month when they did not have a teacher.2 These stunningly inadequate conditions, Jamarria says, meant that he was unable to develop basic skills needed to fulfill his rights as a citizen and prepare him for successful transition to adulthood.
Every child deserves the opportunity to gain the social, economic, cultural and political capital necessary to realize their full potential. Unfortunately, this is not the reality for too many students like Jamarria. Sixty-five years after Brown v. Board of Education ruled that separate could not be equal, America’s schools have slipped backwards into patterns of deep racial and socioeconomic segregation. Academic indicators suggest student achievement suffers accordingly.
- Nearly 1 in 5 students (17 percent) attend schools where the majority of their peers are both poor and Black or Hispanic. The number of students attending schools in which at least 75 percent of children are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch and Black or Hispanic more than doubled from 4.1 to 8.4 million students between the 2000-2001 and 2013-2014 school years.3
- Eighty-one percent of poor Black children attended high-poverty schools, compared with 54 percent
of poor white children in 2013.4
- School segregation is highly correlated with racial disparities in student outcomes. No school district with moderate or high rates of segregation has a small achievement gap.5
- More than 74 percent of lower-income fourth grade and 80 percent of lower-income eighth grade public school students were not proficient in reading or math in 2019, compared with less than 50 percent of higher-income fourth grade and 55 percent of higher-income eighth grade students (see Table 21).
- More than 72 percent of Hispanic and 79 percent of Black fourth and eighth grade public school students were not proficient in reading or math in 2019 compared with less than 60 percent of white students (see Tables 22-23).
- Less than 81 percent of Black, Hispanic and American Indian/Alaska Native public school students graduated on time during the 2016-2017 school year compared with 89 percent of white students (see Table 24).
Disparities in education funding exacerbate these inequities in segregated schools, leaving children in low-income neighborhoods—often children of color and poor children—in under-funded schools with fewer resources.
- As of 2015, only twelve states distributed more funding to high-poverty school districts than low-poverty districts. In many states, the wealthiest districts spent two to three times what poorer districts spent per pupil.6
- On average, states spent more than two and a half times as much per prisoner as per public school student during the 2015-2016 school year (see Table 26).
- Studies suggest a 25 percent increase in per-pupil spending during all twelve years of a child’s education could eliminate the average secondary education achievement gap between lower-income and higher-income children.7
Hostile school climates and exclusionary discipline continue to disproportionately deny children of color and children with disabilities the opportunity for success and contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline.
- During the 2013-2014 school year, Black public school students were suspended at more than four times the rate of white students (see Table 25).
- Students with disabilities made up only 12 percent of students but 26 percent of students who received out-of-school suspensions during the 2015-2016 school year.8
- In 2019, the Department of Education rescinded a 2014 joint guidance issued by the Department of Justice and Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to reduce racial disparities in exclusionary discipline and promote rehabilitative practices.9 This dangerous reversal will likely exacerbate existing disparities in discipline.
Children who are homeless, in foster care or returning from juvenile detention are also more likely to be educationally disadvantaged and pushed out of school.
- A youth who experiences homelessness is 87 percent more likely to drop out of school.10
- Students in foster care are more likely to be suspended or expelled, score lower on standardized tests in reading and math, be involved in special education, have higher rates of grade retention and drop out and less likely to attend and graduate from college.11
- Youth in juvenile justice facilities are chronically behind in school and make no meaningful academic progress while incarcerated. Approximately 2 in 3 drop out of school after exiting the juvenile justice system.12
Children denied equitable educational opportunities and/or pushed into the school-to-prison pipeline face life-long challenges. We must continue to work to eliminate discriminatory education policies and practices and end the inequitable distribution of resources that undermine equal education opportunities for all students.
Immigrant Children are America’s Children: Education
U.S. immigration officials on August 7, 2019 conducted a series of worksite raids near Jackson, Miss., detaining 680 people and separating an unknown number of children from their parents.13 For many of these children it was the first day of the new school year, turning the thrill of a fresh start into the nightmare of family separation. For educators and school staff, it was a sudden plunge into a widespread child and family emergency. Bus drivers became detectives, trying to discern whether children were walking off school buses and into empty houses. Gyms became makeshift shelters, safe spaces for frightened and confused children.
Immigration officials insist that when they conduct these big workplace raids, the employer is the target. But we know it is the whole community, and especially children, that feel the hurt. The harm reverberates beyond the workplace, across neighborhoods and into schools. Lorena Quiroz-Lewis is a public health professional and community organizer in the Mississippi Delta. She says the continued impact of the raid on children in school cannot be overlooked. “I know of a teenager who missed several days of school due to her anxiety and depression, and was also teased by classmates about her family being deported,” she testified at a Congressional field hearing in November. “[Children] are being forced to pay for something they had no control over because of the atmosphere of fear that was created after the raids.”14