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Wednesday, 08 August 2018 06:19

Resegregation in Boston Schools Reflects Pernicious Nationwide Trend

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schoolbussegBusing as a means of desegragation has faded, and school segregation is returning. (Photo: Jordan)

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In 1954, the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) issued the landmark ruling in the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, confirming that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. The decision was unanimous among the eight judges, and the ruling became a key victory as the Civil Rights Movement was becoming a prominent national flashpoint.

In 1971, SCOTUS ruled, again unanimously, that busing could be used to proactively desegregate schools, setting off a firestorm in cities such as Boston among whites who were opposed to the practice. By 2000, many of the busing programs were no longer required by courts. Ostensibly, other strategies such as creating magnet schools, and later controversial charter schools and computerized assignment, would reduce any de facto or deliberate segregation. However, they generally came up short.

Indeed, those strategies did not work for the iconic city of white parent opposition to busing, according to a new report from Boston's Northeastern University issued on July 16:

Dan O'Brien, the lead author of a new Northeastern University report, presented his findings to the School Committee on Monday night, which show that Boston has been unsuccessful in creating equal access to high quality schools.

Boston Public Schools member Regina Robinson says the presentation led to a "yup" moment.

The report found a computerized system the city uses to assign students to schools is only making segregation among the city’s schools—worse.

Without busing, re-segregation has insidiously returned to Boston and other cities. On August 4, after the Northeastern analysis was released, The Boston Globe ran an article simply entitled, "Boston’s schools are becoming resegregated." The Globe conducted its own investigation and found,

An alarming pattern of racial segregation has re-emerged in the Boston Public School system over the last two decades, according to a Globe analysis, largely the consequence of steps taken by city and school officials to allow more students to attend schools in their neighborhoods as they did prior to court-ordered busing.

Nearly 60 percent of the city’s schools meet the definition of being intensely segregated — meaning students of color occupy at least 90 percent of the seats. Two decades ago, 42 percent of schools were intensely segregated. Many of these schools are low performing.

This trend appears to be occurring under the radar, in general, and is not a subject of high level national policy concern. That is reprehensible because Boston is not the only city where this is occurring, although the causes of resegregation may vary in different cities.

For example, a July 20 article on Oregon Live explains how Portland is trying to fund a move by Blacks back to a historical Black neighborhood that would exacerbate the school segregation problem by concentrating a high number of Blacks in one section of the city:

Portland’s black neighborhoods – formed due to discrimination and redlining, and once home to the most concentrated African American populations in Oregon – were decimated over decades by construction of Interstate 5, Veterans Memorial Coliseum and Legacy Emanuel Medical Center. Thousands of families were forced out. Others moved away because of gentrification.

The plan the council already approved calls for spending millions on housing subsidies and construction of apartments and townhomes. Those are to be offered at low cost to Portlanders who can prove a generational tie to the neighborhoods.

The city plan may be well intentioned to provide more affordable housing to Blacks who are being priced out of Portland's hot housing market, but it also concentrates many Black school children in an area that would reinforce segregated schools to a degree.

As another example, NorthJersey.com, in a July 13 article, detailed the segregation still existing in that state:

School segregation is most extreme in three northeastern counties — Passaic, Essex and Union. The divide in these counties stands out because of their large minority populations and wide disparities in wealth and poverty.

But North Jersey isn't alone. Segregated districts are found across the state, especially in cities such as Paterson, Newark, Trenton and Camden, where children go to schools where white students are virtually absent. Often, districts just a few miles apart have vastly different income levels and ratios of white and minority students.

Having surveyed this landscape, a coalition of advocacy groups and families has sued New Jersey and the state Board of Education, calling for the state to take steps to end "de facto" segregation in its public schools.

Clearly, the resegregation of schools is not an isolated municipal incident. That it receives so little national news coverage is a further sign that the mass corporate media is obsessed with the chaotic Trump circus, at the expense of public policy issues vital to the promise of a fair and equitable democracy. At a time when wealth is increasingly tied to inheritance, the growth of resegregation increases the chasm of educational and, ultimately, financial inequality.