The Poor School District Next Door

How school districts seal their students into poverty

(Image: File)

An important post on CityLab, “How School Districts Seal Their Students Into Poverty,” discusses how poverty gets concentrated in minority communities and how poor, segregated school districts abut wealthy, high-performing districts but remain underserved and wholly separate. Schools are more segregated today than the days before Brown v. Board of Education. Why does segregation matter? According to an article in The Atlantic that the CityLab post links to, the authors of a 2012 report by the University of California–Los Angeles’s Civil Rights Project wrote the reasons: “Schools of concentrated poverty and segregated minority schools are strongly related to an array of factors that limit educational opportunities and outcomes. These include less experienced and less qualified teachers, high levels of teacher turnover, less successful peer groups, and inadequate facilities and learning materials.”

[Related: Wishbone and Uncommon Schools Campaign to Send Students to Top Summer Programs]

Read the excerpt here:

The upholding of the Fair Housing Act’s “disparate impact” standard was one of many major victories for social justice dispatched by the Supreme Court this June. But the road to equal rights and opportunities remains long and thorny.

“Disparate impact” is the notion that housing policies that create “artificial, arbitrary, and unnecessary barriers” for minorities (for example, housing projects that are built only in high-poverty, minority neighborhoods) are a form of discrimination, even if discrimination is not the explicit goal. Therefore, SCOTUS ruled, such policies are unlawful, and can be challenged in court.

Yet poor, minority families face another, more literal set of “artificial, arbitrary, and unnecessary barriers” to opportunity, according to EdBuild, a new national nonprofit focusing on public education. Those barriers are school-district boundaries. EdBuild writes:

In the United States, the public school a student attends is still primarily determined by where their family lives. Most children are enrolled in district schools that receive, on average, nearly half of their funding through local property taxes. This system ties school budgets to the value of local property wealth and incentivizes boundaries between upper- and lower-income communities. Intentional or not, these invisible walls often concentrate education dollars within affluent school districts, and ensure that low-income students are kept on the outside.

And though more than 50 years have passed since Brown v. Board of Education, our schools are more segregated than ever.

In early July, EdBuild released an interactive map of more than 13,000 school districts across the U.S. and the student poverty rates within them. In many cases, school districts of dramatically different income levels are next-door neighbors, or even sit, island-like, within one another.

The map’s helpful sidebar includes narratives on the ways these boundaries get drawn, and the disparate impacts they can have. In Nebraska, decades of policy changes over which schools students are allowed to attend have left some poor districts floating inside better-off ones.

Read more at CityLab….