segregation, Brown v. Board, survey

Survey: 70 Years Brown V. Board, Segregation Haunts American Education System

A ProPublica report found that segregation academies in the South highlight how the conservative push for “school choice” aims to resegregate schools.

A Washington Post-Ipsos survey indicates that a vast majority of Americans support the 1954 Supreme Court ruling that segregation in public schools should be outlawed, but a closer look at the education system reveals that public schools were never functionally desegregated. As BLACK ENTERPRISE previously reported, schools remain segregated largely through the practice of “educational redlining,” which has a direct impact on which schools receive funding. 

As The Hill reports, a 2022 report from the Education Trust found that school districts with predominantly non-white students receive on average $2,000 less per student than school districts with predominantly white students. This translates to approximately a $13.5 million gap in funding for a school district with 5,000 students in it. 

Jalisa Evans, the chief executive officer and founder of the Black Educator Advocates Network, told the outlet that educational redlining has led to continued inequities in funding. “Today, schools with large numbers of Black students are underfunded,” Evans said.

A ProPublica report found that across the South, segregation academies underscore the argument that the renewed push for “school choice” from conservative governors is just another push to resegregate schools. According to a graduate thesis by Auburn University student Amberly Faye Sheffield, Wilcox County, Alabama, is a site where this is most evident. 

“Following the federal enforcement of Brown v. Board of Education and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Wilcox County underwent a series of desegregation attempts that led whites in the rural county to adopt new resistance tactics such as “freedom of choice,” district zoning, and, finally, segregation academies.” Sheffield wrote. “According to this research, segregation academies presented white resisters with the most successful method of white resistance and allowed them to override federal enforcement of integration in Wilcox for decades after Brown ruled to end segregation in school.”

Stefan Lallinger, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, told the Washington Post that although Americans generally agree on Brown v Board, where the fundamental disagreement resides in how to fix the segregation embedded in the current education system. “The Brown decision speaks to our highest ideals as a nation. It’s who we say we want to be as a country,” said Lallinger. “Where the rubber meets the road is where people’s personal decisions about where to send their kids to school clash with those ideals.”

That disconcertion exists across racial lines; both Black and white Americans say that they are in favor of neighborhood schools, even if that means segregated schools. For Black Americans, that figure is split at 50%, but 80% of white Americans are fine with resegregating schools.

Ann Owens, a professor of sociology and public policy at the University of Southern California and the author of a study that found that racial segregation in 100 of the biggest school districts in America has increased by 64% since 1988. “When we switched from a commitment to integration and equity to school choice, it’s not terribly surprising that we see rising school segregation. We’ve abdicated our responsibility to integration, and unfettered choice does not magically lead to integration,” she told Vox.

Owens continued, emphasizing that the concentration of Black and Latinx students in high-poverty districts “drives a lot of inequality and disparate outcomes that we see. It’s not that sitting next to a kid of a particular racial group is on its face beneficial. It’s that resources from home, social resources, and political resources in our society are linked to race.”