Yesterday marked the 56th anniversary of Brown v Board of Education, the landmark decision that mandated desegregation of American schools. It began an era of commitment to diversity and the implementation of various mechanisms from busing to magnet schools to increase integration amongst students. Studies find that desegregation puts students of color in schools with better opportunities and higher achieving peer groups.
There has been a steady unraveling of almost 25 years worth of increased integration according to a 2004 study by NAACP and a more recent study by Gary Orfield, currently co-director of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA. Virtually all school districts analyzed are showing lower levels of inter-racial exposure since 1986, suggesting a trend towards resegregation, and in some districts, these declines are sharp. In 1990, following several decades of efforts to desegregate, over 40 percent of black students in the South attended majority-white schools. Now less than 30 percent of students do.
Since 1986, in almost every district examined, black and Latino students have become more racially segregated from whites in their schools and charter schools are vastly more segregated than public schools.
States are beginning to end their integration policies. In North Carolina, for example, the state is attempting to implement a rule that will resegregate schools by enforcing a neighborhood schools policy only and ending busing. The NAACP State conference is leading a coalition effort to fight back against the policy.
“We have made progress but there is much more work to be done,” said NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous, “we are not only witnessing a move to resegreate our schools but efforts to remove civil rights from our history. Arizona just passed a law banning any teaching of ethnic studies in its schools and Texas is attempting to change their history textbooks to reduce the study of the civil rights movement, soften the portrayal of Jim Crow and slavery and celebrate the confederacy. These are attempts to roll the clock back on progress. Our nation benefits from the diversity and equal opportunity that comes from access to a quality education. All American students vitally need accurate and inclusive history to fully understand our democracy, be informed voters and compete in an increasingly global marketplace” Jealous said.
Jealous will join former US Secretary of Education Rod Paige to travel to Texas this week to testify against the proposed textbook changes there.
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