Linda Brown, the girl at the center of the famous U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education died over the weekend at age 76. It was the refusal of the Topeka, Kansas school system to allow Brown to attend an all-white public school near her home that helped spur on the landmark ruling.
Sadly, though much progress has been made in eliminating official segregation in the 64 years since the ruling, much remains to be done — especially in light of recent trends in states like North Carolina where past integration efforts are being systematically rolled back in many places.
This morning’s lead editorial in the Winston-Salem Journal (“Re-segregated schools hurt us all”) does a great job of explaining where things stand and where we need to go by highlighting a recent report released by Kris Nordstrom of the North Carolina Justice Center. This is from the editorial:
A recent report from a progressive advocacy and research group that says North Carolina’s traditional public schools are becoming more segregated by race and income should concern everyone interested in education and a functioning society, as is the claim that the segregation is partly because of charter schools….
“Every one of North Carolina’s 10 largest school districts has become more segregated by income over the past decade — substantially so in many cases. These changes indicate that students from low-income families are becoming increasingly segregated from their higher-income peers within North Carolina’s largest school districts,” according to the report.
This is a trend that must be reversed.
According to the Century Foundation, students in integrated school have higher average test scores; are more likely to enroll in college; and are less likely to drop out. Integrated schools help reduce racial achievement gaps and encourage critical thinking, problem solving and creativity. They also help reduce racial bias and counter stereotypes.
But either advertently or inadvertently, the gains of the 1960s have become diminished.
The editorial notes that charter schools are a part of the problem as they have become increasingly segregated and abandoned their original commitment to reflect the racial makeup of the districts in which they are located. It concludes this way:
The report makes recommendations for turning the trend around, including creating more integrated neighborhoods, requiring charter schools to provide transportation and school lunch and closing charter schools whose demographics significantly differ from the district in which they’re located.
But changing the picture will require extensive time and effort from all levels of government — which means legislators will require urging from citizens — school professionals and parents.
“North Carolina could create a much fairer, inclusive and integrated system of schools by spending just slightly more on student transportation and demonstrating a modicum of political will,” according the report. “In the end, failure to integrate schools is the much more expensive proposition — financially and morally.”