A new Civil Rights Project report on segregation in New York schools, by UCLA researchers John Kucsera and Gary Orfield, demonstrates that New York State has the most racially segregated schools in the country. New York’s schools are more segregated than schools in the Deep South, even after the civil rights movement and desegregation efforts made around the state since the 1970s.
New York City contributes mightily to the state’s overall lack of diversity in schools, Orfield writes in the report’s preface, with the city’s recent school-choice policies tending to perpetuate segregation. The authors flag city charter schools as exceptionally segregated. Almost three-quarters are termed “apartheid schools” with less than 1 percent white enrollment.
By contrast, the city’s magnet schools had the highest proportion of multiracial learning environments and the lowest proportion of segregation, the authors find.
Orfield, in a preface to the report, makes the case that integrated schools offer an advantage to all students across the board by preparing them for an increasingly diverse college and job market. Integration benefits academic achievement and health outcomes for minority students and social skills for whites and all other students.
School-choice plans without “civil rights standards,” he writes, increase the stratification of schools and leave children of color attending segregated and poorer schools. “Such ‘freedom of choice’ and ‘open enrollment’ plans were tried in many hundreds of districts,” he says. “The record, as the Supreme Court recognized in l968, was a failure.”
When districts implement choice, whether through magnets, charters or other types of assignments, the planning must be linked to measures that will uphold civil rights standards, such as extensive outreach, free transportation, “authentic educational options worth choosing,” and no admissions screening.
For students who speak languages other than English, the authors urge expansion of dual language immersion programs.
New York City’s notoriously segregated housing markets are a factor in school segregation, but not an excuse to do nothing, Orfield says.