The anniversary of the March on Washington continues to generate unexpected attention on school desegregation – a subject that has virtually disappeared from the public policy agenda but was a major issue in 1963 at the time of the original march.

In today’s New York Times, a fascinating video documentary tells the story of the successful mandatory busing program instituted in the the Charlotte Mecklenberg School District in North Carolina, which had been at the epicenter of school desegregation wars for many years.

The documentary, produced by Retro Report, a nonprofit organization, describes how the district became a model for school desegregation after the busing plan was instituted, despite fierce resistance initially.

But a 1999 federal district court ruling ended the busing plan, saying it was no longer necessary because intentional discrimination was no longer a problem in the district. As the documentary describes, the end of busing has contributed to formerly integrated schools becoming racially segregated again. West Charlotte High, which in the 1990s had a 60 percent white and 40 percent black enrollment, now has a black enrollment of 88 percent and white enrollment of only 1 percent.

The article goes refers to other court orders lifting school desegregation orders:

And it wasn’t just Charlotte. Today, nearly two-thirds of the school districts that had been ordered to desegregate are no longer required to do so, including Seminole County, Fla. (2006); Little Rock, Ark. (2007); and Galveston County, Tex. (2009).

Mandatory busing has long been outlawed in California as a result of Proposition 1, approved by voters in 1979, and upheld by the California Supreme Court in 1981. ( A voluntary busing program still exists in Berkeley, which was one of the first communities in the nation to adopt such a program. The plan withstood a constitutional challenge in 2009.)

At the same time, as I wrote in earlier posts, schools have becoming increasingly segregated in California schools in recent decades, as documented in voluminous research by UCLA’s Civil Rights Project.

Ironically, many school districts that once operated under court ordered consent decrees to desegregate their schools are still receiving a total of $856 million annually in categorical funds through the Targeted Instructional Improvement grants program. Attempts were made to eliminate this funding stream as part of the school finance reform plan adopted by the State Legislature in June, which abolished most categorical programs. But school districts argued successfully to retain the funding stream – which has done little to stem the increasing concentration of blacks and Latinos in public schools attended by fewer and fewer white and Asian students.

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  1. el 3 years ago3 years ago

    If you put a rocking gifted program or dual immersion or other really attractive program in a school in an unfortunate neighborhood, you can get a lot of wealthier, better off kids electing to bus themselves in. It probably does benefit the community to have people who otherwise might not ever visit said neighborhood sending their kids there and seeing it regularly and contributing money and resources.

  2. Manuel 3 years ago3 years ago

    I believe part of the reason why the TIIG program still exists is because it is one way to fund magnet schools. I doubt that many districts, or at least LAUSD would maintain the magnets without that revenue stream. In other words, this money supplants, not supplement, the districts budgets. It's money, folks. It has not much to do with desegregation. BTW, converting schools into magnets has become another method to "reconstitute" schools in LAUSD, often displacing … Read More

    I believe part of the reason why the TIIG program still exists is because it is one way to fund magnet schools. I doubt that many districts, or at least LAUSD would maintain the magnets without that revenue stream.

    In other words, this money supplants, not supplement, the districts budgets. It’s money, folks. It has not much to do with desegregation.

    BTW, converting schools into magnets has become another method to “reconstitute” schools in LAUSD, often displacing trouble-making teachers. And the state foots the bill! Win-win, no?

    Replies

    • navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

      fwiw, i have seen in more than one place that magnets are a strategy for minimizing or prohibiting resegregation. i cant give you what the arguments are offhand, but i know the claim is out there.

      • Manuel 3 years ago3 years ago

        I am well aware that this is the reason for magnets at LAUSD: it is a way to attract white students to come into public schools. (IIRC, magnet schools were established to meet the mandates of a particular legal settlement.) In fact, there is a requirement that magnets be 60% non-white/40% white. Of course, often there are not enough whites that are interested in a given magnet. Equally often this requirement makes it extremely easy for … Read More

        I am well aware that this is the reason for magnets at LAUSD: it is a way to attract white students to come into public schools. (IIRC, magnet schools were established to meet the mandates of a particular legal settlement.)

        In fact, there is a requirement that magnets be 60% non-white/40% white. Of course, often there are not enough whites that are interested in a given magnet. Equally often this requirement makes it extremely easy for a white student to get into a coveted magnet while it won’t be that easy for a minority.

  3. Stephanie Gillis 3 years ago3 years ago

    I am heartened to see this as a topic of focus again - if public education was intended as the bedrock of democracy, schools need to be places where we all develop relationships cross-class, cross-race, and focus on what we have in common. They build community. Though charters have played a key role in proving that all students can learn, they are exacerbating the separation as so many are judged not by their diversity … Read More

    I am heartened to see this as a topic of focus again – if public education was intended as the bedrock of democracy, schools need to be places where we all develop relationships cross-class, cross-race, and focus on what we have in common. They build community. Though charters have played a key role in proving that all students can learn, they are exacerbating the separation as so many are judged not by their diversity but rather by the proportion of disadvantaged students they are serving. Even in a public school choice system like San Francisco’s, we are seeing more racial and socio-economic separation. Hope this conversation continues!