School integration is hard to achieve

Despite the passage of 64 years since the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, too many schools remain largely segregated.  That’s why a lawsuit organized by the New Jersey Coalition for Diverse and Inclusive Schools will be closely followed (“New Jersey Law Codifies School Segregation, Suit Says,” The New York Times, May 18).

I say that because there seems to be a direct clash between New Jersey courts and the U.S. Supreme Court.  The former has ruled since the 1960s that even de facto segregation is unconstitutional.  Yet the U.S. Supreme Court in Milliken v. Bradley held in 1974 that school systems are not responsible for desegregation across district lines unless it is de jure.  Curiously, the plaintiffs in the New Jersey suit admit that it is de facto.  Which side will prevail?

But let’s assume for a moment that the high court rules in favor of the plaintiffs.  What can be done to integrate schools now that hasn’t been tried before?  Busing hasn’t worked for the most part.  Magnet schools are more promising, but they too are limited in their potential.  Integration is good for all students.  But the devil is in the details. As long as present residential housing patterns remain, I see little hope for significantly integrating schools.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

2 Replies to “School integration is hard to achieve”

  1. Presumably the lawsuit is about racial segregation/integration, not SES segregation/integration. In either event, there is not much state and local govts can do to achieve racial or SES integration while at the same time retaining taxpayer-supported schools as the dominant education vehicle.

    In the US, people live in communities that are segregated based on SES and race with a lot of overlap between the two. Higher-SES parents do not want to send their children to schools where there are a lot of lower-SES children. If the govt implements SES desegregation policies in the public schools, the higher-SES parents will avoid the desegregation by either moving or by sending their children to private schools (or perhaps use their political clout to achieve some sort of taxpayer-supported SES-segregated schools via charters or vouchers).

    As I’ve argued before, the higher-SES parents’ opposition to SES school integration is exacerbated by the fact that public schools generally no longer track students. If, as in the 1950s and 1960s, the public schools tracked students, then the higher-SES parents would be more willing to send their children to public schools where there were a lot of lower-SES children because the higher-SES parents would know that all the students — higher-SES and lower-SES — in their children’s classes would be relatively well-behaved and academically-oriented.


  2. Labor Lawyer: School segregation that is de facto is extremely hard to overcome despite the best efforts. Yes, some parents are willing to have their children spend hours being bused to better schools, but they are the exception. In light of the Milliken decision, I don’t see how the plaintiffs in New Jersey can prevail. Even they admit that segregation is de facto – not de jure.


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