Original URL: http://www.tucsoncitizen.com/schools/10_21_02segregation.html

Nation's schools increasingly divided by race, report says
Tucson Citizen, Oct. 21, 2002 


Hollinger Elementary School, 150 W.Ajo Way, is like many public schools in the country's largest school districts, according to a study by the Civil Rights Project of Harvard University. The South Side school in Tucson Unified School District has a student body that was 95.8 percent Hispanic in 2000-01. The number of such schools that are virtually all one ethnicity have increased dramatically in the last 14 years, according to the study.
Citizen File Photo

Almost 50 years after state-sponsored school segregation was outlawed, public schools are becoming increasingly divided by race, even as minority populations increase nationwide, a new report states. The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University found integration between whites and blacks and whites and Latinos decreased or held steady in all but a handful of the nation's largest school districts over the past 14 years. Latinos, the country's fastest-growing population according to the 2000 census, are most isolated from whites in the West, particularly Texas. This trend, the report states, is happening in part because courts have been dismantling desegregation laws. "I think a lot of people think that nothing can be done and the efforts have failed," said Chungmei Lee, a co-author of the report. The study examined 239 school districts nationwide with enrollments greater than 25,000, including Tucson Unified School District, with 63,000 students.
TUSD was forced by a federal court to desegregate in 1978. According to TUSD figures, the district's 2000-01 enrollment was 45.8 percent Latino and 41 percent white. Yet, that same year, many of its schools were virtually of all one ethnicity.

For example, the East Side's Fruchthendler Elementary had a student body that was 86.8 percent white and 8.1 percent Latino. At the South Side's Van Buskirk Elementary that same year, the student body was 95.7 percent Latino.
"The assault on our public school system has benefited those who have tended toward racism," said June Webb-Vignery, director of the Metropolitan  Education Commission.

She said community leaders in recent years have been warning of such trends.  No group has focused on the issue.
"The demographics have been shifting so quickly," she said. "We're going to have to do things differently."
Lee said integration is crucial to improve education and prepare students to  live in a diverse culture.
In a sample of 185 of the districts nationwide, Latino exposure to whites  increased in just three districts between 1986 and 2000. Black exposure to  whites increased in four. White isolation increased in 53 districts, the  report said.
The 20 most rapidly segregating school districts are concentrated in the  South, with eight in Texas and three in Georgia.
In Arizona, school districts in the Phoenix area had some of the highest  exposure rates for Latinos to whites.
The rates in Deer Valley and Gilbert districts were around 80 percent. The  Gilbert, Scottsdale and Paradise Valley districts had similar rates for  blacks to whites.

Lee said successful integration is a matter of balancing resources, often in  short supply in the poor neighborhoods where many minorities live. The report recommends combining city and suburban school districts, thus joining  various racial groups.

TUSD officials long have blamed housing patterns and poverty for some of the district's achievement problems. TUSD officials could not be reached for comment.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.
To see the complete report, go to http://www.law.harvard.edu/civilrights/press_releases/reseg_districts.html



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