Report shows K-12 schools remain segregated despite more diverse student population

A recent congressional watchdog report about education shows K-12 public schools are divided along racial and economic lines even though the overall student population is becoming more diverse.

In this U.S. Government Accountability Office report, these racial and economic divisions aren’t just limited to one place. This segregation spans different types of schools and across urban, suburban, and rural neighborhoods.

The findings show more than a third of students (about 18.5 million) attended schools where 75 percent or more of the student body was a single race last year.

“This really is an issue where action…the rubber hits the road at the state and local level,” Jackie Nowicki, Director of K-12 Education for the U.S. Government Accountability Office said.

Nowicki said she also reviewed the impact of new school districts that left existing districts. She said they found 36 new school districts that seceded from existing districts over last decade. The report shows these districts were in Alabama, Arkansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Tennessee, and Utah.

“Generally, districts when they broke away, got whiter and wealthier,” Nowicki said. “Most of those districts that seceded were in the Northeast or the Midwest. I know people sometimes think of racial division as a southern problem.”

Nowicki the economic divide intersects with the racial one. She said about 80 percent of Black and brown students are in low-income schools. It’s a trend that can impact a student throughout their entire life.

“Lower earnings potential, less likelihood of attending college or another post-secondary education choice like career and technical education, higher involvement, or higher risk of being involved with the justice system,” said Nowicki.

The House Education and Labor Committee has proposed some potential solutions to help address these trends:

•             The Strength in Diversity Act would provide resources to states or school districts that want to voluntarily develop plans to integrate their schools.

•             The Equity and Inclusion Enforcement Act would guarantee the private right of action for students, parents, and local civil rights groups to bring discrimination claims based on racially disparate impact under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.