News Presenter 1: In May, 1954, the US Supreme Court, the highest tribunal in the land, carried this American ideal of public education another step forward.
Tanzina Vega: Tomorrow marks the 65th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision Brown vs the Board of Education.
News Presenter 1: In a unanimous decision, the nine Supreme Court justices ruled racial segregation in publicly supported schools to be unconstitutional, declaring that it denied equal opportunities.
Tanzina: It was a major win for the civil rights movement that sought to level the playing field by giving everyone access to the same education.
News Presenter 1: They may speak with different accents. They may have different origins. They're all equal in the eyes of their country. They are the youth of America by young and still growing nation, growing in the steady realization of its ideals of democracy and equality. In planning for public education, Americans have sought to give every youngster equal opportunity.
Tanzina: That's not exactly how things have turned out.
News Presenter 2: Brown buses, the board of education, outlawed and forced racial segregation in American schools. Now, there are signs that it could be making unwelcome return.
News Presenter 3: Congress found the percentage of high poverty schools with mostly Black or Hispanic students has more than doubled since 2000.
News Presenter 4: The percentage of Black and Latino students in what's being called apartheid schools is on the increase. Yet most schools seem ill-prepared to help those students be the best they can be.
News Presenter 5: According to a study out this month from UCLA and Penn state, 65 years after the US was supposed to have turned a corner, school segregation is actually on the rise. The share of intensely segregated minority schools or schools that enroll 90 to 100% non-white students has more than tripled since 1988. New York remains the most segregated state for African-American students with 65% of Black students going to class in intensely segregated minority schools.
California is the most segregated state for Latinos. 58% are reported as attending segregated schools. While the country is getting more diverse, the data shows that somewhere along the way the 1954 plan for desegregation fell apart.
News Presenter 1: Equal opportunity.
Tanzina: I'm Tanzina Vega. This is The Takeaway, and that's where we begin today with two perspectives from those very states that lie at the extremes New York, and California. Lurie Daniel Favors is General Counsel at the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, CUNY, and Cecilia Rios-Aguilar is Professor and Associate Dean of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. Thanks to you both for being here.
Lurie Daniel Favors: Thanks so much for having me.
Cecilia Rios-Aguilar: It's a pleasure to be here.
Tanzina: Lurie, let's start with you. New York, where we are sitting is the most segregated state for Black students. Why is that?
Lurie: I think what we're seeing in New York city and throughout the country is that integration in schools is on the decline as a reflection of what's happening throughout our broader society. What's important to know is that the peak for integration, at least for African-American students was in the late 1980s, early 1990s, and we've really been in decline ever since. When we look at the data that is out now, we really have to ask, "Was there any real political will to engage in a true effort and integration in the first place?"
Tanzina: I want to ask a little bit about, a lot of people, folks don't know that New York City is a very segregated city, to begin with. How much of a factor is just the geographic segregation of New York in this?
Lurie: Geographic segregation is always an issue, but when you're looking at a city like New York, which actually is experiencing high rates of gentrification, meaning the high influx of white residents, often upper middle-class residents into what is typically seen as low income Black and brown communities, we're definitely seeing the influx in bodies. While there is a slight uptick in the presence of white children at traditional public schools, it's just not there. A lot of these families are still choosing to have their children educated in predominantly white spaces, even in a city as diverse as New York.
Tanzina: Cecilia, I want to bring you in here because often when we think about school segregation, we think in terms of Black and white, but there is a different dynamic happening in California. There is a big picture of Latino segregation in California schools. Tell us a little bit about that.
Cecilia: Correct. As you mentioned before, right now 58% of Latino students attend on average a school that is intensely segregated, meaning that 90% or 100% of students, they are also Latinos. We can forget there that in California, there's a case before Brown, and that also should be part of our intellectual history, because that case was fought in 1946, and it proceeds Brown. It has the exact same tones and exact same importance as Brown, which is, we want to give every single kid an equal opportunity to have education.
Tanzina: You're talking about the Mendez v Westminster case. What were the circumstances of that case?
Cecilia: The circumstances are that parents of Mexican origin children were denied access to Orange County schools, and the parents Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez bring a lawsuit against the school district and this particular school. It's very similar, the educational opportunities and resources are neglected to a particular group of students, in this case Mexican students.
Tanzina: Lurie, we're here in New York, and we know in New York and California that the dynamics are different. What about in the rest of the country? Are you seeing regional differences where segregation is more prevalent or less prevalent?
Lurie: I think what we're seeing is that across the country the trends tend to be the same. The numbers may differ slightly. You may have more white students in the Midwest region, for example, but regardless of where the students are located, the trends are the same. What I think we have to now ask is, 65 years later with the data that we now have access to, integration is simply not a policy that is going to, it is designed to meet the needs of the vast majority of children in this country. It is a phenomenal goal, but children like my children, who live in a very hyper-segregated community and go to schools in a very-hyper segregated space, need an equitable distribution of resources.
That is a policy, a mythical realignment of numbers to reach a magic point is simply not going to give our children what it is that they need, particularly because integration is really a stand-in or a metaphor for access to whiteness. If we're talking about access to whiteness, access to white culture, access to opportunities, we have to recognize that even within integrated spaces, those opportunities and resources are not equitably distributed. Teachers, even in integrated spaces, need training on best practices and culturally responsive education.
We do a lot of consulting in schools where there is a numeric blend, but the allocation of who's getting access to AP courses, who's getting referred to special ed, who's having incidences of discipline concerns, those are not equitable. Even within integrated spaces, Black and brown and white children are not getting access to the same education.
Tanzina: That's is a question I want to ask, Cecilia, also, because segregation does have affects. We're talking here about schools that aren't as segregated, and there's still disconnects, but Cecilia, what impact does segregation have in terms of the quality of education that the students that you study are getting?
Cecilia: We'll have enough research to know the long-term consequences of these that are not just immediate educational, but there's relations to health, there's relations to employment, there's relation to incarceration rates. What I would like people to understand, it has important consequences throughout the lives of kids. In the cases of Mendez and Brown, it was very well-documented that the segregation fosters feelings of inferiority and rejection, children, and also isolation delayed the acculturation and English language learning. These are things that we can see still nowadays, that some kids have been living in these highly segregated circumstances that carried them throughout their college, possibilities of attending college. In the case of California, they will attend sometimes community colleges which are also the most highly segregated sector in post-secondary education. Then they land up with the lowest paying jobs. We shouldn't be asking ourselves, "Why is this the case?" We know exactly why, which is these high segregated situations.
Tanzina: Lurie, you want it to say something like that?
Lurie: I think that that point is so salient and so important. That's actually why we should have a much more culturally responsive approach to K through 12 education recognizing that these are the outcomes that tend to be produced the segregated education. That should then give us the ability to hyper-focus our resources and hyper-focus the targeting of programs for children who are coming out of schools that are underserved. I think it's time to move past having a conversation about the overall benefits of integration. We know what they are and we know they remain elusive.
Tanzina: Why is it so why do they remain elusive? What is the holdup here? I'm going to ask you the same question, Cecilia.
Lurie: I think we have to look at the fact that right now, and the report even speaks to this, we are in an environment where returned to open and hostile racial white supremacy and the embrace of white nationalism is on the rise. That did not happen just as a result of Trump. Trump has allowed that those feelings to rise to the surface, but those feelings have been driving education policies since Brown, and we know that all deliberate speed meant as slow as possible for many schools, immediately following Brown, nearly 90% of Black principals were fired. Nearly 40% of Black educators were let go, because white communities were not willing to have their children educated in the same spaces. We need to go back and really look at what Brown missed and what we've missed over these past 65 years and provide Black and brown children and education that is going to center their specific cultural and academic learning needs.
Tanzina: Cecilia, your thoughts on that, because I will tell you, I am a product of the New York City public school system. My school was one of these intensely segregated schools, I did not get into an integrated school until I went to a specialized high school. At what point, Cecilia, what needs to happen to make that the experience for other children?
Cecilia: It needs to happen very early, it needs to be strategic, it needs to be a policy priority. We need to incentivize school districts to look at voluntary integration, we need to have more resources, more funding. There's definitely the need for more federal funding, for more state funding, for our local funding to attend to this problem. This is not going to solve magically. Yes, we need training on teachers, but we also need material resources-
Lurie: That's right.
Cecilia: -and funding that goes to the school. It's not, again, going to magically happen one day, even if we set a goal. We need tangible resources.
Tanzina: Is there political will? Is there political will? I'm going to ask both of you, because I think that's what's the holdup here, it is just that, these are great ideas, but we don't see them happening. Lurie.
Lurie: I think we have to respond to the reality as it is today. We have the data now that looks back at what happened over the past 65 years. If our peak integration was in 1988 and we've been chasing that unicorn ever since, it's time for a policy that's going to be honest and clear about what children need today. The specialized high school program in these, you know is in great flux right here in New York City, but even if that program, which is now currently attempting to be revised, even if it were to work perfectly, we're talking about a handful of students. That's not an education policy.
Black children, and we can go back as far as Carter G. Woodson in the Mis-Education of the Negro who talked about the fact that Black children who were the descendants of those who are owned have a different educational need than white children were the descendants of those who owned and have an entitlement to privilege, which is why even in those integrated spaces, white children carry a superiority complex, and Black and brown children carry an inferiority complex. If our education policies are not designed to address that, the money we put into these schools will be meaningless because the heart of the issue is not being addressed.
Tanzina: Cecilia, we've got about a minute left in the segment, I want to address exactly what Lurie said. For Latino students, we are in a very hostile environment right now for a lot of Latinos in the United States. How do we get past this, in your opinion, in a minute left?
Cecilia: The same thing, it's policy that the Governor Brown passed the local control funding formula, and it's giving more funds to those schools in need, that have high concentrations of low-income students, underrepresented students, foster youth, English language learners. There is more resources going into the schools, but we need to make this a priority. It's not just that if we expect the funding to get there, we need to make this a policy priority and now, because there's so much to be done, and this has important consequences.
Tanzina: Cecilia Rios-Aguilar is Associate Dean of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. Lurie Daniel Favors is General Counsel at the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, CUNY. Thanks to you both.
Lurie: Thank you.
Cecilia: Thank you very much.
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