Linda Brown Smith, shown in an undated photo, was a third grader when her father started a class-action suit in 1951 against the Board of Education of Topeka, Kan., which led to the US Supreme Court’s 1954 landmark decision against school segregation. (AP File)
A new analysis by the Government Accounting Office (GAO) reveals that more than 60 years after the United States Supreme Court struck down segregation in Brown v. Board, public schools in the nation remain separate and unequal.
“This GAO report confirms what has long been feared and proves that current barriers against educational equality are eerily similar to those fought during the civil rights movement,” said Rep. John Conyers, ranking member of the U.S. House’s Committee on the Judiciary, in a statement. “There simply can be no excuse for allowing educational apartheid in the 21st century.”
The GAO analysed Department of Education data from school years 2000-01 to 2013-14. It found that the percentage of all K-12 public schools that had high percentages of poor and Black or Hispanic students grew from 9 to 16 percent.
The schools in this 16 percent were not only the most racially-concentrated, the findings show, but also the ones with the highest percentage of low-income students: 75 to 100 percent of the students were Black or Hispanic and also eligible for free or reduced-price lunch—a commonly used indicator of poverty.
The report further showed that schools segregated by race and socioeconomic factors suffered from educational inequities. For example, these schools offered disproportionately fewer math, science, and college preparatory courses and had disproportionately higher rates of students who were held back in ninth grade, suspended, or expelled.
The analysis was the result of a request made in May 2014 by Conyers (D-Mich.), Committee on Education and the Workforce Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and former Congressman George Miller.
In this Dec. 3, 2013 file photo, Adofo Muhammad, center, principal of Bedford Academy High School, teaches 10th and 11th graders in his Global Studies class in the Brooklyn Borough of New York. ( AP Photo/Bebeto)
“Sixty-two years later, here we are in 2016 facing an overwhelming failure to fulfil the promise of Brown in realizing equality in educational opportunity for all students,” said Scott. “The GAO report confirms that our nation’s schools are, in fact, largely segregated by race and class. What’s more troubling, is that segregation in public K-12 schools isn’t getting better; it’s getting worse, and getting worse quickly, with more than 20 million students of color now attending racially and socioeconomically isolated public schools. This report is a national call to action, and I intend to ensure Congress is part of the solution.”
In addition to the demographic data, the GAO also examined why and how selected school districts have implemented actions to increase student diversity, and the extent to which the justice and education departments have taken actions to identify and address issues related to racial discrimination in schools.
Among other things the GAO recommended that the Education Department should “more routinely analyze its civil rights data to identify disparities among types and groups of schools” and that the DOJ should “systematically track key information on open federal school desegregation cases to which it is a party to better inform its monitoring.”