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No, U.S. Schools Aren’t ‘Resegregating’

The front-page headline on the Washington Post today screams, “New data shows U.S. schools are resegregating.” 

Not true. Segregation means the government separating students by race and telling them it is illegal for students of one race to attend the same schools as students of another race. So the number of segregated public schools in the United States today is . . . zero.

What is being complained about, instead, are racial “imbalances” that come about, not as a result of racist laws, but because of residential living patterns and the general practice of assigning children to schools that are near where they live. Deliberately assigning children to schools on the basis of skin color — which, ironically, is what the Left wants in order to correct these “imbalances” — is bad policy and illegal, in light of not only Brown v. Board of Education but, more recently, the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision in Parents Involved in Community Schools v.  Seattle School District No. 1

Assigning students on the basis of skin color can hurt minority students as well as nonminority students. As the GAO study that the Post story discusses notes, “Further, according to officials, some magnets with openings could not accept minority students because doing so would interfere with the ratio of minority to non-minority students that the district was trying to achieve.” A St. Louis-area public school system was recently sued for refusing to admit a black student because, well, he was black, and that would have interfered with the politically correct racial mix being sought.

There’s more: The Post article also mixes poverty into the equation, but of course here again the fact that rich children live in different neighborhoods than poor children, and therefore are likely to attend different schools, is a very different phenomenon than Jim Crow segregation. And defining “resegregation” can be tricky, especially when there are more than two ethnic groups involved and where the number of white students relative to nonwhites is declining anyhow, as the Post story acknowledges. 

It is true that some public schools are better than others, and that the schools that rich kids go to will often be better than the schools that poor kids go to, and there’s nothing wrong with trying to improve all schools. What’s even better is giving parents more choice in where to send their children, though of course this is less popular with the Left, because it is unpopular with teachers’ unions. 

In any event, there is no reason to use the racial makeup of a school as a proxy for whether it is a good school or a bad school.  In fact, that would be racist, wouldn’t it?

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