School Segregation in the United States

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Issue: Despite the racial diversity of the general student populace, New Jersey public schools are among the most segregated in the nation, creating unhealthy learning environments for both minority and Caucasian students.

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Necessary Background: New Jersey historically has very strong desegregation laws; being one of the first states in the nation in to enact anti-segregation laws in 1881. It also is also the only state with a constitutional provision explicitly forbidden segregation. However, in recent decades, schools are becoming increasingly segregated with suburban schools being primarily Caucasian and urban schools often being predominantly of color. These residential patterns cause and make more widespread the issue of school segregation due to the structure of New Jersey schools. Due to the large number (585) of school districts and the lacking amount of regional districts, school diversity is representative of the diversity or lack thereof in the towns themselves.

Evidence of Problem Existing: Since 1989, the percentage of students attending apartheid schools, schools with a less than 1% Caucasian population, has near doubled to 8.3%. The proportion of students attending schools with a less than 10% Caucasian population has also near doubled to 20.1%. Despite increasing ethnic diversity, especially due to the influx of Hispanic students in New Jersey, the proportion of Caucasian students in a typical African American or Hispanic student’s school has only decreased in the last few decades, suggesting that New Jersey schools very much so still segregate minorities. As of 2015, on average Caucasian students attended schools which were 67% white.

Impact: School segregation often exacerbates racial inequality. Qualified teachers are far less likely to remain in segregated school districts. School integration is proven to help students of color graduate and advance to college. Dropout rates are much higher for districts with high poverty and a high minority population. For Caucasian students, students in diverse schools feel better joining the diverse, multiracial workforce. A racially integrated school district gives opportunities for students to interact with children of different backgrounds, improves critical thinking skills through the understanding of various perspectives, and reduces the tendencies in students to make stereotypes. The segregation of schools in new Jersey deprives both many children of color a proper education and Caucasian students the training of many necessary life skills.

Possible Solutions: As mentioned previously, the predominant causes are the structure of New Jersey schools and concentration of race in housing regions. Therefore, there are two primary possible solutions. The first lies in changing the structure of New Jersey schools in order to facilitate racial diversity. This can be achieved through properly managed school choice programs with programs such as parent outreach, preference for students in segregated areas, and free transportation. The second solution involves making the communities themselves more diverse. Funding could be put towards strengthening housing markets in areas in danger of resegregation, stabilizing diversity in such communities and their schools. Affordable housing should also be strategically placed in more diverse areas rather than places with historically successful and segregated school districts.

Sources:

https://www.nj.com/education/2017/11/apartheid_in_nj_schools_on_the_rise_study_says.html

https://www.njspotlight.com/stories/17/10/17/tackling-the-toughest-questions-facing-nj-s-public-education-system/

https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED577712

https://ielp.rutgers.edu/docs/Norflet_NJ_Final_101013_POST.pdf

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School Segregation in the United States. (2019, Oct 30). Retrieved September 25, 2022 , from
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