Arroyo Research Services Senior Associate John Kucsera has been attracting considerable attention for his work with UCLA professor Gary Orfield on the extreme segregation still found in our nation’s school systems 60+ years after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education court ruling. And contrary to what some may expect, the biggest problem is not found in the American South. In fact, a recent study by Kucsera and Orfield, who co-directs the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, discovered that the country’s worst segregation rates in modern day can be found in New York state’s schools.
And the problem doesn’t end there; demographic shifts in places like Southern California, which are representative of changes happening elsewhere in the country, signal a need for more proactive policies that favor integration across the country (see, for example, “Are We Segregated and Satisfied?” in the journal, Urban Education). While progress has been made since Brown for some students, issues like a growing Latino population, increasing socioeconomic disparity, school choice, and finance reform all have an impact on segregation rates.
Research shows that desegregated education can offer substantial benefits to students from all backgrounds, both in school and later in life. Yet Kucsera and Orfield readily admit it’s not a panacea, nor is it always possible to implement policies that encourage greater integration in every school. But, they say, “where it is possible…desegregation properly implemented can make a very real contribution to equalizing educational opportunities and preparing young Americans for the extremely diverse society in which they will live and work and govern together.” And policymakers – in New York and elsewhere – are taking note.