It seems like people have forgotten all about the meaning of segregation. Some of us don’t even understand the word. When an ethnic group, race, or class becomes completely isolated from the rest of the society, it is in a state of segregation. The segregated group may have (voluntary or enforced) residence in a restricted area, but it’s mostly recognized by the separate educational facilities.
We may want to forget about our history, but it’s time to refresh our memory: segregation used to be a big thing in the United States. School segregation was a direct result from southern slave societies, and the worst part is that it was formally regulated. The laws segregated whites and blacks not only regarding their attendance of public schools, but in all other aspects of public life as well. Mexican-Americans were also prohibited from sharing public spaces with whites. Native Americans had similar treatment.
Yes, governments have power to do that. Fortunately, that’s our dark past that we’re not dealing with any longer. Or are we?
It’s Not that Different Today
Unfortunately, there still is segregation in the U.S. This is not a personal opinion. Let’s take a look at some facts:
The U.S. Government Accountability Office investigated the level of disparities and racial discrimination in K-12 education. The findings showed that there was significant growth in the percentage of K-12 public schools in high poverty, along with the percentage of Hispanic and African-American students in them.
In October 2014, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil RIghts found that nearly 2,500 black students from the School District of South Orange & Maplewood, New Jersey, were underrepresented in higher-level learning opportunities in elementary, middle and high school. Although the black students represented 51.1% of the high school enrollment in the district, they had only 18.7% of the spots in the Advanced Placement courses. That’s too much controversy for the 21st century, don’t you think?
In a press release from 2014, The UCLA Civil Rights Project named California as the most segregated state for Latino students. In 1970, Latinos attended schools that were 54% white. By 2012, Latinos attended a school with over 70% poor children. Contrary to black and Latino students, white and Asian children typically attend schools where the majority consists of middle-class students.
If we’re looking for the facts, we are going to find them: segregation is still present in the USA. How is Trump’s presidency going to affect it? That’s where the real problems begin.
Where Is Trump in All This?
We’re not just assuming a danger of greater segregation in the U.S. society just because Obama’s administration cared about this issue and now Obama is no longer the president. The concern is based upon the new President’s publically expressed statements. Let’s take a look at a few more facts.
During the presidential election campaign, Trump said he would take $20 billion from the current federal education programs to repurpose for private school vouchers and charter schools. The reality is simple: the stronger private schools become, the greater the segregation will be. If we take away their funds, these students are not getting quality education.
During the campaign, Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos, the current Secretary of Education, didn’t say much about the systems of accountability established by the Federal government. According to DeVos, the government’s oversight should be limited, especially when it comes to charter schools. In other words, the UCLA Civil Rights Project press release and warnings we mentioned above should be irrelevant.
The criticism towards Ms. DeVos, a billionaire known for promoting charter schools and vouchers, is based on the belief that she is not familiar with public schools and the laws that are meant to protect people’s right to education.
On February 27th, DeVos published a statement after the Listening Session with Historically Black College and University Leaders. This was the controversial part: “HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice. They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality.” The problem is that HBCUs were not that much of a choice. They were created in response to racial segregation and were often the only choice of education that black students had.
After all these facts, we can come down to a conclusion: the Trump administration will be focused on supporting public vouchers for students to attend private schools. Desegregation is not a top priority. In the worst-case scenario, these policies will lead to greater segregation.
How Can We Support the Desegregation Processes in American Schools?
On February 28th, President Trump gave an address to a joint session of Congress. His rhetoric’s were slightly milder than usual: “I am calling upon members of both parties to pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth, including millions of African-American and Latino children. These families should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school that is right for them.”
The President emphasized the need for tax-credit scholarship, which would allow students to attend a private school. He introduced a guest to the audience – Denisha Merriweather, who was failing third grade twice in her public elementary school before her family used a tax-credit scholarship to pay for a private school. The intention is clear: instead of standing for providing high-quality public education that would be free and available to everyone, our new President considers public institutions to be inferior to private schools. The results of a study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research don’t support the President’s claim that private schools are better. The researchers found that the academic achievement of students under Louisiana’s Scholarship Program were substantially reduced. The students who attended a private school under this program were 50% more likely to fail at math.
The issue of segregation stands opposite to our deepest values as a society of equality and liberty. When the students are being segregated by race and class, the negative effects of being raised in low-income neighborhoods are worse. They don’t get access to the good courses and good teachers. They are getting a devastating message, convincing them that they don’t matter. Is there a way to solve this matter?
With these policies, we are turning education into a parent’s right of choice for their children’s future. All parents want the best for their kids, but the best is going to cost a lot of money if (or when) the government cuts the funds to the public educational system.
As parents and active participants in this society, we have not only the right to make a change, but a responsibility as well. When making investments in our children’s future, we should not see them as individuals. We should see them as the generation of the future. Instead of ignoring the problems of schools our children don’t attend, we should all join forces to inspire a change.