Racial Segregation Resurges in North Carolina Schools, According to Report

This Friday, May 17, commemorates the 70th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling by the United States Supreme Court, which ended racial segregation in American public schools. Although opposition to desegregation persisted, progress was seen particularly in the late 20th and early 21st Century in states like North Carolina and some of its counties towards creating more diverse and integrated public school systems.

Despite this progress, a recent report by NC State researchers highlights a significant shift in trajectory with a strong trend towards increased segregation in North Carolina schools.

Published by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, the report titled Can Our Schools Capture the Education Gains of Diversity? North Carolina School Segregation, Alternatives and Possible Gains features insights from Jennifer Ayscue, a professor of education at NC State.

According to Ayscue, the overall diversity in North Carolina’s public school enrollment has increased steadily, while the segregation within individual schools has intensified, posing concerns as segregated schools are linked to unequal educational outcomes.

The report also outlines suggested strategies for policymakers to address the growing trend of resegregation, which stand in contrast to recent legislative actions. These strategies include:

  • Implementing voluntary school desegregation policies like student reassignment and the development of magnet schools.
  • Offering incentives to districts and schools through grants and technical assistance from the Department of Public Instruction.
  • Enhancing regulations for charter schools to include provisions for transportation and free school meals.

The report does not delve into private school segregation; however, it notes the surge in private school enrollment in North Carolina in recent years, with research indicating higher levels of segregation in private schools compared to public schools.

Key findings from the report by NC State researchers include:

41% – increase in North Carolina public school enrollment from 1989-90 to 2021-22, reaching 1,517,300 students.

45% White, 25% Black, 20% Hispanic, 5% Multiracial, 4% Asian, and 1% American Indian – breakdown of racial/ethnic composition in 2021-22.

13.5% – proportion of intensely segregated schools of color in North Carolina in 2021-22.

23.5% – share of intensely segregated charter schools.

1 out of 4 – the ratio of Black students attending intensely segregated schools.

61.3% and 55.3%– percentage of low-income students among typical Black and Hispanic students.

Explore the full report here.

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