The Latino Ed Roundup: Putting the spotlight on school segregation

This week: Is segregation increasing in schools?

Latino Ed Roundup

Compiled and edited by Gabriela Montell, UnidosUS Communications Manager


Last week we observed that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Gov. Ricardo Rosselló are making a play to turn Puerto Rico’s public schools into for-profit ones, to the dismay of many of the island’s residents. But according to Noliwe Rooks, director of American studies at Cornell University and author of Cutting School: Privatization, Segregation, and the End of Public Education, the corporate takeover of education isn’t limited to Puerto Rico.

In an article on City Lab, Rooks notes that it’s happening on the mainland, too, and usually at the expense of children from low-income families who are overwhelmingly Black and Latino. In fact, virtual schools are becoming the “format of choice” of politicians in states like Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina, who tout them as a cost-effective way—since there are “no buildings to maintain, heating or cooling costs to pay, or administrative and service staff to hire”—to give economically disadvantaged families more so-called school options, she explains.

Students - ESSA implementation | Latino Ed RoundupThat should worry us, since all school options aren’t created equal, says Rooks, pointing to research by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes, which revealed that 70 percent of students at virtual schools trail well behind their public-school peers. That’s probably why virtual schools are rarely the choice of well-off White families, who can already afford to live in the country’s top public-school districts or send their kids to expensive private schools, she writes.

The difference now is there’s a greater tax incentive for White families to take their kids (and their tax dollars) out of public schools and leave their less-fortunate minority peers behind. That’s exacerbating inequality and returning the country to a time when schools were separate and unequal, Rooks says.


A recent New York Times article highlighted research by UCLA’s Civil Rights Project showing that schools are, in fact, resegregating. (The study also noted that the “growth of segregation has been most dramatic for Latino students.”)

Robert VerBruggen, deputy managing editor of the National Review, disagrees. In a recent article for the conservative magazine, he argued that the country’s changing composition is distorting the data. He contends that a smaller share of minority students attend majority-White schools only because the country is more diverse and less White than it was a half-century ago.

Children studying. | Latino Ed Roundup

Alvin Chang, a senior graphics reporter at Vox, thinks that argument, which amounts to, “Hey, we haven’t made school segregation worse – and it’s because of Asian and Hispanic immigrants,” completely misses the forest for the trees. Chang’s point is the “most vulnerable students in America” are overwhelmingly children of color and they’re more marginalized than ever. He goes on to explain that Black and Latino students typically attend distressed, high-poverty schools (both charter and public), while White and Asian children largely attend well-funded, low-poverty schools.

That has serious implications, since studies show that education affects economic and health outcomes.


The good news is an obscure provision in the Every Student Succeeds Act could soon expose the extent of those educational inequities and be a good first step towards rectifying them, an article on The 74 reports.

That provision, which takes effect this fall and requires states to report per-student spending, may finally shine a light on how dollars are distributed between schools in the same districts (and not just between whole school districts), explains Mark Keierleber, a senior writer-reporter for the publication. According to experts, that’s not only a game-changer, but it could well mean legal trouble for districts that dispense more dollars to schools that serve predominantly White students, Keierleber concludes.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments!