Pew Research is reporting that the US Department of Education projects this school year to be the first time public schools will be “majority minority.” That is, minorities will outnumber whites in the school system this year, with the latter comprising 49.7 percent of the student population. Pew goes on to credit the growth of Hispanic and Asian students as the main driving factor in this demographic shift. This chart shows the trend and projects to 2022.
UCLA’s Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles, assessing the state of schools 60 years after Brown v Board of Education. The report, called Brown at 60: Great Progress, a Long Retreat and an Uncertain Future “shows that the nation’s two largest regions, the South and West, now have a majority of what were called ‘minority’ students. Whites are only the second largest group in the West. The South, always the home of most black students, now has more Latinos than blacks and is a profoundly tri-racial region.” (The complete CRP report Brown at 60 can be downloaded here.)
The news isn’t all good though. The Washington Post, analyzing the report, argues, “[w]e have to look at demographics through geography — and education policy through housing patterns,” and in fact, that though minorities account for more than half of the student population, more than half of America’s schools will remain majority white. How is this possible? It is the product of de facto segregation – neighborhoods that remain consistently majority one race or another, for example. They go on: “If minorities are largely concentrated in nearly all-minority schools as a result of housing segregation, the number of majority-white schools could still outnumber them (imagine what would happen, for instance, if we had 55 minority children and 45 whites ones in a district with five schools, and two of those five schools were 100 percent minority).”
Drive through any metropolitan area in America and you will see segregation is still largely the norm, de facto or otherwise. I’ve long argued the way we fund public school education in this country is problematic, and will continue to segregate neighborhoods. If we are going to continue to rely on property taxes as the source of education funding then expensive – read: in praxis white – neighborhoods are going to have better funded schools, and by extension better schools period. An easy, but likely politically suicidal solution would be to pool all the property taxes designated for education in a state and then distribute them on a per-student basis.
Until we reach a solution to the funding problem we will continue to see less mixed schools than global enterprise should need. In the meantime there is nothing wrong with celebrating 2014 as the first “majority minority” school year, while working for a more fair and equitable situation.