In 1954, the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision deemed state-sponsored segregation in public schools unconstitutional. This landmark case overturned the concept of “separate but equal” schooling and created an America where every child, no matter the color of their skin, is provided the same level of education — right?
According to National Equity Atlas reports from the last five years, Texas has a 40 percent gap in attendance of schools with a high poverty rate between whites and people of color, with 49 percent of minorities students attending high poverty schools. Segregation of schools and neighborhoods by race and class is rising across America, with the number of schools where 1 percent or less of the student body was white has more than doubled in the last 20 years. Texas is home to four of the 10 cities where this disparity is greatest.
In a UT study by College of Education professors Julian Vasquez Heilig and Jennifer Jellison Holme, these high minority, high poverty schools rated as poor performers in the state’s accountability system across the board. “Our research revealed that schools where students are segregated by race/ethnicity, (Supplemental Education Services) and language are overwhelmingly rated as low-performing,” Heilig said in a press release.
These schools, centered mainly along the border and in urban areas such as Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin, lack the proper funding to provide at-need students with accessible technology and skilled teachers that their peers in higher income areas receive. A report by the Education Law Center titled “Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card” explains that this is a result of Texas’s regressive school funding policy, which provides schools with higher concentrations of students from low-income families with less money than those made up of high-income families. If you don’t see the irony in this policy, it may be because the Texas school system failed to teach it to you.
“So, 50 years after the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, the data reveals that very little has actually changed when it comes to the segregation of African Americans and Latinos in our schools,” Heilig said in a press release. “Despite rhetoric to the contrary, demographics are still determining destiny in Texas.”
Marginalization of people of color is an endemic problem in American society, and education is symptomatic of greater issues of segregation such as racially biased housing patterns, transportation patterns and commercial development. But for tomorrow’s generation to rise above the place that America has put them in, we need to provide them the tools to do so.
Texas must follow in the steps of other states by zoning inclusively to provide affordable housing or desegregation busing in neighborhoods with high performing schools or equitable school funding. If we ever want to live in the world that the America from 50 years ago dreamed of, we must first bridge the gap in our school system.
Kunz is an English freshman from New Braunfels. Follow him on Twitter @KunzJacob.