U.S. school segregation on the rise: report

Wed Jan 14, 2009 5:22pm EST
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By Matthew Bigg

ATLANTA (Reuters) - Black and Latino students are educated in U.S. schools that are increasingly segregated, said a report Wednesday that undercuts optimism about race in America surrounding the presidency of Barack Obama.

Blacks and Hispanics are more separate from white students than at any time since the civil rights movement and many of the schools they attend are struggling, said the report by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California.

A 2007 Supreme Court decision on voluntary desegregation is likely to intensify the trend because it reduces pressure on local authorities to promote school desegregation, said the report, which called on Obama to address the issue.

Obama, who will take the oath of office Tuesday, will be the county's first black president.

"It would be a tragedy if the country assumed from the Obama election that the problems of race have been solved, when many inequalities are actually deepening," said Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project.

Orfield said these trends were "the result of a systematic neglect of civil rights policy and related educational and community reforms for decades."

Part of the reason is demographic. As the percentage of white students shrinks -- they now make up 56 percent of the school population -- they are more integrated with students who are nonwhite.

Another factor is that residential segregation, on the rise in many parts of the country, increasingly determines the racial composition in schools in the absence of measures by education authorities to create and maintain integrated schools, Orfield said.   Continued...