Washington Lawyer - August/September 2018 - 25
schools where you get a charismatic principal and attract great teachers and
make changes, but addressing income disparities will demand that we make
changes across the system, not just district by district or school by school."
conference on the steps of the Supreme Court. "America knows how to educate
children, but refuses to educate the black, the brown, the Native American, and the
What that means for the future is still unclear. First, the makeup of the schools
will change drastically over the next 30 years. Minority students in the United
States became the majority in K-12 public schools for the first time in 2014 -
and that majority will expand in the coming decades, according to the National
Center for Educational Statistics.
Recent data show that the average amount spent per pupil for public elementary-secondary education for all 50 states and the District of Columbia increased
by 3.2 percent to $11,762 during the 2016 fiscal year, according to the 2016
Annual Survey of School System Finances conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.
It is more difficult to quantify intra-district spending on poorer students, but
evidence suggests that, depending on the district, school officials spend less
on poor and minority students compared to their white counterparts.
Furthermore, the racial mix of students in the 1960s and 1970s has morphed
considerably and will continue to evolve. The increasing numbers of Hispanic
and Asian students in public schools and the decreasing white student population are changing the face of school districts. (Enrollment of black students has
While the answer to many problems in education is throwing money at
them, there is an ongoing battle between those who think federal and state
aid can solve school segregation - and those who are certain that it hasn't
In early May, the Journey for Justice Alliance (JJA), a network of communitybased organizations in 31 cities, along with other education and civil rights
groups, released the report Failing Brown v. Board, which looked at race and class
in public education by focusing on inequalities in public funding that result in
inequities in opportunities in the classroom.
"Our report illustrates that we have not even approached equality let alone equity
in public education," noted Jitu Brown, national director of the JJA, at a press
Demolishing segregation is exceedingly more problematic now than it was
when Brown was decided. Government initiatives to desegregate schools
would likely need to begin with desegregating neighborhoods. Such a goal is
formidable, say observers, because it will take a comprehensive, national commitment to dismantle racial and socioeconomic disparities and reverse decades
of government policies that have fostered divisions and economic inequities.
"It's very challenging to solve these disparities," Greenbaum says. "It's something
that takes a very active social effort to change it. It's not only about being
compliant with civil rights laws. You need to revise social, tax, and economic
policies in order to allow people to have greater mobility in terms of where
they live and more opportunity in terms of where they're educated."
Sarah Kellogg is a regular contributor to Washington Lawyer.
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