A recent report conducted by the North Carolina Justice Center and Education Policy Analyst Kris Nordstrom has revealed that segregation is rising in many North Carolina schools. Titled “Stymied by Segregation: How Integration Can Transform North Carolina Schools and the Lives of Its Students,” the report highlights how the state’s public schools are slowly shifting towards racial and economic segregation. While it does list several consequences for both types of segregation, the report also gives numerous ways that school districts can avoid segregation through legislation and organizations.
In the report, Nordstrom starts by listing the major negative trends in North Carolina’s public schools over the last ten years. These trends include the increase in schools being racially and economically segregated, school district boundaries being drawn to uphold segregation, charter schools being used as a segregationist tool and the lack of motivation by larger school districts to fix the rising issue. Few legislative actions have been taken and there is actually concern that North Carolina’s General Assembly may even allow the re-segregation of urban districts through the creation of the Joint Legislative Study Committee on the Division of Local School Administrative Units.
Segregation, while being ethically wrong, also gives rise to increasing racial achievement gaps, as well as dropout and incarceration rates. A 2013 Harvard study examined Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools and the implications following the termination of the integrated busing program. The results showed that there were increases in racial achievement gaps, arrests and incarcerations. Other similar studies on various districts throughout the country found more negative results such as increases in dropout rates.
There is no explanation as to why North Carolina’s public schools are becoming increasingly segregated and there is actually evidence that indicates the integration of schools is highly beneficial. A study in Maryland revealed that students from low-income households that were randomly placed into schools with low rates of poverty consistently performed better on standardized tests than those in schools with high rates of poverty. Additionally, integrated schools expose students to others with different backgrounds, lessen prejudice and promote positive racial relations.
Unfortunately, North Carolina school districts haven’t addressed increased segregation over the past decade– specifically economic segregation. In the 2006-2007 school year, 295 public schools were considered to be economically “isolated.” This means that schools had at least 75 percent of students coming from households below the poverty line. By the 2016-2017 school year, that number had jumped to 476 schools. In terms of percentages, economically isolated schools accounted for 13 percent of all North Carolina public schools in the 2006-2007 school year; that number rose to 19 percent by the 2016-2017 school year. Among the worst school districts for increasing economic segregation are Cleveland, New Hanover and Rowan-Salisbury. Guilford was the sixth-worst on the list.
To counter the rise in school segregation, Nordstrom listed several legislative and organizational strategies which could be implemented. The first would create charter school requirements regarding diversity and academic standards. If a charter school failed to meet their diversity or academic quotas, then they would be shut down.
Charter schools are notorious for having slack educational requirements and removing primarily minority students out of public schools. There is also the incentivization and enforcement of merging multiple school districts to exist within one county. Often times this form of educational gerrymandering is used to separate students by race and income. The advantages provided to charter schools may be creating a disadvantage for their public counterparts.