Manipulating School District Boundaries Has Increased Racial Segregation

A new study published by the American Educational Research Association shows that since 2000, school district secessions in the South have increasingly sorted White and Black students weakening the potential to improve school racial integration.

From 2000 to 2017, 47 school districts in the United States successfully seceded from a larger school district. These secessions have occurred in 13 counties across the U.S., seven of which are in the South. During this time period, 18 new school districts formed in these seven counties in the South. In the counties studied by the authors, the proportion of school segregation due to school district boundaries has increased.

Erica Frankenberg, a professor of education and demography at Pennsylvania State University and a coauthor of the study, states that “our findings show that after district secessions, students are increasingly being sorted into different school districts by race. School segregation is becoming more entrenched, with potential long-term effects for residential integration patterns as well.”

“The bottom line is that school segregation has remained persistently high and school boundaries are accounting for an increasing share of the existing segregation,” said Dr. Frankenberg. “If this trend continues, students of color increasingly will be sorted into schools with fewer resources, segregation will become more ingrained, and all students will have fewer opportunities to experience the educational benefits of a diverse learning environment.”

The full study, “Racial Segregation in the Southern Schools, School Districts, and Counties Where Districts Have Seceded,” was published in the journal AERA Open. It may be accessed here.

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