MinnPost's education reporting is made possible by a grant from the Bush Foundation.

As NAACP calls for end to resegregation, Bloomington is among local districts grappling with student balance

Over the weekend, the NAACP wrapped up a national conference on education by calling for a halt to resegregation throughout the country. Racial isolation in schools is at a 40-year high, the group warned.

The NAACP met in Wake County, N.C., where school administrators recently ended a decade-old policy that integrated schools by socio-economic status. The group recently filed a federal civil-rights complaint over the decision.

“Ending busing to integrate schools and dwindling funding for public schools is the newest form of re-segregation,” NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous said in a statement.  “All children of all backgrounds, of all races, colors and creeds deserve an accessible, high quality public education. School boards across this country are rolling the clock back to the time before Brown vs. The Board of Education and the NAACP will not continue to let this happen.”

Numerous studies show that minority students in integrated schools do better in school and later in life. All students fare best if a majority of students in a school are middle or upper class.

Because of a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision, districts can no longer use race as the sole type of integration considered when attendance plans are created. A number of communities have had great success balancing schools by poverty rates and other socio-economic factors.

If North Carolina seems a world away, administrators in several Twin Cities school districts are struggling to balance schools by socio-economic status, which, in Minnesota, closely correlates to race. We’ve reported most recently on the controversy surrounding a plan to integrate schools in Eden Prairie, but it’s not the only district grappling with the issue.

The Bloomington School Board tonight will take up two proposals for redrawing attendance boundaries to eliminate a 65-point disparity in poverty rates and smooth out over- and under-crowding throughout the district.

Minneapolis, Hopkins, St. Louis Park and Osseo have recently redrawn attendance maps, and a host of other districts are in the process. The issue is particularly tough in suburbs, where the racial makeup is changing dramatically and quickly.

Two years ago, my MinnPost colleague Cynthia Boyd and I took an in-depth look at resegregation in a five-part series. If you’re interested, you can find the first installment here. I’m also appending a few relevant passages:

In 1972, segregation in Minneapolis schools was so grave a federal judge ordered the city to begin busing students to achieve racial balance. Thirty-six years and several attempted reforms later, Twin Cities-area schools are more segregated than ever.

Indeed, black children in the Twin Cities are more likely today to attend an all-minority school than they were in 1970, two years after race relations erupted into riots. Of the metro area’s 1,151 schools, 312 — or 27 percent — are schools where a majority of students are nonwhite.

In 1995, only 8 percent of children attending suburban schools in the metro area were minority. Today, children of color make up 23 percent of the suburban school population.

But perhaps the best indicator of future segregation is evident in the elementary schools with very young student populations. In 1992, there were nine segregated elementary schools in the metro area. Today, there are 108.

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