Nation's schools increasingly divided by race, report says
Tucson Citizen, Oct. 21, 2002
by DINA L. DOOLEN
Hollinger Elementary School, 150 W.Ajo Way, is like many public schools in
the country's largest school districts, according to a study by the Civil Rights
Project of Harvard University. The South Side school in Tucson Unified School
District has a student body that was 95.8 percent Hispanic in 2000-01. The
number of such schools that are virtually all one ethnicity have increased
dramatically in the last 14 years, according to the study.
Citizen File Photo
Almost 50 years after state-sponsored school segregation was outlawed, public
schools are becoming increasingly divided by race, even as minority populations
increase nationwide, a new report states. The Civil Rights Project at Harvard
University found integration between whites and blacks and whites and Latinos
decreased or held steady in all but a handful of the nation's largest school
districts over the past 14 years. Latinos, the country's fastest-growing
population according to the 2000 census, are most isolated from whites in the
West, particularly Texas. This trend, the report states, is happening in part
because courts have been dismantling desegregation laws. "I think a lot of
people think that nothing can be done and the efforts have failed," said
Chungmei Lee, a co-author of the report. The study examined 239 school districts
nationwide with enrollments greater than 25,000, including Tucson Unified School
District, with 63,000 students.
TUSD was forced by a federal court to desegregate in 1978. According to TUSD
figures, the district's 2000-01 enrollment was 45.8 percent Latino and 41
percent white. Yet, that same year, many of its schools were virtually of all
For example, the East Side's Fruchthendler Elementary had a student body that
was 86.8 percent white and 8.1 percent Latino. At the South Side's Van Buskirk
Elementary that same year, the student body was 95.7 percent Latino.
"The assault on our public school system has benefited those who have tended
toward racism," said June Webb-Vignery, director of the Metropolitan
She said community leaders in recent years have been warning of such trends.
No group has focused on the issue.
"The demographics have been shifting so quickly," she said. "We're going to have
to do things differently."
Lee said integration is crucial to improve education and prepare students to
live in a diverse culture.
In a sample of 185 of the districts nationwide, Latino exposure to whites
increased in just three districts between 1986 and 2000. Black exposure to
whites increased in four. White isolation increased in 53 districts, the
The 20 most rapidly segregating school districts are concentrated in the
South, with eight in Texas and three in Georgia.
In Arizona, school districts in the Phoenix area had some of the highest
exposure rates for Latinos to whites.
The rates in Deer Valley and Gilbert districts were around 80 percent. The
Gilbert, Scottsdale and Paradise Valley districts had similar rates for
blacks to whites.
Lee said successful integration is a matter of balancing resources, often in
short supply in the poor neighborhoods where many minorities live. The report
recommends combining city and suburban school districts, thus joining
various racial groups.
TUSD officials long have blamed housing patterns and poverty for some of the
district's achievement problems. TUSD officials could not be reached for
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
To see the complete report, go to