Racism and Schools
Students of different ethnic groups (Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, African Americans, and European Americans) learn to read at dramatically different rates in our schools.
The ethnic group you belong to makes a substantial difference in school achievement. Mexican Americans leave school at a higher rate than other Hispanics, and Hispanics drop out at a higher rate than do non-Hispanic Whites (Ramirez & de la Cruz, 2003). There has been a dramatic increase in the rate of segregation of Black and Latino students from White students in the nation’s public schools (Frey, 2006; Orfield & Lee, 2007). We are becoming a more divided nation. The reason for this is relatively straightforward: Schools for poor children and children of color are inadequately secure, staffed, and funded. Economic choices—for example, to unequally and inadequately fund schools—produce most of the differences in achievement that are used as evidence of racial superiority and inferiority.
In May of 2001, a coalition of civil rights groups filed a class action lawsuit (Williams v. California) that documented the deplorable and even unsafe and unsanitary conditions in many of California’s schools that serve large numbers of students of color. What causes these unequal conditions? Among the causes is a sustained pattern of underfunding of these schools. These are deliberate decisions to maintain some schools well and other schools in below-humane conditions. The fact that these racial and class disparities exist must be explained.
In 2001, after years of trial, a New York judge, Leland DeGrasse, found that New York State’s school funding system denies students in New York City the opportunity for a “sound basic education.” Justice DeGrasse ruled that the system violated the state constitution and that the funding system was discriminatory against minority students in violation of the provisions of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Later the decision was overturned by a higher court.
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