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Southern Schools Become Poorer and More Minority


I was made aware of the following by my friend and colleague, Bonny Bracy

According to a new report issued by the Southern Education Foundation, the South has become the first region in the country where more than half of public school students are poor and more than half are members of minorities.

The shift was fueled not by white flight from public schools, which spiked during desegregation.   But it was caused by an influx of Latinos and other ethnic groups, the return of blacks to the South and higher birth rates among black and Latino families.
The report uses figures from the 2008-9 school year. Minority students are expected to exceed 50 percent of public school enrollment by 2020 and the share of students poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunches is on the rise in every state.  Four of the 15 states in the report — Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas — now have a majority of both low-income and minority pupils. Only one, Virginia, has neither.
More minority students in a district does not mean that classrooms are more integrated. The Pew Hispanic Center, whose research shows that most white children in the South attend predominantly white schools and an even higher percentage of black and Hispanic children attend predominantly minority schools.
Southern schools are far more segregated now than they were at the height of integration in the ’70s and ’80s, a period that saw a narrowing of the achievement gap, said Gary Orfield, the co-director of The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at U.C.L.A. The South has the lowest percentage of children in private school of any region, Mr. Orfield said.

Minority schools tend to be larger, have higher student-teacher ratios and have higher poverty rates, Mr. Fry said. For some education advocates, such correlations raise the possibility that politicians will be less likely to adequately finance public schools as they fill with poor and minority students.

The states included in the study are as follows with the percentage of minority students in parenthesis.  California (71%), Nevada (57%), Arizona (56%), New Mexico (70%),Texas (65%), Florida (54%), Louisiana (51%), Georgia (54%), Virginia (53%) Mississippi (54%).

What are the implications of this report? Minority and poverty students traditionally have done less well than White students.  A well educated populus is essential to economic development.  Education is essential to break the cycle of poverty.    Minority schools tend to be larger, have higher student-teacher ratios and have less experienced and less trained teachers. Since school budgets are approved by voters (in 48 of the states), people in the south need to be concerned about all children not merely their grandchildren.

Source:  NY Times, www.nytimes.com/2010/01/07us/07south.html

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