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Segregation of Blacks, Hispanics Said Increasing in Urban Schools

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Washington--Central-city school districts have become increasingly black and Hispanic during the past 15 years, and neither mandatory nor voluntary desegregation plans have been particularly effective in stemming "white flight" from those schools, according to the second part of a study of school desegregation trends released here last week.

The study said, however, that substantial progress in school desegregation has been made "in big-city districts that include much of what would elsewhere be called suburbia within their boundaries and that have sweeping busing orders." Most of those districts are located in the South.

The report, School Desegregation Patterns in the States, Large Cities, and Metropolitan Areas, 1968-1980, was prepared by the University of Chicago political scientist Gary Orfield for the Joint Center for Political Studies, a Washington-based, non-profit research institution. The study was commissioned by the House Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights.

The first half of the report, which focused on national and regional trends in school desegregation, was released last September. (See Education Week, Sept. 15, 1982.)

Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, and New York, according to the new report, are the states with the most segregated school systems for black students. Delaware, Florida, and Kentucky, on the other hand, showed the largest gains in the desegregation of black students between 1968 and 1980.

New York, Mr. Orfield found, is the most segregated state for Hispanic students. Segregation of Hispanics in California, Florida, Illinois, and Texas was also said to be increasing rapidly "and is likely to continue expanding."

"The problem is that many of the states with serious segregation remaining are those with the largest percentages of minority children," the study noted. "Although the issue is commonly discussed as a national problem, contemporary segregation is actually most severe in a relatively small number of states," and within those states, it "often exists in one or a handful of metropolitan areas," the document said. Within those metropolitan areas, the study noted, "there was a striking increase in the proportion of minority students" during the last 15 years.

"This trend was evident in every region of the country and regardless of whether or not desegregation plans were in effect," it continued. "Six of the 10 largest districts were more than half minority in 1968; by 1980, all had more than two-thirds minority students, and most had more than three-fourths minority students. Two-thirds of the 50 largest central-city school districts had non-white majorities."

Moreover, Mr. Orfield's study found that the percentage of white students attending schools in these districts declined sharply, both in systems with purely voluntary desegregation plans, such as Houston and San Diego, and in those with mandatory plans, such as Detroit and Memphis.

According to the study, the greatest desegregation of black students occurred in cities within school districts that also included surrounding suburban areas and that had metropolitan-wide busing plans.

"Given the present composition of the large central-city districts and their well-established patterns of change, metropolitan approaches offer the only alternative for a growing list of cities like Atlanta, Newark, and Washington, where integration is impossible and where middle-class minority families are rapidly following whites out of the city," the study said.

The study also found that "Hispanic enrollment is rapidly becoming more important in the nation's largest school districts." By 1980, Hispanics had already become the largest single racial group in five of the nation's 50 largest central-city school districts, and their enrollment "is growing much faster than the black or white enrollments nationally and in many school districts."

"In a number of large districts where blacks remain the dominant group, Hispanics are likely to overtake whites as the second largest group," it continued. "Urban educators in some cities must now deal with the problem of two major segregated and unequal minority communities. Black and Hispanic children, who may have very little contact with whites, face the need to work out relationships with each other."

The study also criticized the federal government for failing to collect education data on a city-suburban basis and using the statistics to monitor school-desegregation problems and progress.

"These problems with the federal data system mean that we lack basic knowledge about segregation trends in some of our most important urban communities," the report said. "Us-ing current statistics, it is not possible, for example, to say anything about segregation trends in such vast urban areas as metropolitan New York or Chicago."

The report recommended that the federal government:

Begin collecting racial data on all school districts on a metropolitan-wide basis. "It is impossible to develop good research and policy analysis without such basic data," the report noted.

Investigate the implications of the increasing segregation of Hispanic students. "Little governmental or scholarly attention has been devoted to the rapid increase in the segregation" of this group, the report said. "If the consequences turn out to be anything like those produced by segregation of black educa-tion, this neglect may be similar to the failure of northern educators to address questions of ghetto education throughout its formative period during the early 20th century."

Encourage and support city-suburban desegregation plans. This could be accomplished by passage of a law similar to the Emergency School Aid Act, which was repealed in 1981, and by offering "special assistance for voluntary or court-ordered city-suburban desegregation."

Strengthen fair-housing legislation. By working to diminish residential segregation, the federal government "could provide real support for school desegregation while taking some of the burdens of change off the courts and local educators," the report said.

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