Archives for category: Segregation , Racial Isolation and Integration


The Brown decision of 1954 marked the beginning of a dramatic transition in American society. I attended segregated public schools in Houston. I remember segregated buses and water fountains marked “white” and “colored.” I remember the social codes that required black peoples to enter through the back door, never the front door. I remember segregated movie theaters, public swimming pools, beaches. So many degrading laws, rules, practices, customs, but only for black peoples.

So much has changed. After a period of years in which school segregation shrunk markedly, it has rebounded and intensified.

The UCLA Civil Rights Project has tracked civil rights issues for years. Here is its latest report on the state of school segregation. 

Harming Our Common Future: America’s Segregated Schools 65 Years after Brown

Authors: Gary Orfield, Erica Frankenberg, Jongyeon Ee, Jennifer B. Ayscue


The publication of this report marks the 65th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case declaring racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional. There have been many changes since the ruling, but intense levels of segregation—which had decreased markedly after 1954 for black students—are on the rise once again. White and Latino students are the most segregated groups.

Related Documents


The publication of this report marks the 65th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case declaring racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional. In the immediate years after the Brown ruling, the effort to integrate schools faced many difficult challenges and progress was limited. But the passage of the l964 Civil Rights Act as well as a series of Supreme Court decisions in the l960s and early 1970s produced momentum towards increased desegregation for black students that lasted until the late l980s, as districts across much of the country worked to achieve the promise of Brown–integrated schools for all children.


As we mark the 65th anniversary of Brown, there have been many changes since the ruling, but intense levels of segregation—which had decreased markedly after 1954 for black students—are on the rise once again. In the 1990s, a series of Supreme Court decisions led to the end of hundreds of desegregation orders and plans across the nation. This report shows that the growth of racial and economic segregation that began then has now continued unchecked for nearly three decades, placing the promise of Brown at grave risk.


These trends matter for students, and for communities whose futures are determined by how the public schools prepare their students for a diverse future. Research shows that segregation has strong, negative relationships with the achievement, college success, long-term employment and income of students of color. At a time of dramatic demographic transformation, the implications of these trends and research are important for us to address.


White students are now a minority across the country’s public school enrollment, and they have been for a while, particularly in the public schools of the nation’s two largest regions, the West and the South. Since 1968 the nation’s enrollment of white students has declined by 11 million students while the enrollment of Latinos has increased by 11 million. There are now nearly three million Asian students and two million students who identify as multiracial. These changes are a direct reflection of lower birth rates among white households and population growth due to immigration. Latino students were 5% of U.S. enrollment in 1970 and 26% by 2016. At this stage, the vast majority of Latino students are U.S. citizens, but the Supreme Court’s Plylerdecision requires that public schools enroll all students regardless of citizenship status.


White and Latino students are the most segregated groups. White students, on average, attend a school in which 69% of the students are white, while Latino students attend a school in which 55% of the students are Latino. Segregation for black students is rising in all parts of the U.S. Black students, who account for 15% of enrollment, as they did in 1970, are in schools that average 47% black students. Asian students, on average, attend schools with 24% fellow Asians. Black students attend schools with a combined black and Latino enrollment averaging 67%, and Latino students attend schools with a combined black and Latino enrollment averaging 66%. White and Asian students have much lower exposure to combined black and Latino students, at 22% and 34%, respectively.


Suburban schools in our nation’s largest metropolitan areas had only 47% white students in 2016, a ten-percentage point decline in a decade. About a seventh of these suburban students were black, and more than a fourth (27%) were Latino. There was considerable segregation within the suburbs, where both African American and Latino students typically attended schools that were about three-fourths nonwhite. White students in these same large suburbs attended schools where two-thirds of the enrollment was white students, on average. Our book, Resegregation of Suburban Schools, showed that few of the racially changing suburbs we studied had any desegregation plans. Doing nothing means accepting resegregation.


Even rural schools that were 70% white had stark differences in segregation. The typical white student went to a rural school in which 80% of students were white, while the typical black or Latino student went to a rural school with 57% nonwhite enrollment.


New York remains the most segregated state for African American students with 65% of African American students in intensely segregated minority schools. California is the most segregated for Latinos, where 58% attend intensely segregated schools, and the typical Latino student is in a school with only 15% white classmates. These numbers, especially in California, are related in part to sweeping changes in the total population structure as well as the termination of desegregation efforts, and reflect the changing realities of classroom composition.


The federal government has no programs devoted to fostering voluntary integration of the schools, aside from the small Magnet School Assistance Program. It has been decades since federal agencies funded significant research about effective strategies for school integration. Encouragingly, there are efforts for integration under state law and policies now in process in several states. Additionally, court-ordered and Office for Civil Rights-negotiated desegregation plans remain in a few hundred smaller districts, and there are dozens of local districts and regional desegregation efforts as well. We end with recommendations that research has shown can help achieve the promise of Brown, and that sharply reduce the number of segregated schools the Court described as “inherently unequal.”


This report is available on eScholarship:





Stephen Suitts is an adjunct professor at Emory University’s Institute for the Liberal Arts. He is the author of Hugo Black of Alabama: How His Roots and Early Career Shaped the Great Champion of the Constitution. Earlier in his career, Suitts served as the executive director of the Southern Regional Council, vice president of the Southern Education Foundation, and executive producer and writer of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” a thirteen-hour public radio series that received a Peabody Award for its history of the civil rights movement in five Deep South cities.

In this illuminating and important article, he examines the roots of the “school choice” movement, which began as an integral part of the segregationist opposition to the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown decision. Contrary to the rhetoric of Betsy DeVos, Mitt Romney, Donald Trump and even some Democrats, school choice is NOT the “civil rights issue of our time.” School choice was born as a way to maintain segregation of the races. Read this article in full. It is a brilliant and necessary history of the fight to block desegregation of the schools in the South (and other regions), and it is a fight that is ongoing. Next time you hear Betsy DeVos lecture about “educational freedom,” bear in mind that she is echoing dozens of segregationist politicians, like George Wallace. You will meet many more if you this stunning history of school choice and its origins.

He writes:

The political movement for “school choice” is employing the icons and language of civil rights and social justice to advance private school vouchers that fifty years ago were primary tools for segregationists to preserve unequal education for African American and Hispanic children. President Trump’s call for a national program of “school choice” echoes the language of George Wallace and others who demanded the federal government and US courts permit Alabama and the South to administer “freedom of choice” for elementary and secondary schools.

These apparent contradictions emerge from the unexamined legacy of segregationists who designed and developed effective, lasting strategies that frustrated and blocked K–12 school desegregation. It is a legacy that turns the icons and language of civil rights inside-out while thwarting the national goal of an effective, equitable system of education for all children.

So now we see the Heritage Foundation, Betsy DeVos, evangelicals, President Trump, and others who paint themselves as the newly minted defenders of the rights of poor black and brown children. They do so by perverting the language of the civil rights movement to support their goal of transferring public funds to private schools.

Suitts described the broad coalition of white supremacists who used every tool they could fashion to fight desegregation and racial justice. School choice was one of those tools.

Political leaders such as Georgia’s Ernest Vandiver won office by campaigning on a slogan of “No, not one” African American child would ever be allowed in a white school but discovered after entering the governor’s office that complete, absolute segregation was impossible to achieve—and counter-productive to preserving as many virtually segregated schools as possible. There were segregationists such as Alabama state senator Albert Boutwell—who later as a “moderate” mayoral candidate defeated “Bull” Connor—and Birmingham corporate attorney Forney Johnston. While Wallace began as a white liberal before shifting his politics to become governor, Boutwell and Johnston were the first segregationist leaders to develop a variety of strategies, tactics, and rationales for school choice that often delayed and defeated the promise of Brown.

Resistance to school desegregation differed across the states of the former Confederacy according to class, geography, religion, and political ambition.18 Only by recovering and understanding the work of a wider cast of white actors who crafted enduring tools and strategies protecting segregation can the reactionary heritage of today’s school choice become clear. As Justin Driver has found, the efforts of these segregationist leaders “to maintain white supremacy were often considerably more sophisticated, self-aware, and nuanced than the cartoonish depiction of southern stupidity and hostility would admit.”19 These forgotten and ignored strategies help explain how today’s proponents of public financing of private schools can employ the language of civil rights without widespread discredit. They also reveal how the origins and historical development of “freedom of choice” have shaped and continue to define the impact and role of “school choice” and vouchers in public education across the nation.20….

From 1954 to 1965, southern legislatures enacted as many as 450 laws and resolutions attempting to discredit, block, postpone, limit, or evade school desegregation. A large number of these acts allowed the re-direction of public resources, including school resources, to benefit private schools.25 In 1956, the Georgia legislature permitted the leasing of public property to segregated private schools. Five years later, the state enacted a law to provide vouchers for students to attend any non-sectarian private school, boldly declaring the act was to advance “the constitutional rights of school children to attend private schools of their choice in lieu of public schools.”26

The North Carolina legislature enacted eight bills, the first of which was a constitutional amendment to authorize vouchers for private education and to allow whites to close public schools through a local referendum. In Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina, legislatures passed laws to publicly fund vouchers for private schools and to transfer public school property to private educational organizations. Citizens’ Councils were active in setting up private schools, especially in Mississippi. The Virginia legislature declared its support for this “freedom of choice” movement by enacting a system of vouchers for private organizations and citizens.27

In addition to direct transfers of public funds and assets, some states employed tax schemes, including tax credits, to build and finance private school systems. In the Little Rock Crisis of 1957, after President Dwight Eisenhower was forced to call out federal troops to protect a handful of black children attempting to attend Central High School, Governor Orval Faubus funneled public monies through contracts and tax credits to the Little Rock Private School Corporation until the federal courts stopped the subterfuge (along with further attempts by Arkansas to enact vouchers). In 1959, Georgia governor Ernest Vandiver led the legislature in passing the six segregation bills, including one that supported “the establishment of bona fide private schools by allowing taxpayers credits upon their State income tax returns for contributions to such institutions…”

By 1965, seven states had enacted some type of voucher that enabled the largest growth of private schools in the South’s history. Yet, vouchers as a preferred and essential method of resistance to Brown did not stand alone but worked most effectively through larger plans that emerged from the different states. These plans were not uniform, but most incorporated strategies and language that have evolved and endured as the ways and means by which vouchers, school choice, and private schooling have escaped the stigma of their segregationist origins without losing much of the same purpose or effect.

Alabama’s Citizens Council proposed legislation to close all public schools and use vouchers for white parents to enroll in private schools in order to “keep every brick in our segregation wall intact.”

The die-hard segregationists came up with a three-way solution. Every student and family would have “educational freedom.” They could choose to go to an all-white school, an all-black school, and an integrated school.

All of the Southern states endorsed vouchers.

In Mississippi, white voters approved state constitutional changes recommended by Governor Hugh White’s advisory group that authorized state funding for children to attend their parents’ choice of a private school and for transferring public school properties to private schools. Afterwards, the strategy committee did little more since Mississippi’s white leaders employed other groups and strategies as their first line of defense. The legislature approved small funding increases for black public schools in an attempt to convince black citizens that the state would move closer to “separate but equal” facilities…

Lindsay Almond became Virginia’s new governor in 1957 after a campaign in which he supported the hardline approach. “I’d rather lose my right arm,” he proclaimed, “than to see one nigra child enter the white schools of Virginia.” He dropped his hardline stance and adopted “freedom of choice” as his policy. Some counties, however, went further.

Prince Edward County in Virginia maintained absolute segregation by closing the county’s public schools and providing county tax credit scholarships to supplement state vouchers for white children to attend private schools. In 1964, however, Justice Hugo Black issued the Supreme Court opinion outlawing the die-hard segregationists’ schemes. The Court ordered the public schools reopened on a desegregated basis and held that both tax credit and direct vouchers were unconstitutional.

Suitts traces the resistance to desegregation and the growth of private “white flight academies” in the South.

By 1980, when Ronald Reagan was elected, this history of die-hard resistance to desegregation and white-supremacist ideology had begun to fade from memory.

President Reagan transformed a “love of white skin” into a color-blind doctrinal belief that individual freedom of choice in schooling created diversity and opportunity for all in an era without segregation. Reagan became the nation’s primary voice for why and how government should support private schools, and, as a former actor and California governor, his own past and national leadership obscured the original role and rationales of southern white supremacists from public memory.

In 1984, in re-nominating Reagan, the Republican Party’s education platformincluded support for the right to pray in public schools, opposition to busing for desegregation, passage of tuition tax credits for private schools, and redirecting billions of federal funds dedicated to assist low-income students in public schools into vouchers for private schools. It was the first time a national political party endorsed school vouchers. In his State of the Union address fourteen months later, President Reagan declared: “We must continue the advance by supporting discipline in our schools, vouchers that give parents freedom of choice; and we must give back to our children their lost right to acknowledge God in their classrooms.”120 It was the first time a US president expressly advocated for school vouchers before a joint session of Congress. Without attribution, the views and tools of southern segregationists had become the official position of the national Republican Party and the Reagan presidency…

With the increased number of conservative justices appointed to the Supreme Court and federal District Courts and Appeals Courts, the judiciary abandoned its activist role in protecting the rights of black students.

The US Supreme Court began to bless these developments. As early as 1973, Justice William Rehnquist became the first member of the Court to issue a dissent from a school desegregation case relying on the precedent of Brown. In a case concerning school segregation in Denver, he condemned the Court’s opinion for requiring a school district to advance desegregation—employing the old scare word, “racial mixing”—where there were “neutrally drawn boundary lines” that sustained segregation.129 Barely a year after the Bob Jones decision held that religious private schools could not hold a tax exemption and discriminate on the basis of race, the Supreme Court slammed shut the courthouse door on those seeking to challenge the IRS’s weak enforcement. Parents of twenty-five black public school children sued the IRS, charging that its standards and procedures were inadequate to fulfill its obligation to deny tax-exempt status to racially discriminatory private schools. In 1984, the US Supreme Court held that the parents had no standing to bring such a suit.130 

With the appointment of other justices across more than three decades, the Court increasingly refused to require school districts to use any method of desegregation that proved effective in dismantling the dynamics of separation. By 2007, the Court had turned Brown on its head as a precedent for backing public school districts’ voluntary efforts to desegregate. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that Brown commanded school districts to avoid using race as a consideration, even for the purpose of recognizing and diminishing public school segregation. “When it comes to using race to assign children to schools,” Roberts wrote without doubt or irony, “history will be heard…”

During the heyday of the first era of school vouchers, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. decried that “token integration is little more than token democracy, which ends up with many new evasive schemes and it ends up with new discrimination, covered up with such niceties of complexity.”149 King’s words have proven prophetic, although he could not have foreseen how dramatically the icons and language of the movement he led would be used, even by his own lineage, to develop and advance the tools and strategies that segregationists of his day thought could defeat the promise of Brown…

Even if most Americans find repugnant the absolute separation of the races that George Wallace defiantly championed as destiny in 1963, his words have transformed into a prophesy about schools across the nation that rings true by the most accurate, historical definition of the term: “segregation now . . . segregation tomorrow . . . segregation forever.”




The Mayor of Rochester, Lovely Warren, has called upon the New York State Education Department and the Board of Regents to take over the city’s public schools, oust the elected board, and appoint a different board of its choosing. She claims that Commissioner MaryEllen Elia has a plan, but apparently this is not the case. To say this is incoherent is an understatement. The state has not expressed a desire to take control of Rochester city schools. Mayor Warren apparently has decided to throw them under the bus, abandon local control, and let the state take responsibility.

THIS MATTERS: 56% of the children in Rochester live in poverty, the third highest rate in the nation! Only Gary, Indiana, and Flint, Michigan, have higher  rates of child poverty.

What is Mayor Lovely Warren doing about it?

Here is another point of view, from journalist Rachel Barnhardt. She explains that the negative and misinformed attitudes of public officials guarantee that the children will not get the support they need to succeed in school.

She writes:

We don’t blame the mayor for poverty, so why do we blame the school board?

The Rochester City School District is the worst in the state. It’s also the district with the highest concentration of children who live in poverty. The research is clear: poverty impacts educational outcomes.

Mayor Lovely Warren says poverty is no excuse. Poor children can learn. Black children can learn. We must do something.

She’s right.

We must solve poverty.

No one has been able to figure out how to solve poverty. We’ve been nibbling around the edges with various programs and initiatives, none of which has been transformative.

In the meantime, we must figure out what to do right now. The crisis is urgent. (It’s been urgent since I attended city schools in the early ‘90s.)

Warren does not offer a clear path and stops short of asking for mayoral control. She has been an ardent advocate of charter schools. The mayor also sees community schools, where extra resources are dedicated to addressing issues related to poverty, trauma and education, as a potential solution.

Community schools, however, show mixed results. School 17 has a chronic absenteeism rate of 40 percent and fewer than 10 percent of children are proficient in reading and math. Charter schools siphon money and students away from the district, and don’t always succeed.

Warren also offered another solution, one parents like her have been implementing for decades: abandon the district.

In her State of the City address, Warren said parents who send their kids to city schools are “sacrificing” children. If you can pull your kids from the district, she counseled a friend, you should do so.

That’s what got us into this mess. We have a segregated school system because of the wholesale disinvestment in our schools. We have children denied opportunities because of where they were born.

What would happen, Barnhardt asks, if all parents returned to the public schools instead of abandoning them? What would happen if everyone acknowledged that we have a common fate and we must stand together?

She bravely concludes:

We will never fix the schools long as we refuse to acknowledge that separate is not equal.

Rucker Johnson, economist and professor of public policy at Berkeley, has written an important new book called Children of the Dream: Why School Integration Works. 

It arrives at an opportune moment, as the Disruption Movement (AKA Reformers, Deformers) has decided that school segregation is a very good thing indeed, because charters are more segregated than public schools. A charter operator in Minnesota recently argued in comments here that segregation was just fine so long as it was voluntary. That was to rationalize the fact that Minneapolis has purposely segregated charters for children who are black, white (“German immersion”), Hmong, Hispanic, and Somali. Most recently, a charter supporter said that it was time to abandon the promise of the Brown decision, because it had not been realized.

In short, embrace the status quo, don’t fight it.

It is thus refreshing to read Rucker Johnson, who briefly summarizes his findings in an article at Valerie Strauss’s “Answer Sheet.”

Do not be content with reading the summary. The book is rich with history and anecdote, as well as Johnson’s meticulous research about the long-term and significant benefits of school integration.

He writes:

How did we get here? How has de facto Jim Crow been nurtured back to health?

Policy amnesia. We have forgotten the efficacy of the boldest suite of education policies this country has ever tried: school desegregation, school funding reform and Head Start.

School desegregation and related policies are commonly misperceived as failed social engineering that shuffled children around for many years, with no real benefit. The truth is that significant efforts to integrate schools occurred only for about 15 years, and peaked in 1988. In this period, we witnessed the greatest racial convergence of achievement gaps, educational attainment, earnings and health status.

Using nationally representative longitudinal data spanning more than four decades, I analyze the life outcomes of cohorts tracked from birth to adulthood across several generations, from the children of Brown to Brown’s grandchildren. The slow and uneven pace of desegregation, school funding reforms, and Head Start programs across the country created a natural “policy lab,” that allowed for rigorous, empirical evaluation of integration, school funding and Head Start.

The research findings are clear: African Americans experienced dramatic improvements in educational attainment, earnings and health status — and this improvement that did not come at the expense of whites.

Sixty-five years after the Brown decision, our nation is at an inflection point. Do we intend to pursue the goal of  equal educational opportunity for all or do we want to cling to the discredited policies of our apartheid past?

Do we listen to those with a vision for progress or to those who embrace a failed and corrosive status quo?

Rucker Johnson explains the way forward. Read his book. Send a copy to your members of Congress.


A paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association in Toronto reported on the extent to which online charter schools have racial diversity. Benjamin Herold wrote about the paper in Education Week. 

This struck me as an odd finding, because online instruction by definition is delivered by computer tostudents at home. There is little, if any, face to face contact among students.and since students may be spread across an entire state, the opportunities to interact with others is minimal.

There may be “diversity” in the school’s purported enrollment, but this would be diversity without integration. Students could be enrolled in a “diverse” virtual school yet never encounter a student of a different race.

Herold wrote:

“While full-time online charter schools nationally enroll a relatively high percentage of white students, there are significant variations in enrollment patterns by state, according to new research presented today at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association, being held here.

“In Colorado, for example, the enrollment of online charters is just 36 percent white, compared to 54 percent in brick-and-mortar traditional and charter schools throughout the state, according to University of Alabama assistant education professor Bryan Mann.

“Online charters in Arizona, Nevada, and South Carolina, meanwhile, enroll significantly higher percentages of white students than do brick-and-mortar traditional and charter schools in their states.

“Most states have majority-white online charter school populations with less diversity than … other schools. However, there are states where students experience more diverse environments in online charter schools,” Mann wrote in a paper presented at the conference, titled “Whiteness and Economic Advantage in Digital Schooling: Equity Considerations for K-12 Online Charter Schools.”


The Jackson Free-Press (Mississippi) reported that Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith attended an all-white segregation academy in her high school years.

The story was picked up by Huffington Post.

It’s important to remember that segregation academies were created as the first statewide examples of school choice. Their purpose was to allow white students to avoid being forced by federal courts to go to school with black students after the Brown vs, Board of Education decision in 1954.

Senator Hyde-Smith’s alma mater, Lawrence County Academy, “was established in 1970, one year after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered Mississippi to desegregate its schools. For 15 years after desegregation became law of the land, Mississippi dragged its feet on integrating black and white students.”

It was part of the school choice movement across the South whose purpose was to avoid and defeat desegregation.

The editorial pages of the New York Times have been an echo chamber for school choice for years. The editorials regularly applaud charter schools as escape hatches from public schools and repeat the talking points of the billionaires and hedge fund managers who have gleefully replaced public schools with privately managed schools. I can’t recall an editorial that acknowledged the importance of rebuilding, revitalizing, and strengthening public education as a major responsibility of our society. I can’t recall one that criticized the onslaught of privatization against public education in our nation’s urban schools, where parents of color have lost not only their public schools, but their voice as citizens in creating public schools that serve the entire community. The editorial board has steadfastly ignored the coordinated and bipartisan assault on democratic governance of public schools in cities and states across the nation. The op-ed page, which was created to provide a space for views different from the editorial page has seldom challenged school choice orthodoxy. Almost every regular opinion writer has lauded the “miracle” of charter schools, including David Brooks, Nicholas Kristof, and David Leonhardt. The op-ed page recently included an article urging liberals not to give up on charters even though Betsy DeVos likes them too, even though they are segregated and non-union.

But now comes a new and welcome voice.

Erin Aubrey Kaplan writes that school choice is the enemy of justice. She has been selected as a regular opinion writer, which is more good news. She writes about her personal experience as a child in California, a state that is controlled by Democrats but purchased by the billionaires who sneer at public schools and want to replace them with charter schools. She reminds us that school choice was the battle cry of segregationists. In many states and cities, it still is.

Her article poses an essential question: Is public education, democratically controlled, still part of the social contract? And she writes that many white liberals, including Jerry Brown (and in New York, Andrew Cuomo) have said no.

She writes:

“LOS ANGELES — In 1947, my father was one of a small group of black students at the largely white Fremont High School in South Central Los Angeles. The group was met with naked hostility, including a white mob hanging blacks in effigy. But such painful confrontations were the nature of progress, of fulfilling the promise of equality that had driven my father’s family from Louisiana to Los Angeles in the first place.

“In 1972, I was one of a slightly bigger group of black students bused to a predominantly white elementary school in Westchester, a community close to the beach in Los Angeles. While I didn’t encounter the overt hostility my father had, I did experience resistance, including being barred once from entering a white classmate’s home because, she said matter-of-factly as she stood in the doorway, she didn’t let black people (she used a different word) in her house.

“Still, I believed, even as a fifth grader, that education is a social contract and that Los Angeles was uniquely suited to carry it out. Los Angeles would surely accomplish what Louisiana could not.

“I was wrong. Today Los Angeles and California as a whole have abandoned integration as the chief mechanism of school reform and embraced charter schools instead.

“This has happened all over the country, of course, but California has led the way — it has 630,000 students in charter schools, more than any other state, and the Los Angeles Unified School District has more than 154,000 of them. Charters are associated with choice and innovation, important elements of the good life that California is famous for. In a deep-blue state, that good life theoretically includes diversity, and many white liberals believe charters can achieve that, too. After all, a do-it-yourself school can do anything it wants.

“But that’s what makes me uneasy, the notion that public schools, which charters technically are, have a choice about how or to what degree to enforce the social contract. There are many charter success stories, I know, and many make a diverse student body part of their mission. But charters as a group are ill suited to the task of justice because they are a legacy of failed justice.

“Integration did not happen. The effect of my father’s and my foray into those white schools was not more equality but white flight. Largely white schools became largely black, and Latino schools were stigmatized as “bad” and never had a place in the California good life.

“It’s partly because diversity can be managed — or minimized — that charters have become the public schools that liberal whites here can get behind. This is in direct contrast to the risky, almost revolutionary energy that fueled past integration efforts, which by their nature created tension and confrontation. But as a society — certainly as a state — we have lost our appetite for that engagement, and the rise of charters is an expression of that loss.

“Choice and innovation sound nice, but they also echo what happened after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, when entire white communities in the South closed down schools to avoid the dread integration.

“This kind of racial avoidance has become normal, embedded in the public school experience. It seems particularly so in Los Angeles, a suburb-driven city designed for geographical separation. What looks like segregation to the rest of the world is, to many white residents, entirely neutral — simply another choice.

“Perhaps it should come as no surprise that in 2010, researchers at the Civil Rights Project at U.C.L.A. found, in a study of 40 states and several dozen municipalities, that black students in charters are much more likely than their counterparts in traditional public schools to be educated in an intensely segregated setting. The report says that while charters had more potential to integrate because they are not bound by school district lines, “charter schools make up a separate, segregated sector of our already deeply stratified public school system.”

“In a 2017 analysis, data journalists at The Associated Press found that charter schools were significantly overrepresented among the country’s most racially isolated schools. In other words, black and brown students have more or less resegregated within charters, the very institutions that promised to equalize education.

“This has not stemmed the popular appeal of charters. School board races in California that were once sleepy are now face-offs between well-funded charter advocates and less well-funded teachers’ unions. Progressive politicians are expected to support charters, and they do. Gov. Jerry Brown, who opened a couple of charters during his stint as mayor of Oakland, vetoed legislation two years ago that would have made charter schools more accountable. Antonio Villaraigosa built a reputation as a community organizer who supported unions, but as mayor of Los Angeles, he started a charter-like endeavor called Partnership for Los Angeles Schools.

“This year, charter advocates got their pick for school superintendent, Austin Beutner. And billionaires like Eli Broad have made charters a primary cause: In 2015, an initiative backed in part by Mr. Broad’s foundation outlined a $490 million plan to place half of the students in the Los Angeles district into charters by 2023.

“I live in Inglewood, a chiefly black and brown city in Los Angeles County that’s facing gentrification and the usual displacement of people of color. Traditional public schools are struggling to stay open as they lose students to charters. But those who support the gentrifying, which includes a new billion-dollar N.F.L. stadium in the heart of town, see charters as part of the improvements. They see them as progress.

“Despite all this, I continue to believe in the social contract that in my mind is synonymous with public schools and public good. I continue to believe that California will at some point fulfill that contract. I believe this most consciously when I go back to Westchester and reflect on my formative two years in school there. In the good life there is such a thing as a good fight, and it is not over.“

New York City public schools include eight high schools that admit students on the basis of a single score, a rigorous test that all applicants musty take. That requirement is set in state law.

Mayor de Blasio wants to increase diversity by scrapping the single test.

The de Blasio administration wants to increase diversity at the schools, which are dominated by white and Asian students, and small numbers of Black and Hispanic students.

“The city’s specialized high schools — considered some of the crown jewels of New York City’s education system — accept students based on a single test score. Over the last decade, they have come under fire for offering admissions to few students of color: While two-thirds of city students are black or Hispanic, only about 10 percent of admissions offers to those schools go to black or Hispanic students…

“Right now, we are living with monumental injustice. The prestigious high schools make 5,000 admissions offers to incoming ninth-graders. Yet, this year just 172 black students and 298 Latino students received offers. This happened in a city where two out of every three eighth-graders in our public schools are Latino or black.

“There’s also a geographic problem. There are almost 600 middle schools citywide. Yet, half the students admitted to the specialized high schools last year came from just 21 of those schools. For a perfect illustration of disparity: Just 14 percent of students at Bronx Science come from the Bronx.”

In the past, efforts to change the admissions requirements of these specialized high schools have been blocked by the Legislature, which includes a number of graduates of the specialized schools.

Chalkbeat summarized the specifics of the mayor’s plan:

“De Blasio’s solution, laid out in an op-ed in Chalkbeat, would set aside 20 percent of the seats at the eight schools for students from low-income families starting next school year. Students who just missed the test score cut-off would be able to earn one of those set-aside seats through the longstanding “Discovery” program. Just 4 percent of seats were offered through that program in 2017.

“The mayor also said he plans to push state lawmakers to change a law that requires admission at three of the schools to be decided by a single test score. That’s something de Blasio campaigned for during his run for mayor in 2014 but hasn’t made a priority since.

“Most significantly, de Blasio says for the first time that he backs a system of replacing the admissions test with a system that picks students based on their middle school class rank and state test scores. The middle-school rank component is especially notable, as an NYU Steinhardt report found that the only way to really change the makeup of the elite high schools would be to guarantee admission to the top 10 percent of students at every middle school.

“If all of these changes were implemented, de Blasio says that 45 percent of the student bodies at the eight high schools would be black or Latino.”

Recently The Century Foundation issued a report about charter schools that are “diverse by design.” The report was intended to show that charters are capable of producing integration (more than public schools) because of their “flexibility.”

The report from this liberal think tank was funded by the Walton Family Foundation, a far-right, anti-union entity that spends $200 million every year on charter schools and so has a huge incentive to sell them, especially to liberals, who might otherwise be dubious about the non-union aspect of privatization by charter schools. (More than 90% of charters are non-union and rely on temp teachers from TFA, which is generously funded by the Waltons).

But as Julian Vasquez Heilig points out in this post, TCF found only 125 charters that were “diverse by design” in a charter universe of nearly 6,000 schools. That is about 2% of the charters examined for the report.

What is the point? He thinks that the report calls attention to the charters’ lack of interest in racial integration and unintentionally makes the opposite point from the one it thinks it is making.

Today is the 64th anniversary of the Brown v. Board decision of 1954. In many ways, that decision had a profound impact on American life. As an American who grew up in a rigidly segregated era and graduated from public high school in 1956, before the Brown decision was enforced in most of the South, I know how huge a change has occurred in American society. And yet we remain in many respects far too segregated, far too separate and unequal. The promise of Brown has not been realized.

I urge you to read this conversation between John Rogers, professor of education at UCLA, and Sandra Graham, who holds the UCLA chair in Education and Diversity. They remind us of why our society needs to reclaim the value of diversity. We must learn together, work together, and build a better society together.

At the last annual conference of the Network for Public Education in Oakland, esteemed journalist Nicole Hannah-Jones spoke eloquently about the power of integrated education. That is an ideal we must strive for and never abandon.