In March 2018, the North Carolina Justice Center published Stymied by Segregation, a report describing trends in school segregation over the 2007-2017 time period and identifying policies to integrate North Carolina’s schools. The report was spurred by a growing body of evidence pointing to the importance of integrated schools in improving students’ life outcomes and helping to strengthen our multi-racial democracy. The report was also spurred by General Assembly proposals that ignored this evidence and instead exacerbated school segregation.
That 2018 report included four important findings:
- The number of racially and economically isolated schools has increased
- Large school districts could be doing much more to integrate their schools
- School districts still use boundaries to maintain segregated school systems
- Charter schools tend to exacerbate segregation
With five years of additional data, this report provides an update on school segregation trends and new policy recommendations to foster integration. Most notably, this report includes information on individual schools to show which schools are most demographically dissimilar from their larger community. Identifying specific schools provides policymakers with concrete information on where desegregation efforts may have the most promise.
This report also comes after the racial uprisings spurred by the murder of George Floyd, an attempted white supremacist coup on January 6, 2021, and a racist moral panic to demonize culturally-responsive curricula and honest assessments of history as “critical race theory.” These developments have kept race at the forefront of the national consciousness and provide a critical and timely context in which to reexamine the urgency of school integration.
There has been little progress in integrating North Carolina schools over the last five years. The takeaways from the original Stymied report remain sadly relevant today.
- The number of racially isolated schools continues to increase
- Large school districts are not taking the necessary steps to integrate their
- In a few counties, school districts are still using boundaries to maintain racially segregated
- Charter schools continue to exacerbate segregation and are vastly more likely
to be segregated than traditional public schools
Despite these continuing challenges, a renewed focus on school integration might spur policymakers to overdue and much-needed action. This report concludes with an updated set of policy recommendations, many of which were not included in the 2018 report.