Public Schools Are Segregation Academies

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

The first image above shows the school districts in Manhattan. The second shows the racial/ethnic makeup of the population; the data are a little old, but the relevant facts for the purpose of this post haven’t changed.

Take a look at the shape of District 2 – it’s the one that encompasses all of Manhattan below Central Park except for a big chunk on the southeast tip of the island.

What occasions this particular illustration? In his e-mail blast today, Whitney Tilson reprints the following correspondence “from a friend”:

Every great DOE school is selective — whether by test score or by Realtor, if you know what I mean. 

Look at the map of Manhattan District 2, one of the best public school systems in America. It could only have been drawn to intentionally ensure that white kids on Upper East Side, Chelsea, and Greenwich Village wouldn’t have to bump shoulders with black and Hispanic kids. 

Try renting a 2 bedroom apartment in that district for less than $3,000. 

Does District 2 cream? Hell yes!  Kids there have benefitted from a double-whammy (which was designed to benefit white kids, but now is increasingly filled by Asian students): they attend a middle school where you have to ace the 4th grade tests to be allowed in.  They also get the best teachers in the city because who wouldn’t want to teach the richest public school families in America? 

Schools filled with rich kids, when the system is rigged in their favor (the education level of their parents, the reality that rich kid schools are able to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for teacher aides and books and such at fancy fundraisers, etc.), equals selective schools. 

Then we give them the best teachers and we allow their test scores to mask the city’s low aggregate scores. We create gifted and talented programs for them and give them a much stronger curriculum and higher expectations. We watch their parents spend a small fortune on afterschool tutoring and organized activities for their kids. 

OF COURSE they do well with all that extra learning! 

The NYC ‘system’ is rigged in favor of rich kids. (Joel Klein has tried to unrig it, but the political force is too strong.) 

It is why poor kids need these opportunities that are provided by the 30-40% of charters that are really, really excellent. 

What’s the quickest and easiest way to create a nationwide system of segregation academies? Force people to go to school based on where they live.

How do you make them even worse? Let the district lines be drawn by an unaccountable bureaucracy that claims to care about kids but actually doesn’t care how many children’s lives it has to destroy in order to keep the gravy trains running on time.

What is the only – the only – empirically proven way to successfully smash segregation? School choice.

Images by UNHP and Gotham Gazette

10 Responses to Public Schools Are Segregation Academies

  1. allen says:

    Inasmuch as the purpose of school districts was segregation it should come as no great surprise they work well in that regard.

    It ought to be remembered that the only reason Brown v. Topeka could be decided the way it was decided is because the discrimination was intradistrict and not inter-district. Had the racists that ran the Topeka school district had much sense they would’ve created a little district for the black students and then everything would’ve been just fine.

  2. matthewladner says:


  3. Greg Forster says:

    Had the racists that ran the Topeka school district had much sense they would’ve created a little district for the black students and then everything wouldv’e been fine.

    You say that as though it didn’t actually happen. Seems to me that it did!

  4. […] Public schools are segregation academies because students are forced to go to school where they live, writes Greg Forster (with Whitney Tilson quotes), looking at New York City. […]

  5. […] only – empirically proven way to successfully smash segregation? School choice.” — Greg Forster, blogging on the segregation of NY publc schools Share and Enjoy: These icons link to social […]

  6. Jordan J says:

    I feel that the article brings up a good point. However, we need to look at other causes of this. Not only are the individuals who design the districts to blame for this, but it is obvious that NCLB is one of the main causes of segregation in schools. Since more funding goes to the schools that perform well on the tests, the poorer schools are left out.

  7. Greg Forster says:

    All NCLB funding is Title I funding, meaning it only goes to schools that have especially large populations of at-risk students. Moreover, NCLB isn’t based on test score levels but on test score gains; the question is not whether the school’s students are doing well but whether they’re making progress. So your theory doesn’t work.

    Not to mention the fact that spending levels have no effect on school performance.

    Plus, even if 1) NCLB worked the way you think it does and 2) throwing more money at schools had any positive impact on them, NCLB still wouldn’t be a cause of segregation; it would only be a reinforcer of the achievement gap.

  8. Jordan J says:

    I am an education student right now, and everything I have learned about NCLB shows that funding does not necessarily go to shools with at-risk students. Funding goes to the schools that make their performance goals on their standardized tests. According to NCLB, just because a student is making progress does not mean that he or she is doing well enough. For example, if a 6th grader is reading at a 3rd grade level, it is not good enough for the teacher to only get that student up to a 4th grade level. Despite the fact that progress was made, the progress still was not good enough. Everything I have learned shows that since too little progress was made, the amount of funding the school receives is impacted.

  9. Greg Forster says:

    There’s your problem – you believe what you’re told in education school.

  10. Makoto Yogoku says:

    The thing is, these “districts” above are subdivisions of the New York City Board of Education, which is actually one school district.

    As Brown vs. Board is concerned, this is all one school district.

    In the example allen stated, it would mean that if a second actual school district, with its own school board and administration was created (NOT a subdivision within an existing school district), it would be okay according to Brown

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