Persistent segregation in Chicago’s schools can hurt students’ academic opportunities, according to a report by How Housing Matters. To help solve the problem, community members on Chicago's Near North Side rallied to merge two schools that were in close proximity but served vastly different student bodies — one was mostly affluent and largely white, while the other was mostly black and low-income.
This solution worked well in this case, since the two schools were located only one mile apart. Proponents of the merger saw it as an opportunity to bring different cultures together.
Schools with lower-income, high-minority student populations often tend to have poorer facilities and employ teachers who have less training. Merging the affluent school with the poorer one gave all students the same access to better facilities and helped bridge the racial gap.
As districts throughout the country continue to look for ways to integrate schools, this community's experience is one to keep in mind. A similar merger took place in Mississippi in 2015, but in this case it was the districts that merged. The Starkville school district absorbed about 800 new students, most of whom were African American. It turned out to be an opportunity for successful desegregation.
The two Mississippi districts were deeply divided between black and white residents. The median household income in the poorer district is $21,795 per year. In the wealthier district, it is almost twice that amount at $41,501 per year. The poorer district struggled to bring up test scores and it didn’t have the resources to provide support for its students. The hope is now all students will have access to the resources that were once only available to students in the richer district.
Sixty-five years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision to end school segregation, districts still struggle with this problem. Though white students now make up less than half of the student population at 48.4%, segregation has intensified. Schools with a 90% minority enrollment have tripled since 1988.
Recent research, however, suggests students are more likely to attend more economically integrated schools than they were 20 years ago. But segregation for some groups, such as Latino children from immigrant families, has worsened.