"American public schools are now twelve years into the process of continuous resegregation," says a new study from the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University that should be taken with several grains of salt but will not be. Dig the embargo statement on the press release to get an idea of how much dramatic effect the study's authors, Erica Frankenberg, Chungmei Lee and Professor Gary Orfield, were hoping to generate: "Please respect this embargo as we have selected it purposefully to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. Day."
The study contains some interesting points: The most integrated region in the country is the South; Asians are most likely to live in integrated areas and attend integrated schools; the twenty-seven largest urban systems have lost the "vast majority" of their white enrollment whether or not they ever had significant desegregation plans (though another section of the report seems to say the opposite). That and some fire-and-brimstone language: mostly non-white institutions are "apartheid schools … the very kind of schools Dr. King fought to eliminate." Consider this:
Our schools are becoming steadily more nonwhite, as the minority student enrollment approaches 40% of all U.S. public school students, nearly twice the share of minority school students during the 1960s.
Since the chief goal of desegregation is to increase minority access to better public schools, shouldn't that figure be good news? The authors at one point call increasing private school enrollment by white students a "minor factor," but they point to it repeatedly to explain various developments; and anyway, since this 40% figure outpaces the demographic changes in the country, where are all those white students going? The report's suggested solutions do not, of course, make a case for school vouchers. But assuming that all the trends in this report are correct, that suggests there really is something to the argument that vouchers would benefit urban minority students the most.
Then again, I didn't go to Harvard.