Study reveals segregation in Florida schools

One of the first schools to implement desegregation in the United States was Barnard Elementary in Washington, D.C. | Photo credit: Library of Congress 

A new study from the Leroy Collins Institute points to increased segregation in Florida schools.

The September study, “Patterns of Re-segregation in Florida's Schools,” quantifies fluctuations in Florida's student diversity since Brown v. Board of Education, with particular attention to changes and trends since 1994.

The most notable effects occur in the differences between public and charter school enrollment, the percentage of students' exposure to other ethnicities, and the doubly disparaging impact that occurs when race and poverty intersect.

According to the study, “highly segregated schools are concentrated in metropolitan urban areas of the state, including metro Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, and Tallahassee.”

The study points to the 1991 Supreme Court Legislation that “permitted the courts to turn things back to local control and let local officials restore segregated neighborhood schools,” and the 2007 legislation “which prohibited the use of race to consciously balance magnet schools and transfer programs.”

Two correlating factors emerge. First, the number of white students enrolled in Florida Public Schools decreased steadily, from 58.7 percent in 1994, to 50.6 percent in 2004, and then 10 percent between 2004 and 2014.

Although the comparative percentage of white enrollment in charter schools over a ten-year period decreased, total enrollment doubled. The percentage of non-black students remained relatively constant.

Both public and charter schools report to the Florida Department of Education (FDOE), but charter schools are managed by private entities. FDOE's website states that charter schools are allowed to target students and give certain enrollment preferences.

Lorraine McBride works with “Step Up for Students,” a non-profit organization with a goal to help public education fulfill the promise of equal opportunity.  One service they offer is pairing disadvantaged children with financial resources to obtain higher quality educational opportunities.  

McBride said she does not know of any predominately black charter schools, and offers that parents may choose private schools because "they want their child in a better environment; they're not thriving."

The number of affluent, socio-economically restrictive schools is increasing. White students are leaving public schools. Futhermore, the “nearly 90% of students attending apartheid schools (where 99-100% of students are nonwhite) in Florida are from low-income families.”

The result is double-segregation, despite perceived post-racial advances.

Dr. Hassiem Kambui, Assistant Professor of Counseling with Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University (FAMU) Department of Educational Leadership & Counseling said, "Segregation is not good in the sense that it could be harmful if that is all a child or children know."

He added, "You care about your child so much and you want to shelter it, but the minute once that child gets older and goes off on its own, that child may not know how to interact with others because he's been so sheltered and protected. And, in many cases that can be dangerous because the child doesn't learn how to cope with life situations."

His statement concurs with findings in the study.

“Substantial effects of educational and social integration flow from contact with significant numbers of students of other races or ethnicities under positive conditions,” it reads. "White middle-class student enrollment is especially important since these students typically have access to more challenging classes, peer groups and support systems in stronger schools. These educational advantages benefit disadvantaged students in ways that enrollment in predominantly minority schools do not,” the study continues.

“Segregation can be dangerous," Kambui concludes. "It does not teach you reality. Any curriculum should be reality based.”