According to a recent study by EdBuild, the borders separating the Rochester City School District from its eight suburban neighbors mark some of the most pronounced lines of economic segregation in the United States.
EdBuild, a national education advocacy group, used data to demonstrate the funding and opportunity disparities across the country. They analyzed pairs of adjacent school districts and ranked them by economic disparity, as measured by the child poverty rate in each community.
All eight of the dividing lines between Rochester and its neighboring suburban districts ranked in the top 1.2% in the country in regards to economic disparity. The borders separating Rochester from Penfield, Brighton, and West Irondequoit ranked in the top 50, with Penfield ranking number 22.
The groundbreaking case Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954 established that by law, school districts could not segregate students by race. However, when white families began moving out of urban districts for the suburbs, lawmakers had to determine whether integration mandates would follow. The 1974 case Miliken vs. Bradley established that they could not.
The Supreme Court decision effectively halted the expansion of integration efforts from crossing district lines, and we see the results of this decision still today.
“Today, the law’s excessive regard for school district boundaries has cemented another kind of segregation: income segregation,” the EdBuild study reported. “Class divides between school districts are widening, and there’s little that can be done as long as the Supreme Court holds that school district borders may not be crossed in the service of fairness and justice.”
Here in Rochester, though, efforts to minimize the disparities have been gaining steam. For instance, the Urban-Suburban program, which allows minorities living within the Rochester City School district to apply for transfer to a participating suburban school district, has been expanding in recent years. The program now includes Pre-K to grade 12 students from 13 participating districts. The city school district has received federal funding for integration efforts.
Eliminating economic segregation and giving all students equal opportunity to succeed is especially important during early education. Research shows that 60% of at-risk children are less likely to attend college if they did not receive a quality preschool education.