Matthew M. Chingos over at the Brookings Institute analyzes data from UCLA’s Civil Rights Project in order to determine whether or not expanding school options for disadvantaged students increases school segregation.
There is no doubt that the high level of segregation in American society, including in our schools, is an important problem in its own right. The findings reported here indicate that it is unlikely that charter schools—a prominent effort to increase school choice, especially for students from disadvantaged backgrounds—are making the problem worse. But school choice policies come in a variety of flavors which may have different effects on the demographic makeup of schools. There may be examples of poorly designed choice programs that have increased segregation. For example, a choice system that is complicated and difficult to navigate may advantage affluent, educated parents at the expense of other parents.
Conversely, perhaps carefully designed choice policies can play a role in lessening the segregation of schools by race and class. For example, a simple, streamlined process that allows families to choose any school in a large urban district—and uses a fair method for allocating spaces at oversubscribed schools—could be a way to weaken the link between residential and school segregation that has plagued our school system since the end of legally mandated segregation more than 50 years ago.