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11/19/01: The following is data given by David Rusk on economic segregation throughout
the state and excerpts from the speech he gave at the Florida Housing Coalition's
recent annual meeting that connect housing opportunity with educational achievement.
ECONOMIC SEGREGATION TRENDS
IN FLORIDA'S ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS IN 1990s
(Economic Segregation Index: Scale 0 to 100;
100 = Total Isolation of Low-Income Pupils)
Excerpts of David Rusk's
October 23rd Speech
In America, housing policy is school policy.
Where a child lives largely determines that child's educational opportunities.
Affordable housing programs must not be measured just in terms of providing safe,
affordable shelter for low- and moderate-income families. Such housing must also
integrate low- and moderate-income children into mainstream, middle-class communities.
Affordable housing must be opportunity housing.
In effect, to predict a school's average score on state standardized tests, I didn't
need to know anything about the principal or the teachers' experience, pupil-teacher
ratio, age of building, money spent per pupil, etc. Just tell me a school's
percentage of low-income children and I could predict the school's average test
scores (plus or minus six points) with 95 percent accuracy! The most important predictors
of a child's academic performance are the income and educational attainment of the
child's parents followed closely by the same factors for the parents of the child's
classmates. Children learn from their peers - skills, attitudes, and aspirations.
"The educational resources provided by a child's fellow students," sociologist
James Coleman wrote, "are more important for his achievement than are the resources
provided by the school board."
Why does where a child lives shape the child's educational opportunity? It's
not how much the school board spends. It's who the child's classmates are. If
that sounds too deterministic and negative, there is substantial research on a second,
more optimistic point. Poor children learn best when surrounded by middle-class
classmates in a predominantly middle-class school.
My own studies have found that, for every one percent reduction in the percentage
of a poor child's classmates that are also low-income, on average, that child's
test scores will increase two- to three-tenths of one percent. In other words,
moving a low-income child from a low-income school where 80 percent of classmates
qualify for a free lunch to a middle-class school where only 20 percent of classmates
qualify for a free lunch will, over time, yield a 12-18 percent improvement in the
child's test scores. The results are even more dramatic in terms of high school
graduation rates, continuing on to college, and other measures of lifetime opportunities.
What happens to middle-class children in more mixed-income classrooms? A smaller
body of research finds that the academic performance of middle-class kids is unaffected
until a school approaches majority low-income status. Even then, the academic
decline of middle-class children observed may be more the result of higher income
families pulling their children out of that school than any actual decline in performance
by remaining middle-class children. In short, economic integration works. In
fact, economic integration produces consistently greater educational improvement
for low-income children than any of the educational reforms - more money, lower
pupil-teacher ratios, new school buildings, etc. - commonly advocated.
That's the good news. The bad news is that America's public schools are becoming
more economically segregated. This trend is confirmed by a study that I am just
completing for the Century Foundation. The Urban Institute and I are examining
enrollment trends by race and income, state by state, metro area by metro area,
in all the nation's elementary schools.
In Florida, for example, despite the longest economic expansion in our nation's
history, the percentage of low-income pupils statewide increased from 41 percent
in the early 1990s to 44 percent by the decade's end. Using a common measure of
relative segregation in which 100 means total economic isolation of poor children,
Florida's statewide index increased from 39 to 41.
In Florida's 20 metro areas, economic segregation only diminished in the Lakeland-Winter
Haven (Polk County) schools. The degree of economic segregation was stable in
seven metro areas, including the Miami and Orlando regions. Economic segregation
increased in the remaining eleven metro areas. The increases ranged from slight
in Ocala-Marion County (from 22 to 23) to very substantial in Fort Lauderdale-Broward
County (from 35 to 49).
Jim Crow by Income - Jim Crow by Race
Why was economic school segregation increasing? One factor in the South was that
a much more conservative federal judiciary was steadily dismantling long-standing
school desegregation plans. For two decades Southern schools had been much less
segregated than Southern neighborhoods. Now, with the courts sending many African
American students back to "neighborhood schools," they are sending them
back to more racially segregated schools. And racially segregated schools are
usually economically segregated schools.
But a more pervasive factor is that most metropolitan housing markets are becoming
more economically segregated. Between 1970 and 1990, the index of economic
segregation increased in 68 of the USA's 100 largest metro areas, including Tampa-St.
Petersburg-Clearwater and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood-Pompano Beach.
In effect, in a majority of major metro areas, Jim Crow by income is replacing
Jim Crow by race. And Florida's public school enrollments increasingly reflect
neighborhood housing patterns. Economically segregated neighborhoods mean economically
segregated schools. Mixed income neighborhoods mean mixed-income schools.