Segregation between white students and students of color in Indiana remains high, according to a new analysis from Indiana University.
This is true even as Indiana sees a growing share of non-white students. IU’s Center for Evaluation and Education Policy conducted the study along with the Civil Rights Project at UCLA.
“It is important for Hoosiers to recognize that research shows that segregated schools are systematically unequal,” said Gary Orfield, UCLA professor and co-director of the Civil Rights Project. “History shows that Indiana did much more about this problem before the courts withdrew and needs to think again about positive strategies.”
Orfield raises an important point about Indiana history. Although the Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education came down in 1954, Indiana outlawed segregation in 1949. Yet the state — and Indianapolis in particular — didn’t undertake meaningful integration efforts until years later. In many cases, those efforts were spurred on by federal court orders.
The study and accompanying interactive website, using data from the National Center for Education Statistics, were released Wednesday on the 63rd anniversary of Brown v. Board. The landmark case called for the mass integration of U.S. schools.
Researchers looked at data from 1988, seven years after Indianapolis had started its court-ordered desegregation busing program to bring inner-city kids out to township schools, through 2015. The city’s busing order officially ended in 2016.
The study finds that school segregation across the state is due, in large part, to where people live. Urban counties, such as Marion, Lake and Allen, see racial and ethnic segregation play out across and within school district boundaries, and both rural and urban counties are segregated by income.
As Chalkbeat reported last summer, decades of departures by middle-class families who flocked to the suburbs and the celebrated, yet controversial, “Uni-gov” plan were followed by a spike in the percentage of segregated elementary schools in IPS compared to when busing began. Uni-gov merged some services between Indianapolis and Marion County in 1969, but not the school districts, which contributed to more segregated schools. Now, experts say, because of residential segregation, integration would be difficult if left to school districts to solve on their own.
On average, data shows non-white students are more likely to go to schools where more than half of students qualify for meal assistance, a common measure of poverty in a community. And black students in the state, on average, go to a school where 68 percent of kids are non-white, whereas white students, on average, go to schools where 19 percent of students are non-white.
Although the IPS school board has taken steps to make the district’s magnet schools more diverse, few discussions have happened regarding school segregation at a city or state level.
Researchers say they hope the information can help drive change across the state.
“An important goal of this project was to make data available to policy makers, educators, and the public in a user-friendly way so that they can explore the data at a state, regional or local level,” said research assistant Jodi S. Moon.