Segregation Is Preventable. Congress Just Isn’t Trying.
Again and again, federal efforts to promote integration have been whittled down almost to nothing.
When the Supreme Court struck down school segregation 65 years ago in Brown v. Board of Education, it overturned the doctrine that separate institutions for black and white people were constitutional so long as they were equally funded. Yet in the White House and in the halls of Congress, the old approach has shown enormous staying power. For decades, federal lawmakers have poured far more money into racially and economically segregated schools than they have invested in trying to integrate them. And the imbalance keeps getting worse.
Today the federal government’s main tool for promoting integration is the aid it provides to magnet schools, which offer specialized academic programs to attract a racially and economically diverse student body. In 1989, President Ronald Reagan proposed $115 million for the magnet-school-assistance program—and $4.6 billion for the Title I “compensatory education” program, which offers extra money to schools with a high concentration of poor children. In other words, the federal government was willing to spend 40 times as much on alleviating the effects of poverty and school segregation than on preventing segregation in the first place.