By Roz Hamlett
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper
Maryland has been the top-rated public school system in the nation for the last five years, but the state’s public school system is also one of the most segregated in the nation, according to a new study.
A recent report “Settle for Segregation or Strive for Diversity? A Defining Moment for Maryland’s Public Schools,” found that an astonishing number of Black students attend public schools in Maryland that are nearly as segregated in 2013 as they were during the peak years of desegregation in the 1980s.
The report, conducted by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, revealed that more than half of the state’s Black students attended schools with minority enrollments between 90 and 100 percent during the 2010-2011 school year, up from 33 percent in 1989. At the same time, nearly a quarter of Maryland’s Black students attended so-called “apartheid schools” with almost no White students in attendance, up from 19.1 percent in 1989.
“It is clear that the unequal educational opportunities associated with most segregated public classrooms – less experienced teachers, higher teacher turnover, disparities in teaching materials, disparities in technology, disparities in facilities, and disparities in student teacher ratios – are deleterious,” said Lezli Baskerville, President of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education.
“The [report] suggests that the lack of comparability in investments in Maryland’s HBCUs as clearly documented by the plaintiffs in the Coalition for Equity and Excellence v. Maryland Higher Education Commission apparently begins in elementary and secondary schools in the state, and continues through its dual and unequal higher education,” said Baskerville, whose organization advocates on behalf of traditionally underserved and under-resourced students.
It is difficult to precisely compare segregation at the K-12 level to that which exists in higher education because of the role that residential segregation plays in the K-12 context and the role that personal choice plays in where a student attends college.
Nevertheless, Brenda Shum, Director of the Equal Opportunities Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law believes there is a strong correlation between limited opportunities in Maryland’s K-12 and limited opportunities at HBCUs in Maryland.
“To the extent that Maryland’s students of color attend racially identifiable schools which are also predominantly poor schools, it is more likely they have fewer educational opportunities at the K-12 level and are less equipped for college,” said Shum.
“The HBCUs which serve those students must expend greater resources for remediation, financial aid, programming and faculty to address ongoing disparities perpetuated by a segregated K-12 system,” she said. “It is not hard to believe that the disadvantages which persist at the HBCUs are fed by the inequities recurring throughout the K-12 system.”
The report states that Maryland, one of 17 states that previously had segregation imposed by law as an official state policy and is a state in which there was historically intense segregation, made a modest effort to desegregate before abandoning this effort. Of those states, Maryland has made less progress than the 16 other states in eliminating dual systems of education.