When the Fences Come Down: Twenty-First-Century Lessons from Metropolitan School Desegregation

By Genevieve Siegel-Hawley | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
Divergent Outcomes
The Contemporary Relationship between School and
Housing Segregation in Four Southern Cities

If educational boundaries help structure segregation, and if school and housing segregation are “two sides of the same coin,”1 then how does the school-housing relationship play out in four southern metros with different boundary arrangements and desegregation trajectories? Given what we already know of the research and theory surrounding the early success of metropolitan school desegregation,2 we might assume that communities with city-suburban school desegregation plans report lower levels of both school and housing segregation. We have many more issues to layer onto this central assumption, though. What happens to patterns of school and housing segregation when city-suburban school desegregation efforts come to an end, as in the case of Charlotte-Mecklenburg? What about when residents of a metro area consolidate their city and suburban school districts after court-ordered school desegregation has come to a close, as in Chattanooga-Hamilton County? Are Chattanooga’s regional magnet schools and rezoning efforts linked to the same kind of desegregation success as Louisville-Jefferson County’s comprehensive controlled choice plan? What kind of legacy flows from Richmond’s failure to consolidate its city and suburban school districts? Do contemporary patterns of school and housing segregation differ widely for Louisville and Richmond, the two metros at opposite ends of the desegregation and consolidation spectrum? And finally, how does the increasingly multiracial nature of the school enrollment relate to school and housing trends?

These provocative questions form the basis for this chapter. Using education data from the National Center for Education Statistics and housing data from the U.S. Census, it explores school and residential segregation trends between 1990 and 2010 in the Louisville, Charlotte, Chattanooga, and Richmond metros.3 A quick reminder regarding the use of “metro” or “metro area” to describe the four sites: As used in this study, the terms simply refer to the geographic area covered by the city-suburban school district merger (or proposed merger in the case of the Richmond metro). This is typically much smaller than the census definition of a Metropolitan

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