Separate but (Still Un) Equal: Challenging School Segregation in New York City

By Kornblau, Gabrielle | Fordham Urban Law Journal, June 2019 | Go to article overview

Separate but (Still Un) Equal: Challenging School Segregation in New York City


Kornblau, Gabrielle, Fordham Urban Law Journal


Introduction                                                       642 I. How Schools are Segregated                                      648      A. An Overview of the New York City Public School         System                                                     648      B. A Snapshot of School Segregation in New York City          651      C. The Impact of School Segregation                           652      D. Residential Segregation as a Possible, but Not         Sufficient, Explanation for Segregation                    656      E. Previous Integration Efforts and Public Discourse         Surrounding Integration                                    662 II. The Legal Landscape: Brown, Davis, and Everything in     Between                                                        665      A. Brown v. Board of Education and Washington v.         Davis: Two Guiding Precedents                              665      B. Alternative Precedent                                      667      C. The Use of Racial Classifications in Rezoning              670      D. An Analogy to Racial Gerrymandering                        671 III. Constitutional Solutions, Statutory Fixes, and Incentivizing      Socioeconomic Integration                                     673      A. Equal Protection Clause Argument                           674      B. Implementing a Statutory Remedy                            677      C. Incentivizing Socioeconomic Integration                    677 Conclusion                                                         680 

INTRODUCTION

In 2017, Public School (P.S.) 199 and P.S. 191 of District 3 were located (1) on Manhattan's Upper West Side, on West 70th Street and West 62nd Street, respectively. Serving kindergarten through fifth grade, P.S. 199 was an award-winning school where students' test scores were almost two times higher than the citywide average. (2) For the 2017-2018 school year, only 10% of the students received free lunch, (3) and the student body was 64% white and 19% black and Latino. (4) The prior year, the school's Parent Teacher Association ("PTA") raised $777,000. (5) In stark contrast stood P.S. 191, which was categorized by the state as a "persistently dangerous school." (6) During the 2017-2018 school year, the school served kindergarten through eighth grade, (7) students' test scores fell considerably below the city average, (8) and approximately 73% of the students received free lunch. (9) Many of them resided in the Amsterdam Houses, a nearby public housing community. (10) The student body during that same school year was 70% black and Latino, (11) and in the previous year the PTA raised only $27,000. (12) These schools, although separated by only a few blocks, were worlds apart in terms of quality, resources, and student achievement. (13)

Given the disparity between wealthy, mostly white schools and poorer, mostly black and Latino schools, parents face a choice: Do they send their children to their zoned schools, despite their unpropitious reputation, or do they shop around for a charter or private school option for their children in hopes of obtaining for them a more promising academic experience? This question is racially-loaded, as evident in the stories of two mothers--Alie Stumpf and Saratu Ghartey--who were forced to prioritize their children's academics and social experience over their racial identities when deciding which school their children will attend. (14) Stumpf, a white mother, made the decision to send her daughter to their neighborhood school, although she will be a racial minority in the classroom. (15) In making this decision, Stumpf considered not only her child's experience, but also that of other students. (16) She said that "school integration will only be achieved when white families like mine commit to integrated schools in their own neighborhoods." (17) Further, Stumpf acknowledged that the "rocks" her white daughter may face in attending a less privileged school will not feel as sharp as they would to students of minority identities, such as Ghartey's child. …

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