Chicago Urban League Research Examines Impact of Segregation on Education of Blacks

Shari Runner, Chicago Urban League President and CEO
Shari Runner, Chicago Urban League President and CEO

On Tuesday, the Chicago Urban League released the second part in a series of research that examines the historic and current factors that support the practice and maintenance of racial segregation and its impact on Chicago’s African-American communities. The study, titled The Impact of Racial Residential Segregation on Education in a “No Excuses” Environment, examines the myriad of ways in which Chicago’s current educational system significantly disadvantages poor, African-American students.

 “Our findings indicate that Illinois has the dubious distinction of being one of the worst states in the nation for equitable and fair funding of its schools by most national measures,” said Stephanie Bechteler, vice president and executive director of the League’s Research and Policy Center. At all levels – from the state, to the metropolitan area, to the Chicago school district – the burden of an inequitably funded system is borne most heavily by those who can least afford it. The students with the greatest needs and the communities with the highest rates of poverty are systematically shortchanged and further disadvantaged by our educational system.”

The data are based on an analysis of quantitative data from local experts, as well as data from publicly available national data sources such as the U.S. Census Bureau’s Public School System Finances, the National Center for Education Statistics and other similar sources. Qualitative interview and focus group data were gathered from issue-focused subject matter experts, including academics, activists/advocates, elected officials, human service providers, impacted persons and representatives from the educational, nonprofit and philanthropic communities.

 “The findings in our report further confirm that the funding equation for schools in Illinois, especially Chicago, needs to be totally revamped,” said Shari Runner, President and CEO of the Chicago Urban League. “Further, we must ensure that schools and communities have the resources to fund comprehensive programs, services and supports to ensure student success.”

 Other key findings from the report include the following:

Students in Chicago attend schools that receive less funding, but also have significantly higher numbers of poor students.

Analysis of Title 1 spending by the percentage of low-income children in Illinois school districts revealed overwhelming disparities in funds per-pupil and receipt of poverty alleviation funds by extremely affluent districts on the North Shore – like Kenilworth District 38 ($41,000) and Oak Grove District 68 ($82,000) with very few or no children in poverty.

Even in districts with few low-income students, these students perform worse on standardized tests than their higher-income peers.

In wealthier community areas with considerable community assets and economic stability, affluent families with higher incomes and more household resources can offset inadequate school funds.

The report goes on to outline a conceptual model that explains the specific disparities in the Chicago Public Schools and the vast differences in the educational experiences of students served within these schools. The concept of “Tipping Factors” is explored and lists the factors that either exacerbate or alleviate funding inequities. These “Tipping Factors” affect educational attainment but are also correlated with higher levels of community violence.

“We look forward to sharing this compelling information with city government, elected officials, members of the academic community, relevant organizations, parents, students and concerned citizens,” added Runner. “We will certainly need their input as we develop concrete strategies to remedy these educational inequities.” 

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