Opinion | Desegregate the schools

The school system remains unequal, putting low income and minority children at a significant disadvantage.

Zeina Aboushaar, Opinions Columnist

To many, education is freedom. It is the walls in our minds widening beyond our perception. However, many children are prevented from feeling free because of the inequality in the school system and those metaphorical walls remain locked in place.

School zones were initially drawn by race and to this day are still drawn along neighborhood lines that are tracked by race. The quality of education and opportunities depend on an individual’s zip code, which limits equality.

According to the New York Times, more than half of the nation’s kids are in racially concentrated districts where more than 75 percent of students are either white or nonwhite. Racial and economic segregation has increased the educational gaps between rich and poor students, and white students and students of color.

Groups with more political power, mainly white and wealthy communities, are entitled to more authority over decisions of the school zones. According to FacingHistory, predominantly minority schools receive a funding of on average $2,226 less per student per year than predominantly white school districts, representing a 23 billion dollar funding gap per year.

This gap reflects on the divide in the district borders designed to protect internal advantage. This correlates with factors such as low-income schools receiving less qualified teachers, fewer advanced classes, and less learning materials which all limit a students opportunities.

Instead of placing students of similar socioeconomic and racial backgrounds together, school districts should work to integrate students from different backgrounds and neighborhoods.

By changing the enrollment boundaries, we can have the power to integrate a school, rather than segregate it.

The decision on where to draw these lines are made on a local level, meaning students and facility staff can have lots of influence on this matter. There are districts that draw attendance zones across different neighborhoods.

Segregation isolates groups and limits social interactions which impacts a students wellbeing. Harvard University researchers found that the links between living and school district segregation mean that children are closed off from opportunity on numerous fronts.

Separation can increase the risks of mental health issues such as depression, intense loneliness, and social anxiety which affects the learning environment of a student. However, students can work together in order to include everyone.

When witnessing a student being discriminated against classmates should stand up for the student and bring the issue to the school board. A hostile environment is nearly impossible to learn and grow in, which is why these children need to have allies.

According to The Century Foundation, inter-district choice and diverse charter schools could reduce segregation and provide high-quality, diverse education. This integrated education will improve critical thinking and problem-solving skills, the development of cross-racial trust, and the ability to navigate cultural differences.

Privilege and power should be used to influence current policies that support all children and equal education.

This problem can’t wait anymore. It is easier for those who have not felt the isolation, and deprivation of resources during school to want to wait.

For children stuck in a cycle of discrimination, we must make a way out. But first, there needs to be a way in.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.