CHARLOTTE, NC (Bruce Henderson/The Charlotte Observer) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg's schools are the most racially segregated in North Carolina according to the calculations of a report released Friday by a nonprofit advocacy group.
The report from the liberal N.C. Justice Center's Education & Law Project says that integregating the state's public schools remains an "unfinished act" since the Supreme Court's 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling, which prohibited racial segregation in school.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg is among six large systems – including Wake, Pitt, Nash-Rocky Mount, Guilford and Harnett – that have become increasingly segregated, it says. A "racial dissimilarity index" the report calculates shows that Charlotte-Mecklenburg would need to reassign 55 percent of its students to achieve racial parity across its schools, making it "by far the most racially segregated district in the state," the report says.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg is also among the state's school districts that have the largest increases in income-based segregation, it says.
Demographic shifts, residential segregation patterns and changing political attitudes have all affected the extent of integration in schools, the Justice Center report says. Among the results: More schools are racially and economically "isolated," which the report defines as those in which 75 percent or more of their enrollment are students of color or qualify for free or reduced-cost school meals.
Charlotte became a national leader for school integration in 1971, when the Supreme Court ruled, in the landmark Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education case, that the district had to use student assignment and busing to integrate its schools.
In 2001, however, a federal appeals court declared Charlotte-Mecklenburg's racial integration plan illegal.
"Since then, school boards have swung back and forth in their willingness to use school assignment plans or managed public school choice to create racially and economically balanced public schools," the report says.
Last month, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools released a report, "Breaking the Link," that showed white students in the district's low-poverty schools have the best shot by far at getting top-notch teachers and graduating ready for college, while black and Hispanic students in high-poverty schools are left behind.
"A major focus of Charlotte-Mecklenburg School's new plan will be breaking the link between poverty and academic achievement to close gaps and reach educational equity in our community," CMS spokesman Brian Hacker said. The district has essentially acknowledged the Justice Center's findings, he added.