School segregation on LI twice U.S. average

Classroom

Classroom (Credit: Daniel Brennan)

The rate of school segregation on Long Island is "double the national average" and, in Nassau County, it is triple, according to a new study.

The Long Island Index study, released Thursday, found segregation in the Island's schools largely occurs between school districts, mirroring the region's segregated housing patterns.

Long Island ranks 10th in the nation in residential segregation between blacks and whites, which affects the racial and ethnic makeup of its school districts, the study said. The study also found black-white segregation in the Island's schools was greatest, though Hispanic-white segregation was growing with the increasing Hispanic population.

"Since school district boundaries mimic housing patterns, it is well known that Long Island's schools are highly segregated," wrote Douglas Ready, an education professor at Teachers College at Columbia University, which did the index study.

He said the study explored the "extent to which racial and ethnic groups are [or are not] equally distributed across schools." It concluded segregation wasn't a big factor between schools in the same district, but that "entire school districts were segregated from each other," at about 90 percent.

Ann Golob, director of the Long Island Index, said in an interview Thursday she found the data "shocking." The Long Island Index publishes reports about various regional issues, such as education.

"We know that things are divided" on Long Island, she said. "When you see the numbers and you realize how much worse we are, how much more extreme we are, it sent shivers down my spine" and pointed to a need for change in how education is provided.

Ready, in an interview, said "big counties" like Miami-Dade in Florida and Fairfax in Virginia have just one school system compared to the Island's 124. "What it means is, where you live in the county doesn't matter [in terms of] what school system you go to. But in Nassau County, if you move half a mile, you can be in two or three different school districts." So when an area is sliced and diced, that's where you will find the most between-district segregation, he said.

On Long Island, he added, "where you live matters more."The executive director of the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association declined to comment on the study because members hadn't yet seen it.

Elaine Gross, president of ERASE Racism, a Syosset-based advocacy group, concurring with the index study, added, that the "heart of the problem" was that school districts reflect the Island's residential segregation.

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