School Segregation | St. Louis Public Radio

School Segregation

charter schools tha racially diverse in recent years.
Camille Phillips I St. Louis Public Radio

If you walk into most public schools in the city of St. Louis, you’d never know that five black parents won a federal desegregation lawsuit in 1975, or that years of appeals resulted in the creation of a much lauded voluntary intra-district transfer program in 1983.

According to a St. Louis Public Radio analysis of state data, the percentage of racially segregated public schools in the city of St. Louis rose over the past 26 years, from 54 percent to 78 percent. Today, most of the students in the St. Louis public school district attend schools where all, or nearly all, of their classmates are African-American.

Charter schools used to be even more segregated than the district. But, in recent years, a handful have succeeded in attracting both white and black families. The choices of past and current parents at City Garden Montessori, in the Botanical Heights neighborhood, illustrate how one charter school achieved integration, and the barriers to replicating that model.

Students work on a classroom assignment at City Garden Montessori. Administrators at the charter public school in south St. Louis are looking for ways to maintain diversity.
Courtesy City Garden Montessori

As with the rest of the country, most white and black children in St. Louis go to separate schools.

It’s a topic our We Live Here team has been digging into while producing a show on the region’s long-running program to chip away at school segregation.

A slide from a presentation during an April 2015  fair housing conference shows how Section 8 vouchers are concentrated in north St. Louis and north St. Louis County, and that most voucher holders are black.
courtesy Poverty & Race Research Action Council

Almost 45 percent of St. Louis-area children living in Section 8 housing go to schools ranked in the bottom 10th percentile of the state. That’s almost 20 percent worse than the national average, according to a report compiled by the Poverty & Race Research Action Council.

“The way we’ve organized our schools is keeping low-income kids and kids of color separate from white kids in the region. And they’re being separated in a way that exposes them to lower-performing, lower-resource schools. And that’s just not fair,” said Phil Tegeler, executive director of the council.