Could D.C.’s private schools be contributing to racial segregation within the city? While the public school system has been considered one of the most segregated in the country, a new study by the Albert Shanker Institute takes a closer look at the role of private schools in this trend. According to U.S. News And World Report, the study analyzed data from the 2011-12 school year, which is the most recent data available.
Researchers found that the private schools educated 15% of D.C. students but about 60% of the white students. They also found that between 24 and 39% of the city’s segregation is due to the racial discrepancies between public and private schools.
“This between-sector segregation, in addition to that within the private sector, means that even if D.C.’s public schools were perfectly integrated, as much as half of total segregation would remain intact,” the researchers wrote, according to U.S. News And World Report. “Put simply, from a between-sector perspective, the availability of private schools may exacerbate segregation.”
Researchers also found that D.C.’s students tend to be enrolled in schools with peers of the same race, according to U.S. News And World Report. So, even though only 15% of the city’s students are white, 60.5% of a white student’s peers are also white. At the same time, 86.1% of the city’s black students have peers who are also black.
Nationally, there are 30,861 private schools in the U.S., educating 5.3 million PK-12 students. According to a 2016 report by The Washington Post, national enrollment in private schools is whiter than enrollment in public schools. Greg Forster, a senior fellow at the Friedman Foundation, said in a statement to The Washington Post that these statistics are a clear result of economic inequality.
“Private schools generally want to serve as many students as possible, but they can only serve those who are able to pay,” he said. “School choice levels the playing field by helping those with lower incomes have access to the choices that others now have and even take for granted. It is not a scandal that those who are able to access better schools choose to do so; it is a scandal that because of the government school monopoly, only some are able to access better schools.”