Separate but unequal.
That's how a team of civil rights researchers at UCLA characterize the elementary and secondary schools in Los Angeles and surrounding counties in a recent report examining segregation.
For while the days of actual Jim Crow laws in California may be gone, Latino and African-American school children are profoundly segregated and at a serious disadvantage.
Some of the report's findings are startling.
For starters, there's this:
In 1970, the average Latino student attended a metro area school in Los Angeles that was roughly 45% white. By 1980, the proportion of white students in the average Latino students' school had decreased by more than half, to 21%. Most recently, in 2008, the typical Latino student in Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) went to a school where 6% of the students were white.
Along the same lines, in the 1970s the average black student in LA attended a school made up of 14 percent of white kids, compared to just 6 percent by the early 2000s.
Using data from the U.S. Department of Education and the California State Department of Education, the report's authors looked at schools and students in southern California from Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, San Diego, Riverside and Ventura counties.
As recently as 2008, according to the report, segregation was rampant.
White students made up 25% of the region's public school enrollment. Yet the average white student in Southern California attended a school that was nearly 50% white, a figure that highlights persistent patterns of disproportionate white isolation across the region.
Together, white and Asian students made up 36% of the region-wide population. On average, however, black and Latino students in Southern California attended a school where less than a quarter of students are white and Asian.
The report also concluded that students at many of the highly segregated schools did not achieve as well academically and had less-trained teachers.
In 2008, students in intensely segregated schools were close to three times as likely to have a teacher lacking full qualifications than students attending majority white and Asian schools.
Across Southern California, less than 50% of Grade 9 students in intensely segregated schools graduated on time. In schools educating a majority of white and Asian youth, 81% graduated on time.
“There is almost no public discussion of segregation in Southern California,” stated co-author Gary Orfield of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, “though the differences in schools and neighborhoods one or two freeway exits apart are often shocking.”