How invisible lines keep education resources from Black and Hispanic kids


Back in the ’90s, Puff Daddy rapped about how life is “All About the Benjamins”—but, really, it’s all about zip codes.

Zip codes often determine the school district—or the school within a district—where kids will spend their K-12 education, which also decides the opportunities and resources they have access to. These school zoning boundaries are invisible, but they have a very real effect on children. Live on one side of a street and your child might have access to a better education—a policy that we’re supposed to accept as just being the way it is. And if you don’t follow it? Black parents inadvertently crossing a school zoning line in search of better educational opportunities for their kids have been arrested.

So what are the differences when you cross a zoning boundary line—and the racial dividing line—between schools? It turns out the big three are (surprise, surprise) teacher experience and quality, access to school counselors, and the number of security guards.

Word in Black analyzed the Dividing Lines database from the Urban Institute, which looks at key differences in neighboring pairs of public schools along more than 65,000 zoning boundaries. In creating the database, Urban Institute paired schools based on their school attendance boundaries, sorting the pairs into groups A and B. The A group is the side of the boundary with more Black or Hispanic residents, and the B group is the side with fewer Black or Hispanic residents.

Majority Black and Hispanic schools have more early career teachers
Overall, the schools on the A-side, the majority Black/Hispanic side of the boundary, have a higher share of early-career teachers than the B-side.

The analysis showed early career teachers are teaching in schools on the majority Black/Hispanic side of the boundary at a rate of 7% more than the other side. If we just look at majority-Black schools, the disparity is even higher: early career teachers are in majority-Black schools 47% more than in the majority-white schools on the same side of the boundary.

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