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Oakland schools still segregated

Oakland schools are no exception to the recent nationwide resurgence of segregation within American public schools.

The 2000 Census reported that the percentage of whites and blacks that reside in Oakland is about equal.

However, the numbers of students enrolled in the Oakland Unified district from each of these groups differ drastically.

According to a California Department of Education 2001-2002 report, 93.9 percent of the students enrolled in the Oakland Unified school district are racial minorities, while only 5.6 percent are white.

Of the minority groups, 75.4 percent enrolled are of either Hispanic or African-American descent.

A national redevelopment of segregation is occurring due to the termination of several court-ordered desegregation plans, according to a study by the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University.

The study reported that whites are the most segregated group in schools, and that although they make up 61 percent of the public-school population, on average they attend schools where 80 percent of their classmates are white.

Sociology professor JoAnn Conrad said that she could recall when her son, now in fifth grade, was among a very diverse classroom of students in Berkeley.

She said that when her son was in kindergarten, the class was highly diverse, but since then, there has been a decline in the number of white students enrolled in his school. She said her son is now one of only two white students in his fifth grade class.

Her son is part of a program that buses children from different areas to accommodate the need to keep American schools desegregated.

Sharon Nesbitt, the assistant director of Upward Bound, a program that aims to help underprivileged students who would be the first in their family to go to college get into college, said that as a result of desegregation, many white families moved out of the city and into the suburbs in the late 60s and early 70s, leaving poorer minorities who did not have the resources to move behind.

With this exodus, a lot of tax money that had been going to the public school districts, were now feeding these suburban districts instead.

This loss of funds created a “demise of the quality of public education,” in some areas, and left the schools with a predominant minority population, said Nesbitt.

The Harvard study found that black students now go to schools where typically fewer than 31 percent of their classmates are white, which is less than in 1970, a year before busing was authorized by the Supreme Court as the main means of integration.

Romeo Garcia, the director of the Trio Program at Mills, which provides support and guidance to low income, potential first generation college students, said that for Oakland residents, the quality of education is better at private schools than public.

Nesbitt said she thinks that whites and minorities who can afford to put their children in private school are justified in doing so, based on her own experiences with the Oakland high schools.

“If I had children, I would be working two jobs to send them to private school,” said Nesbitt. She added that she is involved with an organization called A Better Chance that supplies private school scholarships to high achieving, low-income students who are not challenged enough in Oakland public schools.