In the years following Brown v. Board of Education, a new breed of private school popped up across the South: segregation academies.
By creating economic barriers with expensive tuitions, these private institutions provided white families with a means of keeping black students out while still technically adhering to the law.
In the 60+ years since the Supreme Court handed down its Brown decision, public schools have, in fact become more diverse across the country. Private schools, on the other hand, have remained astonishingly white and inaccessible to people of color.
A newly study from the Southern Education Foundation found that as recently as 2012, white students were almost universally over-represented in private schools across the country. Not only were white students overrepresented, but black, Hispanic, and Native American students were also dramatically underrepresented. Private schools were also 1.5 times more likely to have student bodies that were over 90% white.
The study's author, Steve Suitts, argues that his findings highlight the persistent systemic barriers to equal education that still plague minority families today despite publicly-funded voucher programs designed to give lower-income families the chance to get their kids into private schools.
“The fact is that, over the years, African American families and non-white families have come to understand that these private schools are not schools that are open to them," Suitts told The Washington Post. "Especially in light of their traditional role and history related to desegregation of public schools."
The point that voucher advocates miss, Suitts argues, is that private school demographic numbers don't statistically line up with the number black families who can afford private schools.
“The public-school system is built on the bedrock notion that we want each child to have a chance for a good education,” Suitts said. “And if private schools do not wish to advance that national purpose, then they ought not receive public funding.”