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Austin Has The Greatest Racial Disparities Among Elementary Schools, But Dallas Isn't Far Behind

stock photo of elementary school classroom where kids have raised hands.
Racial disparities among Texas elementary schools are worse in the state's big urban areas. The biggest disparities were in the Austin area, but Dallas and Houston didn't fall far behind.

A new study shows students of color are far more likely than white students to attend elementary schools with high poverty rates. 

Valerie Sterne of the University of Texas at Austin wrote the report and talked with KERA's Justin Martin.

Interview Highlights

Black And Latino Students In High Poverty Elementary Schools

Well, there's a whole history behind that. We know that there's a lot that's gone into housing segregation: Government policies, but also, school policy and enrollment policy have really encouraged parents to find schools that have the most privileged students and them. Because that's how our schools are measured based on student achievement, which is highly correlated with privilege. 

Those are the things that people are looking at when they're choosing schools, instead of thinking about other things that we might value such as a perse student body.

How Uniform Are The Disparities Across Texas?

When we looked across all of Texas, there's less disparities in counties that have fewer students. So the vast majority of counties and districts in the state don't have very many students and pretty much all the students are going to the same school. So there's not very wide disparities.

The big disparities happen in these urban areas. And it turns out that the biggest disparities in the state were in Travis County, in the Austin area, but Dallas and Houston didn't fall that far behind.

In all of those urban areas, we're seeing disparities in what white students are experiencing in school poverty versus what Black and Hispanic students are experiencing in school poverty. 

How Communities Are Combating Disparities

Some districts are doing a better job at this. Some districts are just more uniform — if they're a more homogenous population, then there's not going to be big disparities.

There are perse districts that have a lot less disparities: Cypress Fairbanks, North East, Northside, and Garland ISD, which is actually still under a desegregation order. They're one of the only districts in the state that hasn't, at least as far as I know, they haven't challenged. They're really promoting school choice as a good thing.

Parents are able to choose schools based on program, but then they're also balanced for racial makeup of the schools, and so they have really integrated schools in Garland. 

Interview highlights have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Got a tip? Email Justin Martin at You can follow Justin on Twitter @MisterJMart.

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