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Latino School Segregation: The Big Education Problem That No One Is Talking About

It was 1946. For years, the state’s Mexican-American students had languished in inferior “Mexican schools” to which they were assigned based on name and complexion. Plaintiffs in the case argued that their school facilities were severely under-resourced compared to nearby white schools, and experts testified on the negative impact segregation has on children’s self-esteem. Defendants in the case — four school districts – argued that Mexican students had poor hygiene, carried diseases and were intellectually inferior. 

The case — which was decided in the plaintiffs’ favor – never made its way to the Supreme Court, and thus its impact was never felt on a federal level. But soon after, California became the first state to ban state-sponsored school segregation.

It’s now 2015, and while much has changed in California, much has remained the same. Segregation is no longer based on official policies or law — called de jure segregation — but based on voluntary housing or schooling choices. Still, the Golden State remains the most segregated one in the country for Latino students, according to research from the UCLA’s Civil Rights Project, which studies civil rights issues.