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The Quiet Wave of School District Secessions

When a judge ruled last week that the predominantly white Alabama city of Gardendale can secede from the majority black Jefferson County to form its own school district, the decision paved the way for the eighth such secession of wealthier and whiter municipalities in the state since 2000.

The judge’s ruling, which acknowledged that “race was a motivating factor” behind the effort despite its backers insistence they simply wanted more local control, garnered national attention because of a standing desegregation order the county has been under since 1965.

But dozens of school districts have similarly broken away from bigger ones – at least 36 since 2000, according to EdBuild, a nonprofit that focuses on education funding and inequality – moves that went largely undetected. In almost all cases, the communities involved were less diverse and had higher property values than those they left behind, compounding socioeconomic inequalities that plague public schools.