Consolidation Versus Fragmentation: The Relationship Between School District Boundaries and Segregation in Three Southern Metropolitan Areas Penn State Law Review Online Companion Penn State Law Review

Consolidation Versus Fragmentation: The Relationship Between School District Boundaries and Segregation in Three Southern Metropolitan Areas

Sarah Diem, Genevieve Siegel-Hawley, Erica Frankenberg, Colleen Cleary

ABSTRACT

School district boundary lines are a central driver of segregation and educational inequality. Most metropolitan areas are fragmented by multiple school systems that differ widely in their racial and socioeconomic makeup, as well as students’ access to educational resources. This Article explores the impact of school district consolidation and fragmentation processes in three metropolitan areas that represent a continuum of inclusion and exclusion: Louisville-Jefferson County, Kentucky; Memphis-Shelby County, Tennessee; and Birmingham-Jefferson County, Alabama. It focuses on how district boundary arrangements help shape the implementation of school desegregation over time, particularly from 1960–2012. Each of the selected metropolitan areas analyzed in this Article is in the southern region of the United States. The South, with its system of legally sanctioned apartheid, became the most integrated region for students after the full weight of the federal government began to enforce Brown v. Board of Education. Additionally, metropolitan school desegregation efforts are more common in the South, in part because a handful of southern states operate under laws that facilitate city-suburban mergers. This Article’s exploration of school district boundaries, segregation, and opportunity helps illuminate key strategies and stumbling blocks related to contemporary efforts to overcome the divisive impact of school district boundary lines.

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preferred citation: Sarah Diem et. al, Consolidation Versus Fragmentation: The Relationship Between School District Boundaries and Segregation in Three Southern Metropolitan Areas, 119 Penn St. L. Rev. 687 (2015)

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