Study suggests Peoria metro area has most segregated schools in the country

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A new study reveals the Peoria metropolitan area has the most segregated schools among white and black students than not only any other area in Illinois, but the country. 

The study, a six-month-long investigation by national monthly magazine Governing, used data from the National Center for Education Statistics to find these results. By J. Brian Charles, Daniel C. Vock, Mike Maciag, the article refers to the City of Peoria’s public school system as “chronically troubled” and also explores the Dunlap School District. 

The Peoria metropolitan area’s schools are reportedly more divided by race than those in Boston, Detroit or Little Rock, notable areas of segregation, according to the study. Governing said growing black populations are drastically changing the student makeup of school districts, as well as white families relocating.

The results only focused on black and white segregation, and the article noted it did not consider other racial or ethnic groups.

Governing used the index of dissimilarity, often used by sociologists, to represent higher levels of segregation between white and black students, on a scale of 0-1. It was used to measure the percentage of students needeing to relocate to a different school for it to be entirely integrated, or to have evenly distrubted students. 

With the dissimilarity index of 1 representing high segregation, the U.S. median for areas with over 2,000 black students is 0.545. Peoria’s metro area index is at 0.821. On the other hand, Bloomington metro’s area has the least amount of segregation, at 0.411. 

“I don’t think people are leaving to escape black people, but I’m calling it ‘unintentional racism,’” Peoria County school board member Kate Pastucha told Governing. 

The study found that eight of 10 metro areas in Illinois ranked among the highest of all metropolitan areas nationally for black and white student school segregation. Governing also spoke with Peoria Public Schools superintendent Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat. who said she is working to keep families in the district.

“It’s been a problem for Peoria for some time that we’ve had these two school systems,” Sen. Dave Koehler, (D-Peoria) told the magazine. “It’s pretty widely known that the code word for the families moving into Peoria … was that when you saw ‘Dunlap schools,’ that meant ‘a white school system.’” 

Also explored in the article was the amount of white families relocating from cities in downstate Illinois in recent years. Peoria Public Schools’ white enrollment dropped by over half, while declining by only 8 percent for other public school districts in the area.

Dunlap School District superintendent Scott Dearman told the magazine that he sees Dunlap as a resource to the Peoria metro area, and that it is expanding to increase diversity. 

Note: All quotes and statistics are attributed from Governing Magazine.

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