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Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly

Abstract

Throughout the US, school systems that once faced federally-mandated desegregation plans have been declared "unitary" - that is, courts ruled that these districts have removed any vestiges of overt segregation and therefore need not adhere to previous integration mandates. In Denver, Colorado, after busing students for over 20 years, federal courts declared the city school system unitary in 1996. In Denver the return to neighborhood schools has meant a concurrent return to more racially segregated schools. Given the strong correlation between race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status in US urban centers, the return to neighborhood schools has created conditions of concentrated poverty in certain schools. As concentrated poverty can have a powerful impact on educational opportunity, many lower-income students in the Denver Public School System (DPS) face a situation of educational inequity. This article presents a wide range of data from the ten DPS comprehensive high schools (e.g., dropout rates, attendance rates, standardized test scores, etc.) that suggests that educational opportunity for students in the city's more affluent high schools is notably superior to that experienced in less affluent schools. The article concludes with a series of interrelated policy proposals aimed at remedying this inequity.

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