Saturday is the 60th Anniversary of the most important U.S. Supreme Court decision of the 20th Century, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954). The decision overturned Plessy v. Feguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896), in which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld state-sanctioned racial segregation under the racist doctrine of “Separate but equal.” The U.S. Supreme Court gave its blessing to Jim Crow laws and black codes.
A unanimous U.S. Supreme Court in Brown held that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” As a result, de jure racial segregation was ruled to be a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. In Brown II (1955), the Supreme Court ordered the lower federal courts to require desegregation “with all deliberate speed.”
The Court’s decision was met with massive resistance by Southern segregationists to avoid implementing public school integration. President Dwight D. Eisenhower federalized Arkansas National Guard troops to protect nine black students integrating Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. President John F. Kennedy later had to send national guard troops and U.S. Marshals to enforce court orders for integration in Alabama and Mississippi.
The Brown decision gave hope to a nascent Civil Rights Movement that emerged post-World War II, and culminated with the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This led to the end of state-sanctioned racial segregation in America. The Civil Rights Movement is the most notable accomplishment of Brown v. Board of Education.
Efforts by white segregationists to undermine public school integration continued, with “white flight” giving rise to the suburbs, and a greater reliance on private schools. This led to court ordered remedies such as school busing and magnet schools in an effort to meet the mandate of Brown v. Board of Education, and its progeny of Supreme Court decisions that followed.
The promise of Brown v. Board of Education has never fully been realized, and there has been substantial backsliding since. 60 Years After Brown v. Board Of Education, States Are Still Failing Students Of Color.
Education writer Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post asks, Are we abandoning public education 60 years after historic Brown ruling?
And USA Today explores this rarely ever discussed issue, Charters add layer to ongoing Brown v. Board debate:
As the nation marks the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision Saturday, single-race classrooms are getting a fresh look from education researchers alarmed by what they see as a second segregated public school system piling atop the first.
About 5% of U.S. students attend charter schools, which began as a late 20th-century attempt by educators and entrepreneurs to create what they believed to be higher quality, more innovative alternatives to public schools.
With the Obama administration’s blessing and start-up money behind it, charters are poised for further exponential growth. The problem with that, critics say, is that charter systems pay more attention to student achievement than to racial diversity when both are important.
Charter advocates counter by listing a number of limitations on their recruitment, including the facts that they typically draw from already-segregated traditional schools and that school choice means just that — parents don’t have to pick them. At the same time, there’s a new movement to open charter schools that emphasize both achievement and racial balance.
This week, ahead of Saturday’s anniversary of the high court’s 1954 ruling that forced integration of public schools, renowned UCLA desegregation researcher Gary Orfield released a report on the state of racial balance in U.S. schools. The segregation of Latino students has soared, the report finds, with black and Latino students most likely to share poor schools and white and Asian children more likely to share middle-class ones.
That’s the fallout from the 2007 Supreme Court decision ending the practice of assigning students to schools based on race, and federal courts dropping oversight of school districts’ desegregation plans, the report says. But Orfield insists charter schools should seek diversity — and states should enact laws that make them do so — by recruiting by socioeconomic status that often follows racial patterns. It’s important because a half-century of research shows segregation robs children of opportunity, he says.
* * *
[For] Cheryl Brown Henderson, the daughter of Brown v. Board of Education plaintiff Oliver Brown, the decision to support charters is more about opportunity than racial balance. A former school guidance counselor, she runs a foundation in Mission, Kan., devoted to studying the Brown case’s impact and improving education access for minorities.
Henderson said she doesn’t believe diversity should be a big concern for charter schools, and she questions whether traditional public schools ever truly reflected racial balance despite busing, rezoning, magnet programs and other efforts.
“It’s awfully arrogant for us to point fingers at people trying to ensure a world-class education access is afforded to all of our children,” she said.
* * *
Iris Rotberg, an education policy researcher at George Washington University, published an article in the March edition of the journal Education Week, Charter Schools and the Risk of Increased Segregation, pointing out that, on average, charter schools perform no better than traditional public schools yet lead to increased segregation — except in cases where local traditional schools are so segregated it can’t get any worse.
Federal policies promoting charters as an option will only worsen the problem, Rotberg contends. She calls on the Obama administration to stop cheerleading for charter schools and instead focus on the damage of segregation.
“Integrated schools are a matter of ethics and decency. You can show results that academically and socially, they’re better for all groups,” she said.
“But the Brown decision said it best: Separate is never equal.”
Odd how you never hear this concern mentioned by the cheerleaders for privatization of public education and charter schools, or even in our media.
Public schools were the great American experiment in racial integration for the betterment of society. It was met with hostility and violence from white Americans. This may explain some of the hostility towards public education from many on the right today. It is not really about “school choice,” for many it is still about race. But they have found a way not to have to say it.