Education Equity: Civil Rights of the 20th and 21st Century

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 22:  Chicago school teacher...

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This post has been in my brain since I sat and read the Supreme Court decisions concerning desegregation of education during our school law class. This will be my last post on this blog, but please do follow my growth on my personal blog.

Just the other day I was listening to the radio (NPR I think but I can’t seem to find the recording) and someone was talking about Cuba and segregation. The general gist of the show went like this: In an effort to be equal Cuba banished race in all census forms.

Except that ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away.

Instead of the free and open society Castro envisioned what he actually got was rampant De Facto discrimination.

The speaker went on further to suggest that in the U.S. we had De Jure discrimination. In the U.S. the people had real facts, words, and deeds to fight against and thus the struggle for Civil Rights was born. In Cuba accusations of racism are easily deflected with a shrug of the shoulders and the suggestion that we have no race, how can we have racism?

It was an interesting show and got me back to thinking about education segregation in the United States.

In the 1960’s when it was legal to discriminate on the basis of color or religion it was blatantly obvious that there were inequities in the educational system. When these cases finally made it to court this is what the court said:

“Today it is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment.” (Brown v. Board of Education)

“those qualities which are incapable of objective measurement but which make for greatness in a law school” (Sweatt v. Painter)

“A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn. “ (Brown v. Board of Education)

“Local control over the education of children allows citizens to participate in decisionmakeing, and allows innovation so that school programs can fit local needs.” (Milliken v. Bradley)

“The adoption of a freedom of choice plan does not, by itself, satisfy a school district’s mandatory responsibility to eliminate all vestiges of a dual system.” (Freeman v Pitts)

A basis for determining if a school district were desegregated was set forth in Green v County School Board of New Kent and reiterated in Freeman v Pitts: to achieve unitary status schools must be equal in terms of:

  1. student assignments,
  2. transportation,
  3. physical facilities,
  4. extracurricular activities,
  5. teacher and principal assignments,
  6. resource allocation,
  7. and quality of education.

In Green  it was determined that the freedom of choice didn’t desegregate schools. “Rather than further the dismantling of the dual system, the plan has operated simply to burden children and their parents with a responsibility which Brown II placed squarely on the School Board.”

In Freeman v Pitts desegregation was not achieved in the Dekalb County School system because:

“In the Supreme Court Case of Freeman v. Pitt the District Court found that DCSS had not achieved unitary status with respect to quality education because teachers in schools with disproportionately high percentages of white students tended to be better educated and have more experience than their counterparts in schools with disproportionately high percentages of black students, and because per pupil expenditures in majority white schools exceeded per pupil expenditures in majority black schools.” (Russo, p. 1096)

Why is this important today?

If school choice didn’t work in Kent County why do we think it will work today?

If inequity of funding was a symptom of the problem 50 years ago how can we reform education by cutting funding today?

If lack of experience and lack of advanced degrees was a symptom of poor schools in the 1960’s how can replacing those same teachers be considered reform today?

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About dendari

I finished my program at JHU in 2011. If you have enjoyed my writing here please follow me at
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