15 May 2014 60th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education Desegregation Decision Commemorated
Jim Crow Banished, But Failing Public Schools a Crisis for Many Black Youth
Vouchers and Other Alternatives to Failing Public Schools Needed for Full Equality of Opportunity
Washington, D.C. – On the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling that mandated desegregation in American public schools, members of the Project 21 black leadership network commend the necessary desegregation of public education, but point out that providing all students with a quality education, including viable alternatives, still challenges government.
“While it’s important to commemorate Brown v. Board of Education as the beginning of the end of legal segregation, it must also be recognized that public education still sometimes denies true opportunity when government cannot live up to its mission. There’s still a long way to go, particularly in giving minority children in large cities an escape from low-performing, government-run schools,” said Project 21 Co-Chairman Cherylyn Harley LeBon, a former senior counsel with the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. “Instituting voucher programs and encouraging charter schools is a positive step toward giving parents alternatives to failing public schools. While there are leaders such as Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and former Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty willing to champion such reforms, it’s a shame many of the same people lauding the Brown anniversary are also among those seeking to stop such reforms from proceeding.”
A consolidation of five different cases involving racially-segregated public schools, the Brown v. Board of Education decision was handed down by the Supreme Court on May 17, 1954. The ruling, a unanimous decision, declared that segregated schools are “inherently unequal” and that there is no place for the Jim Crow era doctrine of “separate but equal” in government-run school systems. The Court at the time of the ruling left it up to state attorneys general to submit individual desegregation plans, but declared in 1955 that efforts to fully desegregate public schools needed to commence with “all deliberate speed.”
In its ruling on Brown, the Supreme Court found the policy of segregated education violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In doing so, the Court overturned its 1896 decision in Plessy v. Ferguson that had upheld Jim Crow laws.
“Brown v. Board of Education should be celebrated as a high point in American history. What should be lamented is the current state of the nation’s public school system, said Project 21’s Derryck Green, a doctoral candidate in ministry. “De facto segregation has returned on the basis of class, which unfortunately, continues to disproportionately affect poor minorities — particularly black children. Teachers’ unions have demonstrated an unwillingness to allow poor and minority children access to quality education of their parents’ choosing through school vouchers. Teachers’ unions obstructing school choice is perfectly emblematic of segregationist former Alabama governor George Wallace, who defiantly stood in the schoolhouse door to block welcome progress.”
“As we mark the 60th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, there is little to celebrate in the way of educational achievement in inner city schools across America. Dropout rates are too high and graduation rates too low. An appropriate and effective way to address the poor performance is through parental engagement and raising expectations,” said Project 21’s Stacy Washington, a St. Louis radio talk show host and former school board officer. “Many innovative educational formats have sprung up in response to academic malaise and are gaining in popularity as parents leave public education institutions and seek other options. The best way to celebrate and commemorate Brown is by supporting those parents and communities and encouraging more educational innovation.”
Over past two years, Project 21 has been involved in the U.S. Supreme Court education cases of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin and Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action.
After the Court heard arguments in the Schuette case, Project 21 held a policy luncheon (video available here) that featured Jennifer Gratz, the executive director of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative that was the basis for the Schuette case. Gratz, of course, also was the plaintiff in the 2003 race preference case of Gratz v. Bollinger.
In 2014, members of Project 21 have already participated in over 600 media interviews and citations that include MSNBC, the Fox News Channel, TVOne, Sirius/XM satellite radio, The Root and Westwood One on a myriad of issues facing black Americans that includes education, racial preferences, the economy, voter ID, regulation and law enforcement.
Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives for nearly two decades, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research (http://www.nationalcenter.org). Contributions to the National Center are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated.