, Staff Writer
WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com)–The countdown has begun to the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court landmark 1954 decision Oliver L. Brown v. the Topeka, Kan., Board of Education, which ruled that separate but equal education was really an unequal education.
However, similar issues of unequal education between children of color and Whites, which brought the case before the Supreme Court, exist today, activists say. Only this time, color is not the primary factor determining the quality of a student’s education, address is.
“Public schools in 50 states and 3,067 counties across the United States experience huge discrepancies in the amount of money spent and the quality of instruction available. Many schools often have vast resources and specialty programs, while other students–within the same state–attend dilapidated schools with little more than the basics,” said Rep. Jesse R. Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.) “I have introduced legislation adding an amendment to the Constitution affirming our national commitment to public education of equal high quality for all Americans. An education amendment is vital to address the inequities that exist in our schools.”
On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court unanimously declared that separate educational facilities are “inherently unequal” and, as such, violate the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guarantees all citizens “equal protection of the laws.”
The high court mandated school desegregation “with all deliberate speed,” effectively ending the American apartheid school system Black children were forced to attend. Since Brown, some attempts have been made to desegregate schools with busing programs, court orders and education mandates, but today’s schools remain separate and unequal.
Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) announced May 15, to coincide with the countdown to Brown, that they will begin a year-long effort to pass their Student Bill of Rights legislation by the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling.
“After 49 years of lawsuits, presidential commissions, research studies and countless news stories, poor children in every state are still the least likely to receive a quality education,” said Rep. Fattah. “The Student Bill of Rights asserts that this national scandal to deprive poor children of a decent education must end now.”
Rep. Fattah introduced the bill, HR 236, in the House, and Sen. Dodd plans to reintroduce the bill in the Senate in the coming weeks.
“A child’s educational opportunity should be based on their dreams, not zip code numbers,” said Sen. Dodd. “This measure helps correct that inequity by ensuring that all children have an equal opportunity to excel on the road to success.”
The Dodd-Fattah Student Bill of Rights would hold states accountable for providing resources, including highly qualified teachers, a challenging curricula, up-to-date textbooks and materials, small class sizes and guidance counselors to all students who rely on public schools for their education.
“Over the years since the landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, when a unanimous United States Supreme Court held that ‘the opportunity of an education, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms,’ courts in 44 of the states have heard challenges to the establishment, maintenance, and operation of educationally inadequate or inequitable state public school systems,” wrote Rep. Fattah in the Student Bill of Rights.
Currently, the U.S. spends less than two percent of its federal budget on elementary and secondary education. The nation ranks last among developed countries in the difference in the quality of schools available to wealthy and low-income children.
“Brown v. Board of Education was a civil rights milestone with a legacy of extraordinary breadth and depth,” said University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Nancy Cantor.
“The Brown case began with a focus on racial segregation and desegregation in schools. As such, it set the precedent for talking about equal opportunity among all areas in educational settings. It redefined the meaning of racial equality in America and opened the way to protect many Americans from discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender, language and disability,” she said.
The Brown decision prompted such milestones as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Title IX, which protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs, or activities, which receive Federal funding, and the Americans With Disabilities Act. During the past 50 years, equal educational opportunity for all Americans has been premised on the Brown decision.
“Our commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Brown decision will serve as a catalyst for critical reflection on our nation’s capacity to serve all children,” Dr. Cantor said. “Celebrating the anniversary of this historic Supreme Court case will serve to illuminate our continuing exploration of diversity in American life.”