It was 60 years ago this week that Brown Vs. the Board of Education changed the landscape of American Schools.    While many think of the ruling as a moment of establishing an opportunity for minorities, the factor that made schools unequal extended far beyond the status of race.
Oveta Glover and Millicent Brown were among the first South Carolina students to attend all-white schools.
"It wasn't about going to a white school, it was all about being able to have the same resources - the equal resources that they had," said Glover who is now a student scholarship coordinator at Voorhees College.

Ovita Oliver talked openly with WISTV in South Carolina on the impact of Brown V. Board, a decision that was designed at its heart to provide a chance at equal resources, and similar opportunities.

Newsweek, in the week following the ruling assessed the issue as this:

The court’s decision was greeted calmly by some Southerners, and with dismay by others. At least three Southern states—Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina—had been talking of circumventing a ban on segregation by eliminating public schools altogether.
The notion of ending public schools for a completely separate system was mocked by then President Eisenhower, who later used the National Guard to help enforce the ruling.

The South was never able to mount a campaign to end public schools.   To form a private school system that separated by skin color and class.   60 years later, Kansas – the home of Brown Vs. the Board of Education prepares to embark on a new journey that offers the promise not of opportunity but of a return to Separate and Not Equal.  
Kansas education legislation joins the national push to a return of policies that divide our students into the ‘have’ and ‘have not’.  

When Brown Vs. Board of education was decided, the issue of opportunity sat at the heart of an argument for African American students to gain access to schools that had previously been all-white.  The white schools were better funded, provided a higher perceived educational standard and more opportunities for students to succeed.  

Today, many African Americans find that while integration occurred, we have slowly begun to slip back into an era where the divide between opportunities grows year after year.

Today, things are getting worse. The typical black student now attends a school where only 29 percent of his or her fellow students are white, down from 36 percent in 1980. Subsequently, the courts, over Marshall’s and other pro-integration justices’ objections, began to free southern school districts from orders compelling them to adopt deliberate policies to integrate.4 In fact, black children are more racially and socioeconomically isolated today than at any time since data have been collected.5

While there has been progress amongst minority students, it still fails to keep up with their white, and more importantly wealthier peers.

In order to rectify this, throughout the South and now Midwest, has begun a process of adopting voucher and tax credit programs.   These programs, which offer tax payer money to public schools are often quickly embraced by communities who feel as though Brown hasn’t accomplished the end goals, and that students aren’t receiving the opportunity of an equal education.   When those with greater resources are able to attend private schools, they contend, the opportunity to balance the playing field is to allow for more minorities and others to participate.

But is that really what they get?

In fact, the exact reverse is far more likely to happen today.   Most states that have adopted scholarship level programs, which can be offered at-will by outside granting organizations or in the case of states like Kansas, direct to a student disproportionately favor those who already have access.  

But how did this panacea for minority students and others fall so short of the goal?  
In a prior interview with Julian Vasquez Heilig, Ph.D, University of Texas at Austin, we discussed educational opportunities in a tax credit environment.

The reality is the students who will receive a direct scholarship through a company are normally students who already have connections, which tends to disproportionally favor white children.   These scholarships are never 100%, so it means that families must still provide a significant portion of funding.   In many cases, they have to provide transportation as well, which is a limiting factor for many families.
What he was discussing directly is the level of opportunity available isn’t cured by the access to a tax credit.  In fact, the fact that a tax credit exists moves to create a flight away from schools, as private schools are free to pick and choose students while being freely able to control the level of occupancy.
The existence of a tax credit doesn’t mean you can get into a private school.  A private school can turn you away or they can be small enough that they can’t handle a large number of transfers
Wouldn’t this spawn more new private schools who look at the potential flood of state income into their coffers?   In reality, though, the basis of private schools allow them to pick and chose who attends - which can have devastating impacts on families and communities.


The Minneapolis School Board closed down Cityview, one of its public schools whose test scores were too low, it replaced Cityview with a charter school, Minneapolis School of Science. The charter school has told the families of 40 children with special needs–children with Down Syndrome and autism–that they are not wanted at the school. Clearly the schools is bouncing these children to improve their test scores.
As these tax dollars and students who seem targeted for academic success leave the school district, the school districts and parents find themselves under increased stress.
But what about students who feel trapped in these schools that struggle?  How does it work out for them?
At least 45 percent of students in Louisiana's controversial voucher program last year attended schools with performance scores in the D to F range of the state's grading scale, according to data the state released Wednesday.
The full impact of the program cannot be assessed, however, because the state released scores only for one-fifth of the 118 schools in the program. The schools for which data was provided served 2,888 of the nearly 5,000 students who used vouchers last year.

The limited data raises questions about how the high-profile program can be held accountable to taxpayers. Voucher schools are only lightly vetted on the front end, with state Superintendent John White promising in 2012 that he would hold schools accountable based on academic results. The average voucher costs $5,245, meaning possibly $11 million in state dollars went to schools with no publicly released accountability score.

The state released the scores in a report Wednesday, several days after a federal judge ruled the U.S. Department of Justice had the right to monitor the program to ensure it does not worsen racial segregation. In the political fight over the case, Gov. Bobby Jindal has said vouchers gave underprivileged children a shot at a better education.


Outside of worrying about the racial segregation that was occurring in for-profit charters that sprung up to take advantage of the program, students failed to succeed.   Why would this happen?

The answer is actually simple.   Currently existing private schools with long-standing educational track records simply don’t have the spaces available in their programs for wide expansion, and are less than interested at taking on a significant increase in student body.   In speaking with several Kansas Private catholic schools today, I found the Julian’s analysis was by and large correct – there simply aren’t enough spaces at existing schools to house students who would need to transfer.  Most private educational facilities in Kansas (and elsewhere) are not equipped in any way to deal with students who face mental or physical disabilities.

Could this lead to a drive for new construction and operation of private schools to take advantage of this tax windfall?   Most assuredly so.  This, however, doesn't offer a guarantee of academic superiority.  These new schools have no track record and therefore are less likely to be considered by those who have means creating a lower tier school program which attracts those on the hope they will represent something they are not.  To make a comparison many understand: a new Private University, if started today, isn't viewed as the same as Notre Dame or Harvard.    The standard criteria by which it is judged isn't the same, and students and parents who expect private schooling to equal academically superior are being promised something that simply cannot be delivered.

The court’s decision was greeted calmly by some Southerners, and with dismay by others. At least three Southern states—Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina—had been talking of circumventing a ban on segregation by eliminating public schools altogether.

I return to the analysis from Newsweek shortly after Brown V Board.   To circumvent equality, all you have to do is offer system that allows students to opt out with no set oversight.

From the legislation for Kansas:

Participating students are not required to take the state assessment or any other norm-referenced measure of academic performance
No guaranteed oversight.  No standard of evaluation.  No requirement for acceptance.   These tax credits in the end offer many students a mirage – a promise that they can attend the better schools that the wealthier students attend, only to find themselves involved in a bait & switch as for-profit educational facilities with limited accountability appear.


"Access to high-quality education is tied just as hard, and just as fast, to poverty and socioeconomics as it was to race," Mayor James said during a recent conference on the legacy of Brown at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.
The tax credit system in these states still ask for a significant cost burden on students.   Transportation that isn’t public.   Up to a 30% cost of tuition in states like Kansas.  And the ability to refuse students.

60 Years ago, Brown V Board offered to provide children not integration but opportunity.   Today, states move to remove opportunities from students through a series of mirages and fals promises.

Now, new private school programs can appear in states like Kansas, eager to accept tax funds using non-certified teachers in order to turn a profit.   Students who once believed that a private school tax credit would get them the best education available are just as likely to find that their dream has turned into a nightmare.

State legislators may portray the public school systems as ‘bandits’, but those who stand to profit most are those who promise parents steak, while delivering legislative spam.

We still have so far yet to go.   We are unfortunately beginning to move in the wrong direction.

1:03 PM PT: Important Update

This Saturday, May 17 marks the official anniversary of Brown V. Board.  There will be an event in Topeka for parents, teachers and others to rally for support of their schools.  

More information is here:

I've just finished taping an interview segment for NPR, I have  no idea when (or really where) that segment will air.  Also discussing Brown and Kansas education.

MSNBC is holding a roundtable this Saturday in Topeka.  As of now, I will be a member of that roundtable forum, that will be broadcast Saturday.  I'll let you know more as I know.

CBS Sunday News also plans on doing a segment this weekend, I've been informed.   Let's give them something to show  ;)

Originally posted to Kansas & Missouri Kossacks on Thu May 15, 2014 at 08:07 AM PDT.

Also republished by History for Kossacks, Teachers Lounge, and Community Spotlight.

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