AFT's Weingarten: "The legacy of Brown v. Board of Education is to create the opportunities in our public schools so that all kids, of all races and income levels, can succeed."
TOPEKA, KAN.—Racial and socioeconomic inequality remains in public schools today, 60 years after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision that desegregated public schools, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said today, in anticipation of the AFT's commemorative events in Topeka on Saturday. Parents, teachers, students and community members are staging other activities in cities across the country, including Boston; Chicago; Newark, N.J.; Philadelphia and St. Paul, Minn.
"The decision 60 years ago was a moral and legal imperative, but today we have segregated schools based on poverty. The legacy of Brown v. Board of Education is to create the opportunities in our public schools so that all kids, of all races and income levels, can succeed," Weingarten said.
Weingarten, Lucinda Noches Talbert (granddaughter of plaintiff Lucinda Todd), civil rights leaders, teachers, parents, students and hundreds of others will be marching from the Brown v. Board of Education historic museum in Topeka to a rally at the state Capitol Saturday. The case originated in Topeka, where Linda Brown attempted to enroll in Sumner Elementary School; but the request was rejected, forcing her to attend the all-black Monroe Elementary further from her home.
"Today's moral imperative is to give our kids a great public education system by fixing—not closing—neighborhood public schools," Weingarten said. "All kids need safe, welcoming neighborhood schools that offer an engaging, well-rounded curriculum that includes art and music, expanded early childhood education programs, resources and support for teachers, and wraparound services provided in schools to help disadvantaged kids and families overcome the effects of poverty."
Efforts to overcome income inequality in education are being thwarted by elected officials' insistence on mass school closings, austerity budgets that starve public schools, ineffective privatization alternatives, discipline policies that increase the school-to-prison pipeline, and a fixation on testing.
"Kansas, ground zero for the Brown case, still has separate school systems based on poverty. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and his legislative followers are embarking on a full-on attack on public education that continues to hurt poor children," Weingarten said.
In Chicago; Newark, N.J; and Philadelphia, for example, school closings and other so-called reforms have enraged entire communities and have had a disproportionate impact on students of color.
The AFT's Share My Lesson digital collection of lesson plans has a special collection of resources about the Brown case for teachers and others.
Also, the AFT is running an ad in USA Today and radio ads around the country, urging the public to help reclaim the promise of public education.