ALLEN: School Choice Can Fulfill The Promise Of Brown V. Board Of Education

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Denisha Allen Contributor
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In 1954, the Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, declaring segregation in public schools unconstitutional. This historic decision was supposed to end the injustice of “separate but equal” educational facilities, paving the way for a more inclusive society where every child, regardless of race, could access quality education.

However, almost 70 years later, we must confront a stark reality: the promise of Brown remains unfulfilled despite efforts to forcibly desegregate schools. Public schools today remain highly segregated by race and, sadly, also by socioeconomic status. The unintended consequences could be remedied if it were not for hypocritical politicians who for decades have turned their backs on their constituents and sided with the teachers unions. Rather than relying on forced integration, which hasn’t worked, our true hope lies in educational freedom.

Research from Stanford University reveals a troubling rise in school segregation over the last thirty years, particularly in the largest public school districts that predominantly enroll students of color. From 1991 to 2019, the segregation gap between Black and white students widened significantly. This trend is particularly noticeable in districts with at least 2,500 Black students, where the rise corresponds to a 25 percent jump from previously low segregation levels. The situation is even more severe in the nation’s 100 largest school districts, home to nearly four in ten Black students, where segregation surged by 64 percent.

This ongoing segregation is not enforced by law; rather, it is a consequence of a complex interplay of socioeconomic factors, residential zoning patterns, and educational districting that consistently disadvantages marginalized communities.

New Jersey public schools are currently embroiled in a lawsuit concerning segregation in the state’s public schools. Central to this legal challenge is the state’s residency law, which relegates students to schools based on ZIP codes. Rather than promoting educational freedom, I am sure the court will opt to explore solutions to desegregate schools without overhauling the existing system. I wish we’d learn from history. Putting more money into a broken system has not improved public education`.

In America, your assigned school often depends on your address. We’ve even made it illegal for parents to send their child to a school outside their assigned school district without prior permission. Families desperate to enroll their children in a better school have even faced jail sentences for daring to buck these unfair laws. But why does your address determine your school in the first place?

In the 1930s, redlining was used to describe how some neighborhoods were marked with red lines to show that banks shouldn’t lend money there. This usually happened in areas where many Black people and other minorities lived.

Even though redlining was banned in 1968, the effects are still felt today. Neighborhoods that were redlined often have fewer resources, like lower-quality schools and parks, and the homes aren’t worth as much. It is not by chance that today’s school district boundaries correspond closely with the areas marked by the color-coded maps of the 1930s.

Legalized segregation under this form permits the government yet again to relegate Black and brown families to poor performing schools. It seems odd to me that progressive politicians and advocates don’t fight to overthrow the racist school zoning policies that are rooted in redlining. The most advantaged families already have school choice. Higher-income families and politicians often can afford to live in neighborhoods with the best public schools or send their own children to private and charter schools, all while opposing education freedom polices.

In the face of this challenge, my hope for redefining the education system lies in education freedom. Teachers unions and bureaucrats hate it because parents can choose which school receives the money allocated for their child’s education. We must reject the tiresome platitudes from politicians who claim support for freedom in education “defunds public education.” More states should give power back to families to choose the best education option for their children.

Education freedom can fulfill the promise of Brown v. Board, not just for students but also educators. The essence of school choice is freedom — the freedom for parents to choose, for teachers to innovate, and for students to thrive in environments that best suit their individual needs. Black school founders are not just participating in this movement; they are at the forefront, championing the creation of educational spaces that not only meet academic standards but nurture cultural identity, community cohesion, and holistic development.

The commitment of Brown v. Board extended beyond simply abolishing legal segregation. It aimed to guarantee that every American child could access a high-quality education without the barriers of discrimination. It’s not too late to extend the opportunities of education freedom to every child. We know the path forward. It’s time to put quality K-12 options within reach of every American family.

Denisha Allen is Senior Fellow at the American Federation for Children and the founder of Black Minds Matter.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.