Continuing the Legacy of Brown

By Genevieve Siegel-Hawley

Earlier this year, North Carolina’s Wake County School Board ignited a firestorm by deciding to end the practice of student assignment by socioeconomic status. The district’s return to the neighborhood school concept led to vigorous protests by state and national groups, including the NAACP. The mayor of Raleigh, among others, has even threatened a lawsuit.

The emotions and actions evoked by Wake’s decision certainly demonstrate that the wounds of segregation have not healed in this country.

Many if not most national education, civil rights, and political leaders believe that racial segregation produces unequal opportunities for minority students. They say it will only widen the achievement gap between white students and minorities at a time when schools are struggling to close it.

One such leader is President Obama. “Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools,” he declared while campaigning for the presidency in 2008. “We still haven’t fixed them, 50 years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today’s black and white students.”

Obama’s words reflected a moment of political candor on an issue that still deeply divides us. In an era of educational policy largely defined by standards and accountability, school choice, and merit pay for teachers, a dream continues to be deferred.

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