Week thirty-two  
Education Equity - Part 1:

During the 1950s, the Civil Rights Movement celebrated a milestone with the passage of Brown v. Board of Education which ruled segregated schools were unconstitutional for discriminating against students of color. The fight for access to quality education continued decades later and required the passage of Title I (1965), Title IX (1972) and other laws to ensure adequate funding. However, discrimination against race, sex or class persisted de facto.  Today, we are still dealing with education inequities that divide those who live in poverty from affluent households, creating an educational divide between the haves and the have-nots.

Despite what's commonly believed, equal education and education equity are not the same thing.  Equal education has more to do with access to good resources and opportunities, but education equity is about leveling the playing field for those who need the resources most to receive a quality education.  1

While one might expect schools in low-income communities to receive extra resources, the reverse is often true. A Department of Education study found that 45% of high-poverty schools received less state and local funding than was typical for other schools in their district.  2

Listen to Jaclyn Suffel, Field Manager for the Tennessee Educational Equity Coalition, give her perspective on how we can deal with the disparities in education today and how we all can play a role in achieving equity so that all children can benefit from a quality education. 

Before 2009, schools were not required to track per-student expenditures from state or federal funding under Title I, but were required to provide info on district-wide salaries, not on the school level, especially those schools with the highest needs. Plus, the schools did not decide their budgets, district officials did.  With the passage of the American Recover and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) in 2009, funding can be applied using a school-wide or targeted assistance model where schools can now access federal funds to turn around low-performing schools, upgrade the curriculum, provide teacher support activities, expand learning activities and more. 3

Citizens must "follow the money" and hold school administrators and elected officials accountable to maintaining and complying with federal laws for education equity. Children are depending on decisionmakers to do the right thing to ensure they have the best educational opportunities possible.

1  " Equity and Equality Are Not Equal," by Blair Mann, The Education Trust, March 12, 2014

2   "Comparability of State and Local Expenditures Among Schools Within Districts: A Report From the Study of School-Level Expenditures," Prepared for U.S. Department of Education Office of Planning Evaluation and Policy Development by Ruth Heuer and Stephanie Stullich. 2011.

"The Money You Don't Know You Have for School Turnaround: Maximizing the Title I Schoolwide Model," by Melissa Junge and Sheara Krvaric.  Mass Insight Education. July 2013 

Follow the Money!

  1. In the video above, Jaclyn Suffel shared her thoughts on how we can help level the playing field for education equity. Check out the next school board election schedule in your area and learn about the candidates and their platforms. 
  2. Attend your district's school board meeting or visit the district webpage to find out allocations for schools that need them the most. See the spending per student, by school district map to learn how funds are distributed in your area and speak out where there may be unmet needs.
  3. Discover different ways to advocate for justice and share them with us on our 50 Weeks of Action Facebook Group page.

School Desegregation: 
A Look at Brown v. Board of Education 

Linda Brown, Age 8.
Photo: Emaze.com
In Topeka, Kansas in 1954, 8-year-old Linda Brown 
walked a long way and  rode a bus to go to a school with other African American students. She liv ed just four blocks from a neighborhood school, attended onl y by white children. Her parents thought she should be able to go to their neighborhood school. But at that time, it was not allowed. This was because of segregation, or separating people based on the color of their skin. Linda Brown's family decided to take this issue to court. This historic court case became known as Brown v. Board of Education .

In 1896, in a case called Plessy v. Ferguson, the  courts ruled that separation of people was constitutional (or allowed under the U.S. Constitution), as long as the facilities were equal. This case was about segregated railroad cars. This became known as the "Separate but Equal" ruling.  

Almost 60 years later, Thurgood Marshall, a lawy er who later became  the first African American Supreme Court Justice, helped the Brown family file the Brown v. Board case. Marshall defended Linda Brown's right to integrate a local public school and her right to equal education. In doing so, they stood up against segregation.

Thurgood Marshall (middle) celebrates victory in
Brown v. Board of Education.  Photo: History.com
In 1955, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of
Education that segregation was unconstitutional and that separate could not be equal. The Supreme Court ruled that public schools should desegregate "with all deliberate speed." Many southern states resisted, or fought this change t oward equality. People who made decisions, in southern states wanted to maintain segregated schools. It took many years for all states to desegregate schools.  Once desegregation was finally accomplished throughout the U.S., more parents could freely choose where their children would go to school.   
Linda Brown's family won the case. This was a victory not only for Linda Brown, not only for African Americans, but for all who believed in justice and equal rights.

Front page of The Topeka State Journal.  
Photo: Kansas Historical Society 
to learn more about the case that outlawed school segregation or to see primary documents from the trial, click here .
To learn what it means to be an Upstander, like  Linda Brown and Thurgood Marshall, click below.

Were you or family members affected by the inequality of education in the school system? Do you have a child in the school system and you're taking action to ensure that he/she receives the best education? What solutions are helping? Help someone else. Share your story. #MLK50