School Districts: Separate But Equal?

The "Little Rock Nine" are escorted inside Little Rock Central High School by troops of the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army. Image via Wikipedia

The “Little Rock Nine” are escorted inside Little Rock Central High School by troops of the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army. Image via Wikipedia

In 1954, in Brown vs Board of Education, schools were force to be integrated with the ruling that government sanctioned segregation by race was unconstitutional.  [Emphasis mine]

Summary of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483, 74 S. Ct. 686, 98 L. Ed. 873 (1954).

Issue

  • Is the race-based segregation of children into “separate but equal” public schools constitutional?

Holding and Rule (Warren)

  • No. The race-based segregation of children into “separate but equal” public schools violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and is unconstitutional.

Segregation of children in the public schools solely on the basis of race denies to black children the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, even though the physical facilities and other may be equal. Education in public schools is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.

Separating black children from others solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone. The impact of segregation is greater when it has the sanction of law. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn. Segregation with the sanction of law tends to impede the educational and mental development of black children and deprives them of some of the benefits they would receive in an integrated school system. Whatever may have been the extent of psychological knowledge at the time of Plessy v. Ferguson, this finding is amply supported by modern authority and any language to the contrary in Plessy v. Ferguson is rejected.

How does this case still relate today?

Currently school district and school boundaries are set by zip code and street level addresses depending on population density, political determinations and other factors.  This allows segregation, intentional or not, between social strata and in many instances on race due to social strata.

The social strata segregation leads to the obvious question based on Brown vs Board of Education.  Is separate but equal unconstitutional, not based solely on race, but based on segregation by social strata?

First let’s look at the separate argument.

A district based system by definition is separated and secondly is government sanctioned separation.  From Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

an area established by a government for official government business

How do these government defined districts match up on equality?

The chart below shows the 5 highest and 5 lowest per student based expenditures by district:

Highest

Lowest

Seneca Township High School District 160

$25,290

  Paris-Union School District 95

$6,015

Rondout School District 72

$25,190

  Field Community Consolidated School District 3

$6,285

Ford Heights School District 169

$25,165

  Aviston School District 21

$6,470

Sunset Ridge School District 29

$22,680

  Allendale Community Consolidated School District 17

$6,470

Niles Township Charter High School District 219

$22,550

  Germantown School District 60

$6,515

Source: Illinois State Board of Education School Report Cards

The chart above shows some districts have expenditures 4 times what other districts spend per student. This is clearly not equal.  In essence we have separate and unequal schools.

Taking the Brown vs. Board of Education and replacing the word black with poor, and race with poverty, let’s see how the ruling would read.

Separating poor children from others solely because of their poverty generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone. The impact of segregation is greater when it has the sanction of law. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn. Segregation with the sanction of law tends to impede the educational and mental development of poor children and deprives them of some of the benefits they would receive in an integrated school system.

As you see, the cases are comparable when social strata is equated to race, and equating poor to black.  This comparison is a very real possibility by seeing the dynamics in many inner city schools and districts.

In the paper, “Do poor children become poor adults?” it is shown there is a high correlation of poor adults not being able to escape poverty as adults and the trend continuing across generations. The opposite is also true, rich children tend to become rich adults.

In the United States almost one half of children born to low income parents become low income adults. This is an extreme case, but the fraction is also high in the United Kingdom at four in ten, and Canada where about one-third of low income children do not escape low income in adulthood.

In the conclusions it is readily apparent that generation mobility is greatly influenced by educational opportunities of parents, i.e. each generation can move further out of the cycle of poverty.

Generational mobility is associated with more per student spending on education if the underlying structure of the education system has a preference for those from the least advantaged backgrounds. Countries differ significantly in the impact that education spending has on generational mobility, and more spending could amplify rather then diminish the differences between advantaged and disadvantaged children. These differences have their roots in the more subtle advantages highly educated parents are able to pass on to their children: skills, beliefs and motivation arising from an advantaged family culture and parenting style. These non monetary factors determine the strength of the relationship between a child’s cognitive skills in adulthood and their parents’ education, which in turn is also associated with the degree of generational mobility in a society. Societies leveling these influences across the population display a higher degree of generational mobility.

Given the fact that educational opportunities are a significant factor in allowing students to move out of poverty, how can trapping children in failing schools because of their social strata be moral for a society, especially a first world country like the United States.  Specifically here in Illinois, how can the state justify continuing the cycle of poverty by keeping students in the inner city of Chicago, the poor students in Waukegan, Rockford, East St. Louis or other communities inside their separate and unequal school districts? This should not be justified or allowed to continue.

How do we make schools equal given the current district model where we now have separate and unequal funding?

There is only one way to remedy this situation in a way be financially sustainable and end generations of poverty. That solution is to end the school boundary and school district boundary model. They are archaic models given the personal and mass transit present in our communities today.

Given the political realities today, it appears this can only be accomplished via a lawsuit taken all the way to the US Supreme Court.  Brown vs Board of Education is the model case and should allow easily arguments proving school districts are separate and unequal and thus unconstitutional. 

The school district model is archaic given our personal and mass transit options in our communities today. School districts are perpetuating the separating and unequal schools that are limiting educational opportunities based on social strata segregation.  Parental school choice eliminates the generational perpetuation of social strata segregation caused by school districts.  Schools must allow the parents and students to freely choose a education program that best fits their education style, inclinations and aspirations.  

Just as race based segregation was ended decades ago, it is now time to end social strata segregation and truly give all children the education opportunities they need to end generational poverty.

 

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About Lennie Jarratt

Small Business Owner, Education Watchdog, FOIA expert, Founder of For Our Children's Future

Comments

  1. School funding is one of the least correlated variables to student success out there. You want to see liberals get upset quickly, tell them their precious ones will have to go to school with poor black kids. The Democrats would lose what remains of their white support overnight.

  2. The issue is riddled with fraud and politics but it is clear that a good Education does not cost $12K – $25K annually per student in K-12. The Parochial and Private Programs operate at less the $7K annually and produce a superior outcome to any of the Public School Systems. More importantly today every child can get a World Class Education for Junior High and above via “Virtual Schools” that reduce the per student cost below $4K per student annually. More importantly the progress is measured continuously allowing for immediate assistance and superb outcomes. This system has no discrimination in any aspect and provides every child a truly World Class Education. And it lowers the Taxpayer costs and Property Taxes immensely. If the criminals of the Public Sector could ever be addressed millions of children could be saved. Clearly the failed US Public Education System serves it purpose for the Public Sector but it destroys lives and increases the poverty of risks of all citizens.

  3. concerned taxpayer says:

    To be fair, though, school funding would have to be disconnected from property taxes. People who live in affluent areas who pay through the nose in property taxes would deeply resent “paying” for other people’s children, especially if those kids lived in areas where property taxes were much lower. I don’t know how you would solve the problem of overcrowding in good schools if children living outside the district were allowed to go there too. Relying exclusively on property taxes may once have started out as a good idea, but it has created many inequities.

  4. izzy cohen says:

    I guess the bigger question is – who cares? If parents want a better education for their children they should pay for it. This whole public education idea is ridiculous. the idea that your neighbor shoudl be forced to pay to educate your child is unconscionable.

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