May 17 marked the 59th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education, which unanimously held that the segregation of children in public schools violated the Fourteenth Amendment. The court found that segregated schools were in violation because they provided unequal opportunities, negatively impacting poor and minority students relegated to under resourced schools.
This decision upheld the spirit of the Declaration of Independence and the founding principles of our country—that all individuals deserve an equal opportunity “…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” notes the opening passage of the Declaration. “With certain unalienable Rights… Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness…” Fundamental to the quest of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is the chance to receive an excellent education—the foundation needed to achieve and succeed in our society.
Brown v. Board of Education was an attempt to correct the unfortunate inequalities that have existed since our country was founded centuries ago. Since then we have looked to cases like Brown and legislation such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to level the playing field and recognize each of us not as black, brown, white or other but simply as Americans.
Since stepping into office President Obama has charged us all to work towards a country that is “more fair, more just, and more equal for every single child of God.” This has been recently evident in his “Preschool for All” proposal which calls on the Administration to partner with states in making access to high-quality early learning a reality for every four-year-old in America. A zip code should never predetermine the quality of any child’s educational opportunities. Yet studies show that children from low-income families are less likely to have access to high-quality early education, and less likely to enter school prepared to thrive in school.
Nearly 60 years since the Brown v. Board of Education decision, however, African American students continue to lack equal access to a high quality education and still lag far behind their white peers in reading and math proficiency, high school graduation rates, and college completion.
While much work has already been done to ensure all students, have a high quality education, there is still much more work to do and we are making improvements. A decade ago, 2.6 million students attended so-called, “dropout factories”. Today, there are a million fewer students attending these chronically failing schools.
At the President’s direction, The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans is working to uplift the promise of Brown and is eagerly supporting the president’s continued commitment to investing in African American students, and the institutions and the individuals that educate them.
For more information please visit: http://www.ed.gov/edblogs/whieeaa/
Andrew Edghill is a Senior Political Science student at Savannah State University. He is currently a Summer Intern with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans.