Fulfilling Brown’s Promise

By Saba Bireda

This year, as we mark the 70th anniversary of the Brown decision, schools are at least as racially segregated as they were in the late 1960s and students of color continue to be systematically excluded from schools with greater resources. Schools and districts with high numbers of students of color and students living in poverty are under-funded, over-reliant on novice teachers, and less likely to provide rigorous coursework.

Yet we know that diverse schools work. Integration is one of the most successful education reforms of the last century, and is a core component of an efficient, adequate, and equitable system of public education. America’s first attempt at large-scale school desegregation resulted in significant improvements in academic and life outcomes for Black students and Hispanic students by meaningfully improving access to resources. Yet, in most regions of the country, states and districts have abandoned efforts to integrate schools.

“Integration 1.0” had many challenges—challenges that we can learn from—but integration is necessary to achieve equity in the educational resources offered to historically underserved students. Even the most progressive school-funding policies frequently cannot overcome the school district boundaries that segregate and isolate students by race and socioeconomic class. Without addressing these borders, leaders will struggle to achieve resource equity, because

  1. it is expensive to sufficiently fund schools mired by intense poverty;
  2. segregation requires substantial redistribution; and
  3. segregation ensures funding equity is not resource equity, as the deeply segregated districts and schools serving students of color and students from low-income families are the same schools that experience the most teacher churn, offer the fewest advanced courses, and rely most heavily on exclusionary discipline.

We should never stop advocating for more money in schools and districts that serve high concentrations of students living in poverty and students of color. But it’s time to stop assuming that the borders and boundaries that create that concentration of poverty and racial isolation in the first place are set in stone. We also must harness the energy and expertise from the often siloed fields of school finance and school desegregation into an integrated approach to education equity advocacy and litigation.

Brown’s Promise, which I co-founded, seeks to catalyze a new wave of litigation, advocacy, and communications dedicated to supporting racially and socioeconomically diverse, well-resourced schools that are safe, affirming, and prepare each student for success. We will do this work in partnership with state and community-based advocates, ensuring that our strategies always seek to center the experiences of the students, families, and communities that have been historically foreclosed from opportunity in this country.

The Supreme Court said in 1954 that “separate but equal” has no place in public education, yet seven decades later the reality is that many of America’s students continue to have separate and unequal access to educational opportunities. If we want to prepare students of every race to thrive in an increasingly diverse, interconnected world, children from all backgrounds need to learn together in excellent, well-resourced, diverse schools led by diverse educators.

Saba Bireda is co-founder of Brown’s Promise.

Distinct by Design » Fulfilling Brown’s Promise

Learn how to become a Nationally Certified Magnet School

Raise the level of performance consistent throughout school districts nationwide and creates a platform from which all magnet schools can flourish. Magnet Schools of America’s national certification process is designed to recognize the hard work of the best magnet schools in the nation and to help them as they grow.

Translate »