On May 14, 1954, U.S. Chief Justice Earl Warren delivered the unanimous opinion of the Supreme Court in the case of Brown v. Board of Education, stating “We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal . . .”
We honor those who fought for this decision 60 years ago, which was a turning point in the struggle for civil rights, but we have so much further to go.
- Fifty-four percent of African Americans graduate from high school, compared to more than three-quarters of white and Asian students.
- Nationally, African American male students in grades K-12 were nearly 2½ times as likely to be suspended from school in 2000 as white students.
- In 2007, nearly 6.2 million young people were high school dropouts. Every student who does not complete high school costs our society an estimated $260,000 in lost earnings, taxes, and productivity.
- On average, African American 12th-grade students read at the same level as white 8th-grade students.
- The 12th-grade reading scores of African American males were significantly lower than those for men and women across every other racial and ethnic group.
- Only 14 percent of African American 8th graders score at or above the proficient level. These results reveal that millions of young people cannot understand or evaluate text, provide relevant details or support inferences about the written documents they read. (statistics from Tavis Smiley)
We must fight and work to end racism in education, mass incarceration and senseless death due to violence. One who is disenfranchised is not the only one who suffers from a failed system – all of humanity suffers.
People throughout the world are still fighting for the freedom and opportunities that an education affords – we must support all efforts to find the Nigerian girls whom the Boko Haram militants have claimed to have taken from their families and their schooling.
Article X of our Illinois Constitution states that: “A fundamental goal of the People of the State is the educational development of all persons to the limits of their capacities. The State shall provide for an efficient system of high quality public educational institutions and services. Education in public schools through the secondary level shall be free.”
At this time, when we honor the fight that resulted in the Brown v. Board of Education decision, let us come together in our own fight for equal educational opportunities for all.