Are we in better shape 60-years later?
By Chinta Strausberg
In just a year, America will celebrate the 60th anniversary of two key U.S. Supreme Court decisionsâ€”Brown v. the Board of Education that legally struck down segregated schools and the laws that sanctioned that racist and unequal system and the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act made possible by the Brown case that struck down laws legalizing racism.
The NAACP is to be applauded for the ultimate ruling of the May 17, 1954 U.S. Supreme Court that ruled against segregated schoolsâ€”a case that overturned the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson law that allowed states to sanction segregated schools.
The NAACP began its fight to end segregated schools decades before this historic case was taken to the U.S. Supreme Court, and while I believe this civil rights agency will take the lead for these two key anniversary events, I am hoping that those responsible will begin to tell their story of this long and hard fought battle for equality.
For historical reasons, I am hope that the children, Linda and Cheryl, of Oliver L. Brown, who filed the case on behalf of one of 13 parents Topeka, Kansas parents chosen by the NAACP to enroll his children in white schools as a test case, will speak out publicly on this ruling that literally changed the entire educational system in America and the souls of this nation.
Back then; Mr. Brownâ€™s school district operated on an 1879 Kansas law, which legalized, on a voluntary basis in 12 communities and only those having a population of 12,000 people or more, separate schools for black and white students. The High Court victory gave courage and conviction to others seeking equality in this country.
The Brown v. Board of Education became a warring cry for other non-black groups wanting to end separate and unequal rights especially the women, gay rights and other groups who took up and sang black civil rights songs and tactics to gain equal footing in America.
Even Chinese students in 1989 held the infamous Tiananmen Square protests where hundreds were killed and thousands injured by soldiers. How can we forget their singing â€œWe Shall Overcomeâ€ in Chinese as the military tanks ran over them. The black experience of slavery and discrimination have helped so many movements in this country and abroad, but the current state of black America is troubling some 60-years later.
While we will have a year to honor and remember on whose shoulders we stand today as far as public education is concerned, we will not only have to re-examine the current state of public education in Chicago where more than 50 public schools are being closed while Charter schools are opening but across the nation. There are so many unanswered questions, so much unfairness and still too many segregated schools. The question is why?
With public schools primarily being black and brown, we have to look at why test scores are so low. We have to examine why the dropout rate is so high especially among African Americans. We have to find out why truant officers were removed from CPS and where are the reported 60,000 missing students who dropped out and simply disappeared from the boardâ€™s radar screen. Why isnâ€™t there a tracking system and why hasnâ€™t the law been changed to prevent students 17 and younger from dropping out of school because 16 is just too young?
We need to know why civics was removed from the curriculum as well as home economics, which needs to be taught to girls and boys as part of growing up, becoming self-sufficient and good parents. We need to fight for technical courses to be included in all curricula and have each school equal to the magnet schools.
We need to begin the fight to restructure the school funding formula where those high-income parents who pay more taxes get better and more up-to-date school resources. There has to be a better way rather than to short-change poor black and brown students who simply want an equal education and equal opportunities that after nearly 60-years they were supposed to be entitled to.
We need to begin to ask questions about the TIF (Tax Increment Financing) fund that originally was supposed to be a mechanism to finance development predicated on property taxes that were generated within the TIF district. It sounds great especially for struggling minority businessmen and women who need a helping hand to stay afloat especially since the percentage of black contracts still remain in the single digit unlike the double digits during the Mayor Harold Washington era.
We need to ask about the state law that requires the TIFâ€™s to be used for developing blighted or deteriorating communities. After all, wasnâ€™t that the original intent for creating the TIF? Has that law been modified? I know the city of Chicago has since expanded the use of TIFâ€™s to include areas that are not only already economically developed but also stabled unlike the blighted communities.
So with Chicago having 30 percent TIF districts and once again black and brown communities are getting the short stick of these funds, we need to ask the $64 million question: Is it true that in each TIF district funds are taken from the public school taxing body and given to Charter schools and is this amount more than $250 million?
Is it true that there is about $1.7 billion sitting in the TIF funds and if so can those funds be transferred to the CPS budget since it is suffering from a more than $1 billion deficit? Are not our public schools blighted and deteriorating which are some of the reasons they are being closed?
And, since school construction projects are sometimes paid out of the TIF program, we need to ask which schools received these funds, the amount of money and more important the ethnic makeup of the construction crew as well as which prime was chosen and by whom.
We need to address the question should public schools be paying for a private education especially for former CPS students? Iâ€™m told that the money follows the student and if that is true isnâ€™t that robbing the public schools of much needed funds?
Yes, parents have a right to send their children to a private school, but then they should do as my parents and grandparents did PAY FOR IT THEMSELVES and not WITH TAXPAYERS MONEY.
For the past 60-years, we have made great civil rights gains thanks to our Civil Rights leaders especially Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who literally gave his own life for the cause.
And, yes, itâ€™s been 40-years since the infamous and histrionic Alabama Gov. George Wallace surrounded by police attempted to block the admission of Vivian Malone Jones and James Hood, two black students seeking to integrate the University of Alabama on June 11, 1963.
Wallace, who has since died and reportedly apologized, had a battle cry for his supporters, â€œsegregation now,â€ â€œsegregation tomorrowâ€ and â€œsegregation forever.â€ The Brown vs. Board of Education dashed his dreams and leveled the playing field.
We need to address these and other issues before the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education and not just talk about the past. We need to unite and craft an approved agenda then fight for a real change. We need to take the politics out of public education for this restructuring is standing in the schoolhouse door and blocking the equal education our High Court approved.
Every child should have updated books and other resources not just those whose parents pay higher taxes. We owe that to this beloved city of Chicago but more important to our precious students who are our leaders for tomorrow. The elected official who reaches these goals will be office for life for it would be a true sign of leadership for all people and not just for a chosen few.
Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: Chintabernie@aol.com.