Rothstein’s line of thinking, while popular, suffers from deep flaws.
For one thing, per-pupil spending has increased roughly four-fold in real dollars since Brown was decided, but the bulk of those funds have been absorbed by school bureaucracies rather than spent on behalf of students.
If this seems harsh, recall that the Ku Klux Klan was one of the two most active national lobbies on behalf of this schooling model (the other was the National Education Association).
For Native American children, government-funded boarding schools were used to involuntarily immerse students into Anglo-Saxon culture.
Beginning in 1976, state courts overwhelmingly held that students could not sue schools for educational malpractice.
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Courts also rejected arguments that school choice could be a solution to a legacy of discrimination (1968), or that suburbs should be required to offer buses for urban students to attend successful suburban schools (1974).Political leaders of the time were typically white Anglo-Saxon Protestants who believed in racial eugenics as government policy, and who expressed open contempt for the cultures and capabilities of African Americans, Native Americans, Catholics, Jews, and Chinese and ethnic European immigrants.Consistent with these racial beliefs, education leaders designed neighborhood schools to be factories for a race-based system, with outcomes calibrated according to social class.Bureaucratic lawsuits against reform continue to be filed in The optimists, however, may finally be right that the judicial tide is turning.Judges have dealt setbacks to union-backed lawsuits against school reform in Florida, Louisiana, and New York City.This bigoted education movement was not entirely successful in wiping out educational diversity. Society of Sisters (1925), the Supreme Court considered an Oregon law that prohibited private schooling.Oregon’s law had been opposed by minority and civil rights groups, but narrowly won a 1922 statewide referendum due to backing from public school teachers and the Ku Klux Klan, who argued that “these mongrel hordes must be Americanized.” Similar initiatives, also grounded in white supremacy, were poised to move forward in other states pending the resolution of Oregon’s court battle.This pessimism misunderstands the way the Court works.For one thing, doctrinal changes often confound “liberal” or “conservative” labels.Although the Supreme Court affirmed the state’s interest in using education law to “foster a homogeneous people,” the unanimous ruling also decreed that “the child is not the mere creature of the state.” Thus, the Court held that Oregon’s law violated the constitutional rights of parents, students, and private schools.For parents who could not afford private schools, however, the courts offered little help. Ferguson (1896) approvingly cited Massachusetts in holding that political majorities had a legitimate interest in keeping races separate.