chapter  7
29 Pages

Education and the Law: Toward Conquest or Social Justice


Public education is under siege, and the hard-won gains of past generations are being eroded by judicial decisions and neoliberal government policies. For the past 150 years, social movements and the cumulative efforts of individuals, within and across AfricanAmerican, Latino, Native-American, and selective White communities, have been instrumental in struggling for/attaining the legal, social, and economic rights to insure equality in education at all levels. These historic gains-from the establishment of Freedmen’s Bureau Schools and universal public education in the late 1800s, and mandated desegregation of public schools via Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954, to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, including the enactment of the Bilingual Education Act in 1968 and implementation of af rmative action policies throughout the 1970s-are systematically being rescinded in courts of law, and this is being justi ed by retrograde marketdriven, color-blind ideology. Current legislation is undermining past legal mandates: No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB, 2001) privatizes public education, Proposition 209 in California in 1996, the Hopwood Decision in Texas (1996), Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978), Grutter v. Bollinger (2003) in Michigan, and other cases bolster the elimination of af rmative action. Proposition 227 and local mandates require English-only instruction, dismantle bilingual education, or delegitimate languages other than English. The most recent judicial assault on democratic efforts to attain equal, desegregated education was the Supreme Court decision on June 28th, 2007. This ruling limits, prohibits, and revokes the right to use race or ethnicity to implement voluntary integration plans in educational institutions, and will have devastating consequences on the long-term amelioration of racial inequality.