This blog post is by ICPE member Raymond Golarz, a long-time educator and co-author of the book The Problem Isn't Teachers.
In 2013 I was appointed to the Indiana General Assembly’s Study Committee on Economic Development by Speaker Brian Bosma. I was to represent K-12 Indiana schools. As I spoke to leaders across the state, I was presented with what they believed to be evidence that Indiana’s school voucher program was, in pockets throughout the State, violating the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954—the decision declaring unconstitutional State actions that promote racially segregated schools. One afternoon in a community meeting in the eastern part of the state a participant stood and exclaimed, “What we are doing is promoting and sanctioning white flight.” In October of 2013 in the Statehouse, in committee, I delivered my findings both verbally and in written form. To this date nothing has been done to correct this violation of the Brown decision.
American public schools were established to provide all children with the tools and knowledge necessary to perpetuate the democracy. Over time, a set of conditions has weakened the functioning of our schools. Some are as follows. First, we have allowed massive wealth to accumulate to the few and thus have left increasing numbers of Americans without the necessary resources to meaningfully raise and educate their children. Second, our Supreme Court, although well intentioned, rendered a set of decisions in the 70’s expanding the rights of school age children, but providing nothing to ensure for the responsible execution of such rights, thus crushing in classrooms across this country the atmosphere of civility essential for meaningful learning to occur. Third, extensive and necessary rights were established for the handicapped, but essential funding for such provisions never took place and classrooms again suffered. Finally, our nation continues to be a nation of racial injustice and prejudice, the consequences of which spill into tens of thousands of classrooms every day. These are the true and principal causes of failing schools. These are the issues an enlightened nation needs to address, if we are to save our schools and the democracy.
Instead, political and economic powerbrokers, not having the courage or will to address these issues, have created a scapegoat—teachers. This ruse was mainly created by the American Legislative Exchange Council. This political organization has continued to use the misleading results of flawed tests designed by the billion dollar testing empire to inaccurately place the blame for failing public schools on teachers. The published results of these tests are nothing more than a sham. Testing, vouchers, charters and the grading of schools are the principal strategies used to mislead the public regarding the real issues.
In 2002, the Supreme Court rendered an additional decision which may have been the final death blow to public schools. In Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, it decreed school voucher money could be used for tuition at both private and religious schools. The two-hundred-year American curtain of separation of church and state was torn from top to bottom. Private school attendance for those simply wanting to avoid public schools now became a sanctioned option—a way around the restrictions and obligations that the nation imposed on its own public schools.
Zelman v. Simmons-Harris does not override the Brown decision. The Brown decision is still the law of the land. Segregation of the races by vouchers or any means cannot be tolerated. I warned the committee in 2013 that Indiana was economically vulnerable should any entity file suit in Federal court. The Supreme Court in its rendering in 1954 was clear. Segregation of the races is not only unconstitutional, it is immoral.