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Monday, April 28, 2014

Before there was a United States Department of Education

Long before there was a United States Department of Education, the Federal government did something about inequality in our public schools. Our supreme did something before compromising away equity in our public schools.

1954 The Supreme Court rules on the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kans., unanimously agreeing that segregation in public schools is unconstitutional. The ruling paves the way for large-scale desegregation. The decision overturns the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson ruling that sanctioned "separate but equal" segregation of the races, ruling that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." It is a victory for NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall, who will later return to the Supreme Court as the nation's first black justice.

1957 (Little Rock, Ark.) Formerly all-white Central High School learns that integration is easier said than done. Nine black students are blocked from entering the school on the orders of Governor Orval Faubus. President Eisenhower sends federal troops and the National Guard to intervene on behalf of the students, who become known as the "Little Rock Nine."

1962 James Meredith becomes the first black student to enroll at the University of Mississippi. Violence and riots surrounding the incident cause President Kennedy to send 5,000 federal troops.

1974 Lau v. Nichols U.S. Supreme Court: When children arrive in school with little or no English-speaking ability, "sink or swim" instruction is a violation of their civil rights, according to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

The United States Department of Education policies continues to chase test scores and standards rather than lead the fight for equity and justice in our public schools. The silence of our U.S. Department of Education on equity is shameful. Mr. President, members of Congress and the Senate, it's time to start doing something about inequality, and dump those do nothings NCLB, RTTT, CCSS, PARCC and SBAC. Once you stood by a six-year old little girl named Ruby Bridges, and we respected and loved you for it. Morality matters more than test scores. Isn't it time you started standing by our children again?
Love you Ruby,
Jesse The Walking Man Turner

If your wondering what the Walking Man is listening to on this bright April morning it "People Get Ready" by the Impressions


  1. When was the Federal Department of Education established? Was it prior to 1954? I am not sure about your point in this article.

  2. The Department of Education Organization Act (Public Law 96-88) and signed into law by President Jimmy Carter on October 17, 1979, it began operating on May 4, 1980. Before this we have an office of education not a cabinet level department. My view on this at first was finally, but as presidential politics often does it turn into a political talking points department, and has become less a public schools advocate, and more a president's make look good department. The way I see it presidents made more critical decisions before it became a cabinet level department.
    Just my opinion on this Susan. Thank you for commenting and asking a great thought provoking question.