Unequal Access to Education in the USA

School Law Research Paper 

Greg Spence Wolf 

Unequal Access to Education in the USA 

August 26, 2017 

City University -Tacoma 

Alt Routes to Certification 

EDU 321 School Law for Teachers 

Professor Thom Dramer 

Abstract 

Unequal Access to Education in the United States of America 

Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution grants Congress the power to collect taxes provide for the general Welfare of the United States. 

Therefore funding education through taxes is constitutional. 

Amendment 14, Article 1 of the US constitution states, “nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” 

Therefore denying equal access to education is unconstitutional. 

Not all Americans have enjoyed equal protection under the law or equal access to education. This paper focuses on two cases that set major precedents that influenced the law and future court decisions for decades. One ruling Plessy vs Ferguson denied equality to African-Americans and set a precedent that discrimination was allowed by law. 

The later decision, Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka Kansas reversed this flawed decision previous case and established the precedent that discrimination is not legal in the USA. 

“Segregated public schools are not equal and cannot be made equal.”1 was the opinion of the Supreme court on May 17, 1954 when they decided unanimously on Brown vs The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas to forbid school segregation in the United States. 

This case came from five groups of plaintiffs from the States of Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia, Delaware and the District of Columbia. They were represented by the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund. 2(http://www.naacpldf.org/case/brown-v-board-education). 

In the ruling Chief Justice Earl Warren pointed out that: “Education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments.” It is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment.”3 

In the court's opinion “Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken 

to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.” 

He concluded with a question: 

“Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other "tangible" factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities?” 

And an answer: 

“We believe that it does.”4 

Summary of the five cases: 

Brown v. Board of Education: 

“The plaintiffs were Negro children of elementary school age residing in Topeka. They brought this action,” because “of a Kansas statute which,” permitted “cities of more than 15,000 population to maintain separate school facilities for negro and white students.” 5. So, “The Topeka Board of Education elected to establish segregated elementary schools. The three-judge District Court, convened” and 6(28 U.S.C. §§ 2281 and 2284), 

found that segregation in public education has a detrimental effect upon Negro children, but denied relief on the ground that the Negro and white schools were substantially equal with respect to buildings, transportation, curricula, and educational qualifications of teachers.”7 

Briggs v. Elliott: 

The plaintiffs were Negro children of both elementary and high school age. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of South Carolina found that the Negro schools were inferior to the white schools, and ordered the defendants to begin immediately to equalize the facilities. But the court sustained the validity of the contested provisions and denied the plaintiffs admission to the white schools during the equalization program. 8. This Court vacated the District Court's judgment and remanded the case for the purpose of obtaining the court's views on a report filed by the defendants concerning the progress made in the equalization program.” 9 

Davis v. County School Board: 

“The plaintiffs were Negro children of high school age residing in Prince Edward County. They brought this action” because, “of provisions in the state constitution and statutory code which require the segregation of Negroes and whites in public schools. The three-judge District Court, convene,d” an, “denied the requested relief. The court found the Negro school inferior in physical plant, curricula, and transportation, and ordered the defendants forthwith to provide substantially equal curricula and transportation and to proceed with all reasonable diligence and dispatch to remove the inequality in physical plant. But, as in the South Carolina case, the court sustained the validity of the contested provisions and denied the plaintiffs admission to the white schools during the equalization program.10 10(103 F.Supp. 337.) 

Gebhart v. Belto: 

“The plaintiffs were Negro children of both elementary and high school age. They brought this action in the Delaware Court of Chancery,” because “of provisions in the state constitution and statutory code which require the segregation of Negroes and whites in public schools. 11 

The Chancellor gave judgment for the plaintiffs and ordered their immediate admission to schools previously attended only by white children, on the ground that the Negro schools were inferior with respect to teacher training, pupil-teacher ratio, extracurricular activities, physical plant, and time and distance involved in travel. 12(87 A.2d 862.) The Chancellor also found that segregation itself results in an inferior education for Negro children, but did not rest his decision on that ground. The Chancellor's decree was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Delaware, which intimated, however, that the defendants might be able to obtain a modification of the decree after equalization of the Negro and white schools had been accomplished. The defendants, contending only that the Delaware courts had erred in ordering the immediate admission of the Negro plaintiffs to the white schools, applied to this Court for certiorari. The writ was granted, 12 

These decisions reversed Plessy v. Ferguson which was decided on On May 19, 1896 by the Supreme Court. In that case they ruled on a Louisiana law that required separate railway cars for blacks and whites. “In 1892, Homer A. Plessy, a man with one-eighth Negro blood who lived in New Orleans challenged that city's right to segregate public transportation by riding in a Whites Only rail car. The Louisiana state courts ruled against Plessy, and his subsequent appeal to the U. S. Supreme Court was denied in 1896.13 Justice Henry Billings Brown wrote the decision. He conceded that the 14th Amendment intended to establish absolute equality for the races before the law. Then he claimed: 

It could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based upon color 

or to enforce social, as distinguished from political equality 

or a commingling of the two races unsatisfactory to either." 

In my opinion Billings is saying that 'white people have the privilege to deny 

black people their rights if they find it unsatisfactory.'14 

The Legal Defense Fund's victory in 1954 did not end segregation or the Supreme Court's involvement in the issue. In Griffin v. County School Bd. of Prince Edward County, the Supreme Court gave relief to the plaintiffs when Prince Edward School District school tried to evade the Warren Court's decision by sending white kids to private schools that discriminated. The court ruled that, “the closing of the Prince Edward County public schools while at the same time giving tuition grants and tax concessions to assist white children in private segregated schools denied petitioners the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.”15 

When asked by Justice Felix Frankfurter during the argument what he meant by "equal," Thurgood Marshall replied, "Equal means getting the same thing, at the same time, and in the same place."16 

References: 

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1). (n.d.). Oyez. Retrieved August 21, 2017, from https://www.oyez.org/cases/1940-1955/347us483) 

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1). (n.d.). Oyez. Retrieved August 22, 2017, from https://www.oyez.org/cases/1940-1955/347us483)(Del.Const., Art. X, § 2; Del.Rev.Code § 2631 (1935) 

Griffin v. School Board of Prince Edward County. (n.d.). Oyez. Retrieved August 25, 2017, from https://www.oyez.org/cases/1963/592 

http://www.naacpldf.org/case/brown-v-board-education Retrieved August 21, 2017 

http://www.naacpldf.org/thurgood-marshall retrieved August 24, 2017 

https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/347/483/case.html98 F.Supp. 529. Retrieved August 21, 2017 

https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/347/483/case.html, retrieved, August 21, 2017 

(98 F.Supp. 797 / https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/347/483/case.html#1 

retrieved August 21, 2017) 

Plessy v. Ferguson. (n.d.). Oyez. Retrieved August 20, 2017, from https://www.oyez.org/cases/1850-1900/163us537 

1(Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1). (n.d.). Oyez. Retrieved August 21, 2017, from https://www.oyez.org/cases/1940-1955/347us483) 

2http://www.naacpldf.org/case/brown-v-board-education Retrieved August 21, 2017 

3(Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1). (n.d.). Oyez. Retrieved August 21, 2017, from https://www.oyez.org/cases/1940-1955/347us483) 

4https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/347/483/case.html Retrieved August 21, 2017 

5 https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/347/483/case.html, retrieved, August 21, 2017 

6 https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/347/483/case.html, retrieved, August 21, 2017 

7(98 F.Supp. 797 / https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/347/483/case.html#1 retrieved August 21, 2017) 

8 https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/347/483/case.html98 F.Supp. 529. Retrieved August 21, 2017 

9https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/347/483/case.html retrieve August 21, 2017 

10 https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/347/483/case.html(under 28 U.S.C. §§ 2281 and 2284 Retrieved August 21, 2017 

11 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1). (n.d.). Oyez. Retrieved August 22, 2017, from https://www.oyez.org/cases/1940-1955/347us483)(Del.Const., Art. X, § 2; Del.Rev.Code § 2631 (1935)) 

12 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1). (n.d.). Oyez. Retrieved August 22, 2017, from https://www.oyez.org/cases/1940-1955/347us483) 

13(Plessy v. Ferguson. (n.d.). Oyez. Retrieved August 20, 2017, from https://www.oyez.org/cases/1850-1900/163us537) 

14Plessy v. Ferguson. (n.d.). Oyez. Retrieved August 25, 2017, from https://www.oyez.org/cases/1850-1900/163us537 

15Griffin v. School Board of Prince Edward County. (n.d.). Oyez. Retrieved August 25, 2017, from https://www.oyez.org/cases/1963/592 

16 http://www.naacpldf.org/thurgood-marshall retrieved August 24, 2017

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