Why the racist history of school vouchers matters today
Elizabeth Warren alluded to the disturbing roots of school vouchers. But what did she mean?
On Monday, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren wrote a scathing letter to President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, questioning whether she had the expertise to run the department. Among Warren’s many criticisms of DeVos’ record — her unknown views on many aspects of higher education and civil rights issues, for example — Warren also mentioned the “racially charged history” of voucher programs.
“After Brown v. Board of Education and the court-ordered segregation of public schools, many Southern states established voucher schemes to allow white students to leave the education system and take taxpayer dollars with them, decimating the budgets of the public school districts. Today’s voucher schemes can be just as harmful to public school district budgets, because they often leave school districts with less funding to teach the most disadvantaged students, while funneling private dollars to unaccountable private schools that are not held to the same academic or civil rights standards as public schools.”
After the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision, several southern states embraced resistance to integration through the opening of private schools that became known as “segregation academies.” Governors in Virginia and North Carolina supported the closure of entire school districts that were ordered to integrate and use of private school vouchers as a way to push against integration.
Erica Frankenberg, associate professor in the Department of Education Policy Studies in the College of Education at Pennsylvania State University, said that although white students were affected by district closures, they had far more educational opportunities than black families left without a school district.
“Imagine all public schools in a district shutting down for a year or two and not having a school kids could go to,” Frankenburg said. Obviously for families that didn’t have the means, which predominantly fell to the black community because they didn’t have the power and the money to fund their own schools, there was a question of what do you do with your kids and how do you keep educating them?”
“There was a question of what do you do with your kids and how do you keep educating them?”
In Virginia, Gov. Thomas B. Stanley proposed the Stanley Plan, which was enacted in 1956. It allowed the governor to close any school under a Why the racist history of school vouchers matters today: