EDUCATION

Overturning Brown: The Segregationist Legacy of the Modern School Choice Movement

NewSouth. Feb. 2020. 160p. ISBN 9781588384201. $25.95. ED
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“School choice”—the idea that the federal government should make it possible for students to attend alternatives to K–12 public schools—is often hailed as a way to make education more equitable, but Suitts (Hugo Black of Alabama) argues that the phenomenon is rooted in a history of white supremacy. In the aftermath of Brown v. Board of Education (1954)—in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that public school segregation was illegal—white parents sought a segregated alternative for their children and private school enrollment exploded across the South. In response, Southern states began to experiment with strategies to redirect public funds toward private schools in the name of “freedom of choice.” Suitts illustrates how school choice has been used to systematically drain funding and support away from public schools, delivering on segregationists’ promise of preserving white supremacy by educating their children at white-majority and white-controlled institutions.
VERDICT This brief treatment will likely seem cursory to scholars of race, racism, and education in U.S. history, but those unfamiliar with the topic will emerge with a new understanding of how indelibly racism has shaped our collective attitudes and policies regarding the public provision of education for all.

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