Speaker: Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earle-SearsDeclaration: Brown v Board of Education “It was never about sending black kids to white schools. These were parents who could decide where to send their children to school”.Date: February 2, 2023Placement: Radio interview
In her efforts to obtain state tuition funds for private and charter schools, Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earle-Sears offered an erroneous analysis of the 1954 US Supreme Court milestone Brown v Board of Education decision – which banned government-enforced segregation of public schools.
“It was never about sending black kids to white schools,” said Sears, a Republican, during a Feb. 2 radio interview on WRVA. “It was about parents getting to decide where to send their kids to school, after all.”
For decades, proponents of school vouchers have supported this Brown v Council it has failed to produce equal educational opportunities for children. Academic research has shown that school segregation has increased since the court-ordered end of busing in 1991, and that many black children are once again locked away in underperforming schools.
Conservatives like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) — who is minority leader of the House Education and Labor Committee — said By Brown the legacy should be the establishment of voucher systems that would improve parents’ choice of where their children go to school. “School choice is the civil rights issue of our age,” Cruz said in 2014 on the 60th anniversary of the decision.
The Earle-Sears statement goes one step further by stating that the Brown the decision concerned parental rights in choosing schools and not desegregation. He made similar claims during a September 2022 interview on Fox News.
His statements are at odds with the key sentences of the unanimous Supreme Court ruling: “So we come to the question posed: the segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though physical structures and other ‘tangible’ factors may be equal, deprive children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities? We believe it does.
although the Brown ruling overturned the “separate but equal” racial doctrine on schools established by the Supreme Court in 1896 Plessy versus Fergusondid not offer a road map for school desegregation. That was left for the future.
Earle-Sears backs up her statements by saying the parents who supported the original lawsuits have folded Brown v Council they were looking for options for their children’s education.
“Brown versus Board it was about parents who wanted to send their children to a school of their choice,” Earle-Sears chief of staff Julianne Condrey wrote in an email. “During segregation, black students were denied access to white public schools, which often had superior resources compared to black schools.Black families had no choice but to send their children to inferior schools.
“Today, many of the public schools in low-income areas are either unaccredited or underperforming,” Condrey added. “Just as parents had no options during legalized segregation, many have no affordable options now, with low-income children of color too often relegated to failing public schools.”
We spoke to two experts about Brown v Council. Both argued that Earle-Sears’ interpretation of the case is off-base.
“Brown v Board of Education it wasn’t about parental choice,” said AE Dick Howard, a constitutional law professor at the University of Virginia. “In 1954, the court of Brown ruled that the segregation of children in public schools based on race violated the 14th amendment.”
Lisa Stulberg, a professor of educational sociology at New York University, said: “I don’t believe it [Sears’ statement] is an accurate reading of the Brown decision. Brown … it was about opening up public institutions to serve all students, regardless of race. It was about ensuring that the state, through its public schools, provided equal protection under the law.”
Howard and Stulberg said it’s ironic that school choice advocates now link their cause to civil rights and Brown v Council. In the decade since the decision, they note that “choice” has been one of the tactics used by Southern states, including Virginia, to counter school desegregation. Why Brown Applied only to public schools, some states have instituted a voucher system to help parents send their children to segregated private academies. The Supreme Court reversed that strategy in 1968 in a case that arose from New Kent County, Virginia.
We should note that the school choice bill that Earle-Sears supported this year died in the House of Delegates’ education committee. The bill – sponsored by Del. Glenn Davis (R-Virginia Beach) – would allow parents to create accounts to receive public funds that could be spent on tuition, textbooks or other tuition at private or secondary schools.
The accounts would have been different from traditional voucher systems because the funds would have been deposited into parents’ bank accounts instead of being sent directly to private schools. The deposits would be based on a percentage of the state aid per pupil received by the student’s public school district.
Earle-Sears said this Brown v Board of Education “It was never about sending black kids to white schools. These were parents who could decide where to send their children to school”.
His statement conflicts with the Supreme Court’s own words in its ruling that mandatory segregation of public schools violates the 14th amendment that guarantees all citizens equal protection of the laws.
As SCOTUS wrote in its unanimous decision, “We then come to the question asked: Does the segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though physical facilities and other ‘tangible’ factors may be equal, deprives children of the group minority of equal educational opportunities? We believe it does.
We consider Earle-Sears’ statement false.
Winsome Sears, WRVA interview, February 2, 2023 (9:45am)
Sears, Fox News Interview, Sept. 4, 2022 (1:40am)
WUSA, “Virginia Lieutenant Governor Speaks Out for New ‘School Choice’ Bill,” January 10, 2023
Legislative Information System, HB 1508, 2023 sect
JUSTIA, “Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka,” March 17, 1954
Email from Julianne Condrey, Chief of Staff, Office of the Lieutenant Governor, February 17, 2023
UCLA Civil Rights Project, “Black Segregation Matters,” December 2020
United States Senator Ted Cruz, press release, May 16, 2014
U.S. Representative Virginia Foxx, Statement to House Education and Labor Committee. April 30, 2019
Email from AE Dick Howard, Professor of Law, University of Virginia, February 15, 2023
Email from Lisa Stulberg, professor of educational sociology at New York University, February 15, 2023
Stulberg, “School Choice Discourse and the Legacy of Brown,” Sept. 25, 2008
The Washington Post, “’School Choice’ developed as a way to protect segregation and abolish public schools,” September 27, 2021
VPM, “Education Savings Accounts: Unpacking a New Republican-led Bill,” January 11, 2023
Richmond Times-Dispatch, “House Committee Advances Youngkin-Backed School Choice Bill,” January 26, 2023