- The Washington Times - Monday, May 17, 2004

With a racially mixed audience watching and listening in Topeka, Kan., President Bush yesterday said that May 17, 1954, was “a day of justice and it was a long time coming.” The occasion of the president’s visit was the anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision and the opening of a new museum in its honor.

Fifty years after the unanimous Supreme Court struck down school desegregation, Americans have acknowledged that while schools no longer are lawfully segregated, they certainly are resegregated. Prestigious universities, such as Stanford, encourage racially segregated dorms and some public schools in large metropolitan areas are now predominately black. Even the student population at Sousa is now all black. Sousa was the precisely opposite in 1954, when the justices decided its fate in 1954 with the other school desegregation cases.

The case involving Sousa, Bolling v. Sharpe, was spawned because a black parent wanted the option to send his child to a new school building. But what of the road since Brown v. Board of Education? Today’s school systems are fully integrated, yet academic disparity remains — and that leaves little cause for celebration. As Chief Justice Earl Warren said, “In these days it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied an education.” The justice’s comments ring as true today as when he first spoke them in 1954.

Yet, the quality of education is a right, so to speak, denied to children black and white in too many public schools. To a large extent, those children are under-educated because politicians shake the hands of union bosses first. Our urban schools are further harmed by the state monopolies on public education, as well as policies that encourage social promotion and grade inflation.

Today’s America is seemingly united when it comes to agreeing with both Mr. Bush and Justice Warren. But until Americans doggedly pursue a strategy of educational options that go far beyond Brown and mere integration — and yes, we mean school choice and vouchers — and reject what Mr. Bush calls “the soft bigotry of low expectation,” then urban school systems will continue to fail. We agree with the president that the 1954 decision righted “a great wrong.” But with the troubled state of education today, we reserve applause until there is cause to celebrate.

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