By Cassandra Butts
On the 40th anniversary of the integration of Little Rock High School, the Supreme Court has taken a decidedly backwards step in our nation’s pursuit of Brown v. Board of Education’s promise of equal, integrated public education by ruling against the voluntary efforts to integrate public schools in Louisville, KY and Seattle, WA in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District and Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education.
In doing so, the Court has accomplished a feat that contradicts an objective reading of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. The 5-4 decision reflects the narrowest of Court majorities, but it has the potential to touch the lives of many by significantly limiting the ability of public school officials and their communities to consider race among other factors in taking needed steps to address the re-segregation of a critically important institution that is more segregated today than it was 30 years ago. Such a failure could profoundly limit many of our citizens’ opportunities to make meaningful contributions to strengthening our pluralistic democracy and ensuring our future economic prosperity.
The Court’s ruling today should not be viewed as the last word on this issue. Congress must act immediately to explore legislative solutions that further the goals of an integrated and quality public education for all students. Anything less would be a perversion of the principle of desegregated education represented by Brown and its progeny and would contradict the logic and the law that has guided our nation this far.
Cassandra Butts is Senior Vice President for Domestic Policy at the Center for American Progress.