Monday, May 17, 2004

4LAKids Special: Brown@50 • May 17 1954 — 2004


“We conclude that in the field of public education the
doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate
educational facilities are inherently unequal.” —

Brown v. Board of Education

“A person’s a person. No matter how small.” —

Today, April 17th, 2004 is the fiftieth anniversary of
the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. This year is Dr. Seuss’ one
hundredth birthday as well — and the fiftieth
anniversary of the publication of “Horton Hears a

Brown v. School Board is a watershed in United
States history. And no contemporary commentator
better distilled the moral of Brown than Seuss’
character Horton the elephant.

The Supreme Court, in ruling that the doctrine of
separate-but-equal was unconstitutional, overruled it’s
own previous ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson and reversed
the official national acceptance of racial segregation.
After Brown the national policy regarding race was
integration. It would be wonderful to write that Brown
decided this once and for all, obviously that is not true.
We have had Montgomery, Selma, Watts and South
Boston; Rosa Parks, Dr. King and Rodney King;
Malcolm X and Faubus, Wallace, Thurmond and Co.
Fifty years later were are still living with racial
injustice, discrimination and outright racism. It’s just
not policy ...but it is institutional.

If you doubt this, read the op-ed that follows: “What’s
today’s vocabulary word?” – from last Saturday’s LA

Earl Warren’s Supreme Court was an interpreter of its
times, as much so as the court was in 1898 for Plessy.
By 1954 the military services were integrated.
Professional sports were integrated. California schools
(Warren was the former governor of California) were
integrated by the federal courts in Mendez v
Westminster in 1945— if not the precident, surely the

Although “Horton Hears a Who” was published after
the Brown decision in August of ‘54 — Horton's story
takes precident: “On the fifteenth of May, in the jungle
of Nool, In the heat of the day, in the cool of the

Brown’s impact on race and civil rights was
monumental; the effect on public education no less so.

Brown was decided at the peak of the Baby Boom –
when schools were already bursting at the seams. The
inevitable effect was white flight – and not just in the
South and border states. Some public school systems
dissolved rather than integrate. Some communities
resisted – Little Rock being the most famous – but for
the most part the withdrawal of White middle class to
the suburbs and/or private education – and their
support of public education in general – was quietly

Some students of education policy believe that it was
Brown and the ‘Brown Backlash’ that triggered the
decline on education funding – and the subsequent
decline in public education in this country. The so
called “golden age’ of public education (“Golden age?”
Pu-lease – I was there!) in the late fifties/early sixties
was played out against the public reaction to Brown
and forced busing.. As attendance dropped –
occasioned by White flight and the decline in the birth
rate – we as a society reduced our support for public
education, we stopped passing school bonds and
building and adequately funding schools. By the time
Prop 13 passed California Schools were already in
decline. And who wants to pay for a failing system? Or
consent decrees? Especially if its for ‘other people’s

Brown was rightly decided; the court spoke the truth
with an awesome and awful clarity. But human nature
is human nature and racism in all its forms is ugly – no
good deed goes unpunished. Lincoln turned a phrase
as well as anyone since Shakespeare and his appeal to
‘the better angels of our nature’ puts the human
experience in it’s best perspective: We are only at our
best when we listen to their quiet voices.

Fifty years later it’s time to undo the unintended
consequences of Brown; not in the courts, but in our

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“I’ve got to protect them. I’m bigger than they.”
So he plucked up the clover and hustled away.
Through the high jungle tree tops, the news quickly spread:
“He talks to a dust speck! He’s out of his head!
Just look at him walk with that speck on the flower!”
And Horton walked, worrying, almost an hour.
“Should I put this speck down?…” Horton thought with alarm.
“If I do, these small persons may come to great harm.
I can’t put it down. And I won’t! After all
A person’s a person. No matter how small.”

Brown–9 : Info on Mendez v. Westminster

Horton@50: "Horton Hears a Who"

BROWN@50: What’s Today’s Vocubulary Word: C-R-I-M-I-N-A-L

By Kerri Ullucci

May 15, 2004

The bullhorn blares across the yard. Young Latinos
and African Americans quickly scan their
surroundings, noticing the many faces that watch them.
A chain-link fence, 20 feet high, surrounds them on
three sides. Dutifully, they fall into place in line. Heads
up, hands clasped behind their backs, shoulders
straight. Most know better than to talk. A few test the
rules and murmur among themselves. "You're wasting
my time!" barks the attendant. Rumpled play dollars
are doled out to the well behaved; order is maintained
through this token economy. Thus begins their day.

A day at boot camp? A day in juvenile hall?

No. This is elementary school. First grade. Our
inmates are 6 years old. They are not criminals. Small
and wiry, these are children whose usual offenses are
pulling braids or not sharing Hot Cheetos. The children
must walk in straight lines. Hands must remain behind
their backs, as though in handcuffs. The high fences
separate them from the outside, physically and

What does it mean when you are 6 and your school is
run like a prison?

It is lunchtime. The students are herded through line,
picking up their cardboard trays of chicken nuggets
and milk. Eating must be done in silence. Misbehaving
children face a "three-strikes-you're-out" policy." The
same policy that puts many neighborhood men in jail is
also used to deny chattering children recess. A teacher
bends over to help a girl open her ketchup. An
administrator reprimands her for being too soft with
the child. "You are enabling her dependency," he

In the years I have worked in public schools in
South-Central Los Angeles, it is hard not to notice
how schools are run like prisons. Or how the language
we use to talk about these children assumes
criminality. It is hard to ignore that this is the way we
speak in this place. The vocabulary of prison is not
used with wealthy children. Such practices are not
used in private schools. Where do we learn that it is
OK to treat children of color like this?

Educators and parents expect their children to be well
behaved and respectful. But there are distinct
differences between teaching children internal control
and self-regulation and treating them as if they are
incapable of controlling themselves. This prison model
insists that the only way to maintain order is through
coercion, manipulation and threats. We must ask
ourselves what a system like this prepares children for.

In 2000, there were 188,500 more African American
men in state and federal prison systems and local jails
than in higher education, according to a Justice Policy
Institute report.

There are many social forces and individual choices
that shape such outcomes, but I can't help but think
how far back this path begins. I am not suggesting that
the language used in first grade equals a one-way
ticket to San Quentin, but the link between how we
treat children of color in schools and current statistics
must be noted.

We provide these children with the bare minimum of
resources, in dilapidated facilities, surrounded by
communities that have been abandoned by the city. We
then fill the children up with the language of
criminality. Children will rise to the level educators ask
of them. By using such language and adhering to such
policies are schools simply creating a self-fulfilling


Kerri Ullucci teaches at Cal State Los Angeles and has
trained new teachers in the Los Angeles school system.

BROWN@50: More on Brown v. Board of Education

BROWN@50: L.A.'s Busing Battles – Mandatory school integration polarized communities

By Jennifer Radcliffe - Los Angeles Daily News Staff

Saturday, May 15, 2004 -

Deborah Mack dreaded waking up at the crack of
dawn to catch a school bus that took an hour to
transport her and other African-American and minority
students to Westwood Elementary School.

The 8-year-old didn't understand why the school just
minutes away from her Mid-City home in Lafayette
Square wasn't as good as her new school in West Los

"I would always ask, why can't we go to the
neighborhood schools and make them better?" recalls
Mack, 42, who is now an aide to Rep. Juanita
Millender-McDonald, D-Torrance.

"I didn't get all the bigger political implications."

Mack was taking part in a voluntary Los Angeles
Unified School District busing program in the 1970s
designed to give African-American and other minority
students an opportunity for a better education.

But a few years later, when the courts mandated
busing for tens of thousands of students in an
ambitious attempt to integrate Los Angeles public
schools, it created one of the most polarized political
climates in the city's history.

Coming more than two decades after the Supreme
Court's landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education
decision, L.A.'s short-lived mandatory busing
experiment infuriated both white and minority
communities, which objected to sending children to
schools in distant neighborhoods.

Although now viewed largely as a failure, the program
that ran from 1978 to 1981 was seen at the time as a
chance to set an example for the nation.

"With just a few things being different, L.A. could
have been the place where (integration) really
happened," said Rita Walters, who served on the
school board from 1979 to 1991.

"But the coming together of those (anti-busing) groups
managed to create a climate of fear. The fear they had
was just not justified, in my opinion, but it served to
frighten a lot of people."

Bobbi Fiedler, 67, who spearheaded Bustop, an
anti-busing campaign that started in the San Fernando
Valley, said the fears ran deeper than race.

"Anybody who was affected by it remembers it vividly.
It changed the lives of a large number of families,"
Fiedler said. "I wanted my children to be educated in
the community where we purchased a home -- just like
everybody else."

On Sept. 12, 1978, the first day the buses rolled,
hundreds of LAUSD employees and police officers --
even the mayor -- were involved in making sure the
transition went smoothly.

Black and Latino students from areas like Watts and
Boyle Heights were bused to the San Fernando Valley,
whose white students were bused over the hill to black
and Latino neighborhoods.

An estimated 10,000 students missed class that day,
and some parents staged protests and boycotts. One
Reseda mom even drove her car slowly on the freeway
in front of a bus carrying black students from the
Crenshaw area to Woodland Hills.

Buses that were supposed to be carrying white
students to black neighborhoods were virtually empty.

"Children were assigned to new schools, and a lot
didn't show up to go to the new schools," said
Theodore Alexander Jr., the LAUSD associate
superintendent who oversees integration programs.
"Most people didn't want their children transported in
the first place.

"But for the most part, children of color who were
asked to transfer did. White children did not."

An unprecedented number of white parents that year
withdrew their children from LAUSD and enrolled
them in other districts and private schools -- further
complicating the district's integration efforts and
leading to an academic decline from which LAUSD is
still recovering.

The effect of busing in the San Fernando Valley was
staggering: More than 20 schools closed because of
low enrollment.

"Those were crazy times," said former school board
member Caprice Young, who was bused to a Balboa
magnet school. "I think busing caused some real
problems in Los Angeles -- mainly (it) exacerbated
white flight."

While many African-Americans relished the chance to
get out of inferior schools in their neighborhoods, no
one enjoyed the long bus rides.

And parents of bused minority students said their
children were treated as outsiders, blamed unfairly for
anything that went wrong and were targets of violence.

At Sepulveda Middle School, some remember white
children singing songs from "Soul Train," a popular
TV dance show featuring black entertainers, when the
bus from Los Angeles arrived every morning.

Current school board president Joe Huizar remembers
fearing being bused, like his older brothers and sisters.
Luckily, he said, the program ended in 1981, the year
before he was slated to be sent to a Valley school.

"I remember them telling stories about being bused to
the Valley. There was a lot of racial tension. They felt
unwelcome at the school," he said. "I dreaded the bus
ride. From what I hear, it wasn't a happy ride."

One failure was that LAUSD did not factor
socioeconomic issues into the busing equation.
Wealthy African-Americans, for example, were bused
into lower-class white schools, where they had little in
common with their new classmates, Alexander said.

"When we did not take those things into account, the
program failed," he said.

Despite its drawbacks, mandatory busing forced
parents and educators to see the inequalities and to try
to understand people from other races.

Mack, who graduated from Yale University, said
busing gave her a world-class education, adding that
some of her closest friends are classmates with whom
she rode the bus.

"It was a cool experience," she said. "'We had an
amazing education that people pay a lot of money for

BROWN@50 • Newsweek May 17 issue: THE DREAM DEFERRED
By Ellis Cose

Sometimes history serves as a magnifying mirror —
making momentous what actually was not. But Brown
v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, is the real
thing: a Supreme Court decision that fundamentally
and forever changed America. It jump-started the
modern civil-rights movement and excised a cancer
eating a hole in the heart of the Constitution.

So why is the celebration of its 50th anniversary so
bittersweet? Why, as we raise our glasses, are there
tears in our eyes? The answer is simple: Brown, for all
its glory, is something of a bust.

Clearly Brown altered forever the political and social
landscape of an in-sufficiently conscience-stricken
nation. "Brown led to the sit-ins, the freedom marches
... the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ... If you look at
Brown as ... the icebreaker that broke up ... that frozen
sea, then you will see it was an unequivocal success,"
declared Jack Greenberg, former head of the NAACP
Legal Defense & Educational Fund Inc. and one of the
lawyers who litigated Brown. Still, measured purely by
its effects on the poor schoolchildren of color at its
center, Brown is a disappointment—in many respects a
failure. So this commemoration is muted by the
realization that Brown was not nearly enough.

How has Brown changed America's educational
system? Click here to take the poll
While most white and Hispanic Americans (59 percent
for each group) think their community schools are
doing a good or excellent job, only 45 percent of
blacks feel that way, according to an exclusive
NEWSWEEK Poll. That is up considerably from the
31 percent who thought their schools were performing
well in 1998, but it means a lot of people are still
unhappy with the deck of skills being dealt to black

Only 38 percent of blacks think those schools have the
resources necessary to provide a quality education,
according to the poll. And African-Americans are not
alone in feeling that funding should increase. A
majority of the members of all ethnic groups support
the notion that schools attended by impoverished
minority children ought to have equivalent resources
to those attended by affluent whites. Indeed, most
Americans go even further. They say schools should be
funded at "whatever level it takes to raise
minority-student achievement to an acceptable national
standard." Sixty-one percent of whites, 81 percent of
Hispanics and a whopping 93 percent of blacks agree
with that statement—which is to say they agree with
the proposition of funding schools at a level never
seriously countenanced by the political establishment: a
total transformation of public education in the United

So now, 50 years after the court case that changed
America, another battle is upon us—and only at this
moment becoming clear. It began at the intersection of
conflicting good intentions, where the demands of
politicians and policymakers for high educational
standards collided with the demands of educators and
children's advocates for resources. Throw in a host of
initiatives spawned, at least in part, by frustration at
low student achievement—vouchers, charter schools,
privatization, curbs on social promotion, high-stakes
testing (all issues now swirling around the presidential
campaign)—and you have the making of an
educational upheaval that may rival Brown in its
ramifications. It may in some ways be the second
phase of Brown: a continuation by other means of the
battle for access to a decent education by those whom
fortune left behind.

The decision rested on an assumption that simply
wasn't true: that once formal, state-mandated
segregation ended, "equal educational opportunities"
would be the result. A half century later, school
segregation is far from dead and the goal of
educational equality is as elusive as ever. Since the
early 1990s, despite the continued growth of
integration in other sectors of society, black and
Latino children are increasingly likely to find
themselves in classes with few, if any, nonminority

The shift is due, at least in part, to Supreme Court
decisions that essentially undermined Brown. In 1974
the court ruled that schools in white suburbs were not
obliged to admit black kids from the inner city. And in
1992 the court decided that local school boards, even
if not in full compliance with desegregation orders,
should be released from court supervision as quickly as
possible. "Racial balance is not to be achieved for its
own sake," proclaimed the court.

For most black parents, of course, Brown was never
about integration "for its own sake"—though blacks
strongly support integration. Instead, it was about
recognition of the fact that unless their children went
to school with the children of the whites who
controlled the purse strings, their children were likely
to be shortchanged.

Most blacks are no longer convinced their kids
necessarily do better in integrated settings. Some 57
percent of black parents say the schools' racial mixture
makes no difference, significantly more than the 41
percent who said that in 1988. But they also know
resource allocation is not colorblind. Hence, 59
percent of blacks, 52 percent of Hispanics and 49
percent of whites agree that it will be impossible to
provide equal educational opportunities for all "as long
as children of different races in this country basically
go to different schools."

Adapted from "Beyond Brown v. Board: The Final
Battle for Excellence in American Education," a report
by Ellis Cose to the Rockefeller Foundation, Copyright
© 2004, Ellis Cose. For full report see

How has Brown changed America's educational system? Click here to take the poll

FACTORING-IN SCHOOLS: A massive LAUSD building effort may boost interest in surrounding neighborhoods.
By Darrell Satzman
Special to The LA Times

May 16, 2004

When Jennifer and Marcus Errico purchased their
home last year in Pasadena for just under $450,000,
they had two things on their minds: affordability and
steering clear of Los Angeles Unified School District.

It was much the same story for Giselle and Craig
Arteaga-Johnson, who in April bought a $326,000
Pasadena house. Both couples hope to start families in
the next year or two, and concerns about where their
kids might someday be learning the alphabet and social
skills figured prominently in their decisions on where
to buy.

"Education and school systems were at the top of our
list," said Marcus Errico, news director for E! Online.
"One reason we didn't look in Eagle Rock is we were
terrified of our kids going to LAUSD schools."

In Los Angeles County's overheated housing market,
where just about anything not straddling a fault line
has soared in value, real estate experts say that, all
things being equal, quality schools accelerate home
sales and appreciation. And although precise dollar
amounts are difficult to gauge, brokers have been
successfully selling test scores and superior schools for
years in communities such as Burbank, Glendale and
Calabasas. Now a fleet of new and improved schools
may give a similar boost to LAUSD neighborhoods.

Quality schools are considered a cornerstone of
healthy neighborhoods, according to G.U. Krueger,
vice president for market research at IHP Capital
Partners, an Irvine-based real estate venture capital

"The most important variable for people when they are
looking for housing is the perception of the schools,"
Krueger said. "It doesn't matter if the housing stock is
new or old, people see schools as a reflection of

Conversely, a widespread aversion to LAUSD —
borne of low test scores, managerial fiascoes such as
the long-delayed $200-million Belmont Learning
Complex and facilities in disrepair — hasn't helped
market homes in parts of that district.

Long hammered by local politicians, the district has
alienated two generations of parents as a result of
substandard performance and inefficiency. But test
scores have been inching up in recent years, and the
fractiousness that once characterized the school board
has somewhat abated.

An unprecedented school building boom is underway
that will deliver state-of-the-art campuses in
neighborhoods from Panorama City to Pico Union and
Sun Valley to El Sereno. The push has already resulted
in new schools opening in Silver Lake, Van Nuys and
Los Angeles, to name a few.

Tapping roughly $9 billion from state and local bonds
passed between 1997 and March, the district has set
out to build 160 new schools and add 162,000 new
student seats by 2012, while at the same time
improving dozens of other campuses districtwide.

Phase 1, funded by the passage of Measure BB seven
years ago, is plowing forward with a goal of 80 new
schools by 2007 to relieve overcrowding and cut down
on year-round schedules in the district's most densely
populated areas. So far, 23 projects have been
completed and nearly 100 others have broken ground.

Highlights of the first phase include an $87-million arts
high school next to Walt Disney Concert Hall and the
$111-million Vista Hermosa High School, also
downtown, which will accommodate 2,600 students in
four distinct campus communities and include an
adjacent park. The arts campus is scheduled to open in
2006; Vista Hermosa in 2007.

Overall, the district's task represents a public works
project more on the scale of a small nation than a
school district, and some question whether LAUSD
has the wherewithal to pull it off. And even if the
building goes well, there is no guarantee that the new
schools will do any better than existing ones at
churning out accomplished students.

On the other hand, the lure of shiny new campuses,
with new textbooks, air-conditioning, clean bathrooms
and perhaps even reinvigorated teachers is sure to play
a role in the ever-shifting dynamics of neighborhood
desirability in Los Angeles.

"LAUSD didn't necessarily have a distinguished history
of success in the facilities construction area," said Jim
McConnell, chief facilities executive for the district,
and a former Navy captain with the Seabees. "But the
culture is changing."

For Phase 1, the district has used the power of eminent
domain to force owners of about 300 pieces of
commercial real estate and 227 single-family homes to
sell, according to McConnell. The district needed to
acquire about 800 parcels of land, roughly 440 acres,
for that phase alone.

Although the use of eminent domain acquisitions has
drawn criticism from some, the district hopes benefits
to remaining residents will outweigh the negatives.

"Most of the neighborhoods we're building in
desperately want us to build new schools," McConnell
said. "And it's amazing to see how quickly they
become centers of the community."

One reason is that resources have also been put toward
athletic facilities, grass fields and play equipment.
Outside of school hours, the district will maintain an
open-door policy for the 240 acres of recreational
space that will come with the new schools. Such
spaces can be a big draw in parks-starved Los Angeles

Clearly, the district views its construction boom in the
context of neighborhood building. School Board
President Jose Huizar points out that the new schools
are the first to be built in 30 years, even as the district's
population swelled by 50% to its present total of about
750,000 students.

"Today, most of our schools are over 60 years old.
Overcrowding has meant more busing, more
bungalows and more year-round school schedules,"
Huizar said. "These [new] schools are a community
resource that are an important piece of a larger

Will district perceptions change as new and renewed
school facilities come on line?

Already, some areas of the district are forging
reputations for strong academics and quality schools.

That's been a boon for property owners in areas of the
city such as Mt. Washington and the Wonderland
Avenue Elementary School neighborhood in the
Hollywood Hills, to name two, where top-notch
instruction and active parent involvement have clearly
had an effect on neighborhood desirability.

"Mt. Washington is crazy. You'll see bidding wars on
houses that are 700 square feet," said Michael Raske,
an agent with the Los Feliz branch of DBL Realtors
who represented the Arteaga-Johnsons in their search.

"I know a lot of people who will consider spending
$150,000 more than they want to because if they have
two kids they figure they won't have to put them into
private school."

Among schools set to open by the end of 2005, those
in the Mid-Wilshire and Koreatown neighborhoods are
expected to have a positive influence on property
values in those areas, according to Jack Kyser, chief
economist for the Los Angeles County Economic
Development Corp.

"New schools can do much to bring back those
neighborhoods," he said. "There are a lot of areas in
the urban core that have character and proximity to
amenities, but they've slid. And that starts with the
schools going downhill."

But amid the optimism, there are doubters.

Although real estate appraiser Don Glaza agrees that
superior schools can lift property values, he questions
whether new schools will automatically make a
difference. The key for parents, he said, is consistently
high test scores, not new facilities.

And there are other considerations as well.

"If you live two blocks away from a new school, that's
great," he said. "But the houses right next to a new
school can actually lose value because that's where the
traffic is."

Krueger also strikes a cautious note. "New schools,"
he said, "can't be a substitute for improved instruction
and better scores."

Errico said he and his wife scoured the Internet for test
scores and spoke to people in the neighborhood about
area schools before making their decision to buy in
Pasadena. Still, they are hoping the local schools
improve a bit in the next few years.

"I would love to send my kids to public schools,"
Errico said. "And not just for economic reasons."

And would he consider buying a house in Los
Angeles? Perhaps.

"All this money being poured into building new
schools gives me hope for the future," he said.


Darrell Satzman is a freelance writer based in Los