May 15, 2009
Statement by Randi Weingarten,
President, American Federation of Teachers
On 55th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education and Public School Reform
WASHINGTON—The Supreme Court's ruling in 1954 that racially segregated schools are inherently unequal and therefore unconstitutional was a watershed moment in American history. That moment could not have been achieved without the sacrifices of selfless individuals committed to justice and equality. The American Federation of Teachers today celebrates that ruling and all who made it possible, including the nine high school students who risked personal harm to be the first black students to integrate Little Rock High School. Their fight-and eventual triumph-remind us that it takes the combined efforts of dedicated individuals to bring positive change to our schools and communities.
Today, 55 years later, the struggle continues to truly address the disparity in the quality of education received by minority and non-minority children and those who are advantaged and disadvantaged. Every child is entitled to a quality public education, regardless of skin color, Zip code or the bottom line of his or her parents' income statement. None of the rights we often take for granted in this country can be fully appreciated without education. It is, therefore, incumbent upon teachers, parents, administrators, civic and community leaders, and elected officials to work together to ensure that our public school system works for all our children. Their futures and our nation's future depend upon it.
The AFT has a long and proud history of working for social justice, and because of that commitment, we were at the forefront of efforts to desegregate U.S. schools. During the Brown v. Board of Education case, our union filed three friend-of-the-court briefs on the unfairness of "separate but equal" education.
More than five decades later, this historic decision is still a proud moment for our nation. Our task today is to ensure that its goal of true equality in education becomes a reality.
Visit the AFT Web site for background, classroom resources and a clip from the AFT history video on Brown v. Board of Education at: http://www.aft.org/teachers/bh-brownvboard.htm.
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The AFT represents more than 1.4 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.