Our view: Segregation remembered with Jindal legislation

Remember separate but equal public schools? The separation part was right. They were anything but equal.

The phrase separate but equal emerged from an 1890 progressive Louisiana law, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Plessy vs. Ferguson. That ruling required railway companies in the state to provide “equal but separate accommodations for the white and colored races” riding on their trains.

The reasonable sounding idea was applied to public education. As is typical, philosophy failed to deliver and reality justified separating races and economic classes.

Learning became segregated, as were opportunities when schools in poor areas of both the south and north failed to receive the same books, quality teachers and finances to maintain facilities as did school districts in affluent communities.

Some chose to ignore the uncomfortable truth and cited “separate but equal” as the law, then claimed less than acceptable school conditions meant education was not important to those communities that did not have the resources to succeed like privileged areas.

The Supreme Court ruling on Brown vs. the Board of Education in 1954 supposedly ended school segregation. Students and teachers during the 1950s and 1960s learned that law and reality, again, did not necessarily match.

On Friday, Gov. Bobby Jindal was cleared to sign the Louisiana education reform bill into law.

While we support much of the bill’s content, including curtailing teacher tenure protection, one element threatens reform by reinstating separate but equal concepts into state policy.

Once HB-974 becomes law, doors will open for the establishment of independent charter schools, to which students in the poorest performing schools can apply to attend.

There are many good charter and private schools, just as there are many good public schools. There are also many charter schools and public schools that fail to generate a learning atmosphere.

We share the concern of teachers who contend that shifting select students from select public schools into select charter schools, without addressing a basic lack of interest on the part of youths and parents, is simply an act to appease those who can afford to segregate themselves from the general population.

Paying for select underprivileged students to attend select private schools on taxpayer dollars is nothing more than tokenism.

Taking children out of failing schools does not solve learning problems for kids left in the failing schools when teachers remain unsupported by parents and communities.

Separating students based on a formulated process is simply segregation. There is nothing equal about it.