The education history on these pages was selected to enhance the early care and education history, and is by no means a comprehensive history of education in the U.S. See the related ECE history here.
We believe knowing early care and education and related education and social movement history informs our work and decisions in practice and policy. We have gathered some information here, and want to build a growing and dynamic history to inform our work. Is there something important you’d like to see added? Contact us.
Brown vs. Board of Education
In Brown vs. the Board of Education, 1954, the court challenged the “separate but equal” doctrine, laid out in Plessy v. Furgeson in 1896. The Supreme Court held that separate educational facilities and programs were “inherently unequal.” Because they found “separate but equal” was “inherently unequal” they followed that it was unconstitutional, and that the plaintiffs were deprived of equal protection provided under the 14th Amendment.
While this decision is an important political victory, continued struggles and setbacks are too often unrecognized. Not only was there the public backlash known to many: riots against integration and busing, black teachers lost jobs. “Estimates show that more than 82,000 black teachers provided instruction to a black student population numbering around 2 million in 1954. Within a span of 10 years, around 40,000 black teachers lost their jobs.”
Brown vs. Board of Education also included no mandate for equity in funding. Further battles for equitable funding were fought in the courts and legislatively. “To date, efforts to desegregate urban public schools have proven nearly futile since most of the programs designed to equalize educational opportunity actually preserve the public schooling advantaged white America enjoys and fights diligently to maintain.”
Public schools are funded primarily by property taxes, which is inherently unequal. Civil rights movements in education was fought in courts to achieve equitable distribution of taxes. See California’s trend-setting passage of property tax limits, Proposition 13.
Prop 13, People’s Initiative to Limit Property Taxation
Previous to Proposition 13’s passage, the California Supreme Court decided in Serrano v. Priest that it was unconstitutional to have differing levels of taxes based on property tax wealth go to different school districts. The court decision set up a system of redistribution of revenue from taxes across the state, which may have inspired some people to support Proposition 13, an amendment limiting the growth of taxes to 2% on all unsold residential and commercial properties. Proposition 13 was voted on in California in 1978. It passed and then was added as an amendment to California’s constitution. Further, in order to increase property taxes the state legislative bodies need to pass the increases with a two-thirds majority vote (not the number 50%+1 majority vote).
During this time funding for schools was also changing. California had moved to create revenue limits so that districts with more wealthy homeowners were not receiving more funding than districts with smaller property tax revenues. Some did not agree with this redistribution of wealth and this also may have pushed them towards voting for Proposition 13. These new limits on taxes pushed down funding levels for California schools. The California government had to make up some of the difference with state funding.
Proposition 98 was passed as a reaction to Proposition 13. After Proposition 13 passed, the education budget in California shrank (as a percentage of the budget) year to year. Prop 98 was introduced and passed in 1988. It requires a floor on the percentage of the California budget spent on education, with a guaranteed annual increase that’s size depends on the year’s economic stability (a minimum of 40% of the budget is required).
 Beeman, Richard. Supreme Court Decisions. New York, New York: Penguin, 2012. Print.
 Watkins, William H. The Assault on Public Education: Confronting the Politics of Corporate School Reform. New York: Teachers College, 2011. Print. Pg. 131.
 Watkins, William H. The Assault on Public Education: Confronting the Politics of Corporate School Reform. New York: Teachers College, 2011. Print. Pg. 154.
 “California Proposition 98, Mandatory Education Spending (1988) – Ballotpedia.” Ballotpeia. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2016.