Today marks 70 years since the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, which outlawed racial segregation in public schools and declared that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”

We at Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. (“CLASI”) celebrate the progress made after the Brown decision, which served as a catalyst for the civil rights movement and led to significant educational gains for students of color, including a 30% increase in graduation rates for Black students and a 20% increase for Hispanic students as the result of court-ordered integration.

However, the Brown anniversary also reminds us that many of those initial gains have been lost, and the unfortunate reality is that U.S. public schools are as segregated today as they were in the 1960s. For decades, a range of policy decisions have trapped many students from lower-income, often Black and Brown communities, in underserved schools, including here in Delaware.

At CLASI, we believe that a student’s access to a high-quality education shouldn’t depend on their zip code. We also know that all children benefit when they can learn together in diverse, well-resourced schools. In recognition of this fact, CLASI, along with our partners at the ACLU of Delaware and the law firm of Arnold & Porter, represented Delawareans for Educational Opportunity and the NAACP Delaware State Conference in a 2018 lawsuit seeking more equitable school funding to improve outcomes for children across our state.

Our lawsuit argued that for decades, Delaware’s school system has failed to provide all students an equal opportunity for academic success, evidenced by major disparities in educational outcomes for students from low-income families, students who are English language learners, and students with disabilities. We reached a legal settlement with the Governor in 2020, providing for increased school funding and systemic changes that will help improve outcomes for disadvantaged students.

As part of the settlement, the Governor agreed to obtain an independent assessment of Delaware’s public school funding system. Released in December 2023, the study found disadvantaged students were not being given adequate, equitable educational opportunities. It also found current funding levels fell “far short” of the cost of serving these students appropriately and that funding had to be better distributed based on schools’ level of student need. The study determined that Delaware must invest approximately $0.6 to $1 billion more in education relative to 2021–22 spending levels to appropriately serve all students and meet educational outcome goals.

On this 70th anniversary of Brown, we at CLASI recommit to continuing our shared work with families, advocates, and policymakers to ensure that all Delaware students receive the education they deserve, in diverse, well-resourced schools. We are hopeful that the Delaware General Assembly will move swiftly to implement the independent school funding study’s recommendations, which will advance the promise of Brown for future generations of Delaware students.