New Group Strives to Make Public Education ‘Available to All’

Mar 7, 2023 11:15:00 AM

by Mark R. Lowery

A new, nonpartisan watchdog launched this week with the mission of advocating for the thousands of American kids it said are unfairly or illegally turned away from public schools each year.

The landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Ed included Chief Justice Earl Warren’s declaration that public schools must be “available to all on equal terms.”

The nearly seven decades since Warren’s words, however,  have proven declaring something in law and actually making it happen are two separate things. Although we are decades past the ugly, often violent battles to desegregate schools, the quality of the public education students receive is still dependent on the schools to which they have access. And race, address, economic background and learning challenges are significant barriers keeping many students from the best public schools.

“The public school system is a foundational part of our social contract, said Tim DeRoche, founder and president of Available to All. “But our laws and policies ensure that the most coveted public schools are only accessible to the select few who have the resources to play the game. We have to do better to fulfill Justice Warren’s promise.”

DeRoche, author of A Fine Line: How Most American Kids Are Kept Out of the Best Public Schools, said Available to All will fight in partnership with students and their families to ensure public schools are equally accessible to all.

“There are elites who control who gets access to what within our education system,” said Derrell Bradford, the president of education advocacy organization 50CAN and a founding board member at Available to All. “Someone needs to look out for the kids who, through no fault of their own, are often left on the outside looking in.”

The group plans to publish a series of reports examining the laws and policies that allow public schools to admit some kids and turn others away.

“The core belief driving our work is so simple that it might sound radical,” DeRoche said. “Even the best and most coveted public schools should be open and accessible to all families.”

Watch this video introducing the organization, parents and school administrators sharing some of the harrowing experiences they’ve endured or observed.

Mark R. Lowery

Mark R. Lowery was formerly managing editor of Ed Post. He is a veteran journalist who has managed national magazines and worked for major newspapers, including New York Newsday, the Detroit Free Press and the Plain Dealer. He previously served as editorial director of October Research.

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