U.S public schools are more segregated today than they have been since before the desegregation efforts that followed the 1954 Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education, (Kozol, 2005, Mullins, 2013; Rothstein, 2013; Strauss, 2014; UCLA, 2014). Coinciding with this segregation are vast racial inequities and stratification, which are being intensified through the policies known as corporate education reform. In this article, we share the voices and stories of scholars and education activists who have documented the racism and segregation of U.S. public schooling over the rise of corporate education reform. We start with the current state of our segregated schools, what Jonathan Kozol refers to as “apartheid education” (Kozol, 2005). We then take a step back and look at the historical and ideological context of U.S. schooling under industrial capitalism, white supremacy and neoliberalism, all creating the perfect storm for the punitive and dehumanizing conditions within 21st century public education. We will then explore the formula of corporate education reform through an examination of specific instruments used to enact these policies: school choice and charters, high-stakes testing, and the disciplining and criminalizing of black and brown bodies. We also examine the delivery of these policies via the discourse used to justify them and the intentions behind them. Finally, we call the question of whether public schools are our best hope for achieving social and economic equity and how those working in this struggle might keep that vision in mind.


Our heartfelt thanks goes to the activists and scholars engaged in the struggle for a just and equitable public education system.

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