The ruse of uniformity

Published: Thursday, January 12, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 12, 2006 at 1:32 a.m.
In his lone dissent in Plessy v Ferguson (1896), Justice John Marshall Harlen argued that "The thin disguise of 'equal' accommodations for passengers in railroad coaches will not mislead any one, nor atone for the wrong this day done."
More than a century later the Florida Supreme Court has overturned a voucher program because it violates Florida's constitutional mandate of a uniform system of free public schools.
The public schools don't offer anything even close to a uniform product. In fact, the product isn't of comparable quality within Gainesville. The public school system is simply "separate but equal" in a varied form. And these vouchers could not be used unless a child suffered through years of inferior schooling in the first place.
When it comes to programs like Head Start, many of the opponents of vouchers tell us that each year - particularly the early years - in a child's education are vital. But when it comes to vouchers, suddenly we can wait until the student is provided with two years worth of the inferior product.
The Florida Supreme Court now says even that isn't enough because we have to maintain the ruse of a uniform system.
The NAACP should be ashamed for siding with the opponents of vouchers. Black kids are disproportionately represented among those receiving the inferior product.
Vouchers give good parents who lack financial resources a better chance to provide their children with a good education. They inject a dynamic into the system in dire need of change.
Scott Pifer, Gainesville

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