Monica Blair’s dissertation, From Segregation Academies to School Choice: The Post-Brown History of School Privatization, examines the role of race, region, and capital in the post-Brown movement to provide public funding for private education in America. In addition to her doctoral work, Blair has also collaborated on several digital and public history projects, including Jefferson’s University—Early Life Project (JUEL), Participatory Media, UVA Reveal, and Backstory Radio. Beginning in the fall of 2021, Monica will be a postdoctoral fellow at Southern Methodist University’s Center for Presidential History.
From Segregation Academies to School Choice: The Post-Brown History of School Privatization
“From Segregation Academies to School Choice: The Post-Brown History of School Privatization” analyzes the role of race, region, and capital in the little understood movement to provide public funding for private education in the US. Blair argues that privatization advocates have worked to break down the boundaries between public and private schooling in the sixty-five years since Brown v. Board, and that this blurring has exacerbated racial and socioeconomic inequalities in American education. From the 1950s to the 1990s, Blair shows how a coalition of mostly-white parents, conservative think tanks, grassroots organizations, and corporations united to shift millions of dollars’ away from public education to a scattershot landscape of unregulated parochial, private, and charter schools. The modern Republican Party embraced privatization as a central tenet of their education policy in the 1970s and 1980s, but New Democrats responded to the push for privatization by promoting a self-styled third way in the 1990s: corporate-sponsored charters. Both political parties thus worked to break down the monetary divide between public and private education while ensuring that schools labeled as non-public remained beyond the reach of the regulatory state. As a result, private, parochial, and charter schools all remain more segregated than their public counterparts.