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Town Hall Seattle: Civics Series

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Nov 15, 2020

From funding, to vouchers, to charter schools, public education policy has become a political football. Many feel that we are in the midst of a full-scale attack on our nation’s commitment to public education. And constitutional law scholar Derek W. Black contends that this assault threatens not just public education, but democracy itself.

In this livestreamed presentation, Black shared from his book Schoolhouse Burning: Public Education and the Assault on American Democracy. He offered an illuminating history of our nation’s establishment of a constitutional right to education, and a trenchant analysis of how that right is being undermined today. He looked at education history with a wide view, examining both periods when our democracy has been strengthened (when the commitment to public education has been strongest), and weakened (when such a commitment has been lacking). He asked us to consider what is truly at stake when we move away from public education—and submits that it is not just the right to public education, but an erosion of democratic norms.

Derek W. Black is a professor at the University of South Carolina Law School where he teaches constitutional law, civil rights, and education law. He is a well-known and outspoken advocate of the importance of public education, and his work has been published in both professional legal journals as well as the mainstream media. You can follow him on Twitter @DerekWBlack.

Katherine Dunn is a Regional Policy Analyst for Children’s Rights at the Southern Poverty Law Center. Previously, she served as a General Attorney at the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights in Atlanta. Prior to that, she was a Program Director at the Southern Education Foundation, where her work focused on research, advocacy, and organizing to promote equity in public education across the American South.

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