Peter Greene read Steve Suitts’ book about the origins of the modern school choice movement—Overturning Brown— and highly recommends it.

Suitts demonstrates beyond doubt that the school choice movement was launched by southern segregationists to fight the Brown decision.

Standards were also used to sort students by race.

Greene writes:

These segregationists developed strategies and language that are strikingly familiar. Seven Southern states developed voucher programs, aimed mostly at creating three parallel systems of white, black and segregated schools. Various school choice programs were promoted without ever discussing segregation or even race, but by focusing on “freedom” and the necessity for parents to choose their own child’s educational setting. South Carolina’s governor argued that competition would help schools improve. Georgia enacted tuition tax credits, an early version of Betsy DeVos’s Education Freedom vouchers, in 1958. In 1964, a Mississippi defender of segregation stopped talking about “states’ rights” to segregate and started speaking out against the “monopoly” of “government schools.”

An early version of the standards movement, allowing states to sort students by supposed academic, behavior and cultural criteria, became a mechanism for maintaining segregation without actually talking about race, substituting rhetoric about “quality education.” An Alabama school leader explained, “Our primary interest is educating people basically of like learning capacities. We adopt a school system to meet their needs.” In other words, we’re not segregating the races; we’re just helping students find a school that best meets their needs. That was in 1972.

To find the roots of our current policies and the rebirth of segregation, read Undermining Brown.