November 2nd, 2004
Alabama Voters Reject Amendment Removing Segregated School Provision from Constitution
On November 2, 2004, Alabama voters narrowly voted to retain a state constitutional provision mandating separate schools for black and white children. The amendment would have removed a provision from Article XIV, Section 256, of the Alabama Constitution of 1901, which reads: “Separate schools shall be provided for white and colored children, and no child of either race shall be permitted to attend a school of the other race.”
The amendment also would have removed language added to Section 256 in 1954, which stated that the Alabama Constitution does not create a right to public education. As Alabama resisted school desegregation following the Brown v. Board of Education decision, the 1954 language was enacted to authorize the state to dismantle its public education system if forced to integrate. Proponents of the 2004 amendment argued that removing both the 1901 and 1954 language would purge the constitution’s educational provisions of that pro-segregation legacy.
Shortly before the election, some conservative officials mounted a campaign arguing that removal of the “no right to public education” language would expose the state to potential legal challenges and could allow the state to raise taxes. The proposed amendment failed by 1850 votes (0.13%). In November 2012, Alabama voters again had the opportunity to remove the school segregation provision from the state constitution and again voted to retain it.
Meanwhile, many school systems in Alabama remain segregated. Following the forced implementation of the Brown decision, all-white private schools and academies opened across the state. These academies still exist, especially in the Alabama's Black Belt region, where white enrollment in public schools is particularly low. In 2008-09, 94% of students enrolled in the Bullock County public school system were African American and less than 1% were white.