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Inside Politics

Kerry cites unfulfilled 'promise of Brown'

Democrat marks anniversary of landmark decision

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CNN's Fred Katayama on schools and the workplace 50 years after Brown .
• Explainer: A landmark ruling
• Timeline: School segregation
• Chart gallery: Race and schools
• CNN Presents: 50 years later
• CNN Presents: Educator guide
Civil Rights
John F. Kerry

TOPEKA, Kansas (CNN) -- Sen. John Kerry on Monday hailed progress in the fight for racial equality, but said there is "more to do," as he marked the 50th anniversary of a landmark Supreme Court decision on school integration.

Kerry traveled to this Kansas city, where the case, Brown v. Board of Education, had its roots. In its 1954 decision, the Supreme Court struck down the "separate but equal" practice of segregating students by race.

"All of America is a better place because of Brown," Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, declared. "Back then, only four percent of African-Americans had college degrees. Today, nearly 20 percent are college graduates. But we have more to do."

Racial disparities

Kerry cited disparities in achievement levels among white and minority students, as well as racial differences in jobless rates and poverty levels as evidence that "the promise of Brown" remains unfulfilled.

For example, he said, a fourth-grade Hispanic child is only one-third as likely to read at the same level as a fourth-grade white child. And one third of all African-American children, Kerry said, are living in poverty.

Kerry, a four-term senator from Massachusetts, never mentioned President Bush by name, but he took a swipe at the administration's policies, particularly education.

"You cannot promise no child left behind and then pursue policies that leave millions of children behind," Kerry said, referring to a White House education measure that calls for more testing of both students and teachers and ties funding, in part, to success at individual schools.

Democrats have charged that the administration and the Republican-controlled Congress have not provided states and schools with enough money to comply with some of the new requirements.

Bush speech

Bush is traveling to Topeka later Monday, where he will deliver a speech marking the anniversary of Brown.(Full story)

Kerry's campaign distributed a critical assessment of Bush's record on civil rights, citing his opposition to affirmative action programs and the Justice Department's handling of various civil rights cases.

"Today, more than ever, we need to renew our commitment to one America," Kerry said. "We should not delude ourselves into thinking that the work of Brown is done when there are those who still seek, in different ways, to see it undone. To rollback affirmative action -- to restrict equal rights --- to undermine the promise of our Constitution."

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