(The U.S. Senate confirmed Jeff Sessions as the next U.S. attorney general Wednesday on a vote of 52-47.)
In the early 1990s, children across Alabama’s large rural stretches still attended faltering public schools, some with exposed wiring and rainwater leaking into classrooms. The education was in disrepair, too. Teachers couldn’t assign homework for lack of textbooks. A steel mill announced it would no longer hire local high school graduates because most tested below the eighth grade level. In short, Alabama’s most economically disadvantaged students, primarily black children and those with disabilities, were missing out on a basic education. Then, for a moment, change seemed possible. A civil-rights lawsuit challenging the system for funding Alabama’s schools succeeded, and the state’s courts in 1993 declared the conditions in the poor schools a violation of Alabama’s Constitution.