What’s the state of racial equality today?
Despite significant progress in civil rights, research shows that discrimination remains entrenched in American society. Many historically segregated neighborhoods have some of the highest rates of intergenerational poverty and are the least likely to have access to good schools, transportation, job opportunities and social services. Additionally, the racial wealth gap has more than quadrupled over the last two decades.
These inequities have long-lasting effects on families. Children of color born into hardship often fall behind their white peers and are likelier to live in poverty as adults.
How does racial inequality impact our schools?
Many schools today remain segregated and unequal — a troubling situation since access to good public schools is a critical civil and human right. Although we’ve made many improvements since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that African American children were being denied their rights to a solid education in Brown v. Board of Education more than 50 years ago, there’s still work to do.
What are some of the problems?
The corporate model of school reform isn’t working. Turning public schools over to private managers and encouraging competition, rather than collaboration, between schools and educators, takes away community voice and needlessly creates winners and losers. Schools should be community institutions as well as centers of learning.
And while education alone can’t eradicate poverty, schools can help by coordinating the support and services that students and families need, and by being respectful of the cultures present within their community. In the push for results, many corporate reformers ignore the at-home challenges that students face, instead pushing out vulnerable students rather than providing the extra support they need to succeed.
What changes are needed in our education system?
- Fair funding. A new report from The Alliance for Quality Education, found that the 2016 New York State budget underfunded 81 percent of all high need schools, including 30 of the 33 districts serving primarily students of color.
- Accessible, affordable and high-quality post-secondary education that includes a pathway for undocumented students.
- A living wage. While public schools can be a pathway out of poverty, a living wage ensures that hardworking families have the time and resources to properly care for their children.
What can I do?
Pledge to Vote — sign a pledge card for NYSUT’s new Pledge to Vote Campaign— the pledge won’t tell you how to vote but encourage members to get involved in the political process. As educators and professionals, we know that you will consider pro-education candidates that help students, schools and communities.
Support the DREAM Act, which provides undocumented youth a path to citizenship: https://dreamact.info
Support Fight for 15, an international movement calling for a $15 minimum wage, http://fightfor15.org, #FightForFifteen
Teach understanding and tolerance in the classroom by creating your own anti-bias lessons using readings, videos and informational texts for grades 3-12. http://perspectives.tolerance.org/
NYSUT Start the Conversation about racial diversity, equality and tolerance in your local, school, campus or community.
Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity
The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools
Schott Foundation for Public Education
Alliance for Quality Education 2016 Report: “CFE Derailed”