“In education, America does everything but equity.” With these words, Failing Brown v. Board, a new report from the civil rights group Journey for Justice Alliance, makes plain how the machine of educational reform, with all its innovations and disruptive technologies, is missing an essential cog: the resources to deliver a quality neighborhood school.
Most states cut education spending in the 2008 recession. Yet, despite the economy having recovered, there is less funding today for education than even those lean years, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Researchers from this non-profit found that in 2015, “29 states were still providing less total school funding per student than they were in 2008.”
No wonder the quality of our schools is suffering, and parents are grasping at straws. But the seductive promise of educational programs that don’t grapple with the roots of inequality will eventually ring hollow.
Yesterday, the director of Journey for Justice Alliance, Jitu Brown — alongside other civil rights groups including the NAACP, the Advancement Project, American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association — held a press conference on the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. The occasion was the release of the report, to do what many reformers openly refuse to — confront a system of segregated schools.
Segregated housing and schools, gerrymandered districts and voter suppression picked up were Jim Crow left off. Housing ghettos are born of racist housing policies that rob the black community of opportunities to amass wealth. According to Prosperity Now, a national nonprofit to expand economic opportunity for low-income families, and the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank, white households have seven times the amount of wealth as African Americans, and six times as much as Latinos.
This is perhaps the most critical part:
“Every parent deserves choices about where they will send their child to school,” proclaimed Texas Governor Greg [Abbott] according to a Texas Observer report on a 2017 rally for school choice. “All these parents know this isn’t a Republican issue, it’s not a Democrat issue. This is a civil rights issue.” Choice has been the rallying cry for defenders of charter schools, voucher systems and other contrivances that purport to free students from oppressive public school structures. Many claim this is the civil rights issue of our time.
Some civil rights groups, including those who attended yesterday’s rally, feel differently. When the NAACP, one of our country’s foremost civil right organizations, voted on a resolution to place a moratorium on charter schools, the backlash from charter advocates was swift and often times mean-spirited. One hundred and sixty black leaders, part of the charter lobby, signed a letter encouraging the NAACP to back off, saying: “For many urban Black families, charter schools are making it possible to do what affluent families have long been able to do: rescue their children from failing schools.” This is a lie. Giving low-income, black people charter schools without making them wealthy will never give them the same educational options as the affluent class. As a former charter leader, I’ve seen us make wealthy people the standard, then pitch false promises to families on how to reach it. But it never works.
n addition, more schooling isn’t going to close the racial wealth gap. Let’s stop promoting the idea that affluent people became wealthy from their dedication to education. Slavery, job discrimination and redlining, which took away the ability of black people to establish equity in a home, had much more to do with creating affluence for white people and giving them the ability to choose. Charter schools that accept segregation as a default don’t help rescue black children, contrary to what the letter to the NAACP argued. Students aren’t trapped in failing schools as much as they are trapped in poverty fueled by segregation.
As the Failing Brown v. Board report states, “The refusal to offer Black and Brown and poor children the same resources and educational opportunities that are offered to white and wealthy children continues to be a national crisis that has yet to be acknowledged or addressed by those in positions of power.”
Who are you going to believe about civil rights, Greg Abbott or the NAACP?
But hey, mentioning that white parents sending their kids to charter or private schools or moving to the suburbs so their kids can go to the “best” schools is a racist act that directly contributes to segregation and racial inequality is the greatest crime in LGM history.