Charlotte’s Organized PEACEFUL Protests Against Inequities Ignored… Disorganized DISORDERLY Protests Against Police Get Headlines
William Barber II, president of the North Carolina N.A.A.C.P., founder of the “Moral Monday” movement, and self-described “pastor and organizer”, wrote a thoughtful and compelling op ed piece that appeared in today’s NYTimes. In the essay, “Why We Are Protesting in Charlotte”, Barber writes:
Anyone who is concerned about violence in Charlotte should note that no one declared a state of emergency when the city’s schools were resegregated, creating a school-to-prison pipeline for thousands of poor African-American children. Few voiced outrage over the damage caused when half a million North Carolinians were denied health insurance because the Legislature refused to expand Medicaid.
When Charlotte’s poor black neighborhoods were afflicted with disproportionate law enforcement during the war on drugs, condemning a whole generation to bad credit and a lack of job opportunities, our elected representatives didn’t call it violence. When immigration officers raid homes and snatch undocumented children from bus stops, they don’t call it violence. But all of these policies and practices do violence to the lives of thousands of Charlotte residents.
As Mr. Barber knows well, his list of egregious policies that work against the poor and minorities is only partial. He could have mentioned the underfunding of social services while corporations received tax cuts. He could have mentioned the loan practices that left poor and minority families without shelter and the subsequent bailouts that left them on the street while bank executives continue to collect whopping bonuses. And as he points out, the violence school children experience every day contributes to the violent reactions to incidents like the police’s alleged killing of an innocent black man who was waiting at the bus stop for his child to return from school. Barber writes:
Our protests are about more than the Scott case. Every child on that bus — every person in Mr. Scott’s neighborhood — is subject to systemic violence every day, violence that will only increase if Mr. Trump and others continue to exploit the specter of violent protests for political gain.
We have seen this before. After the civil rights movement pushed this nation to face its institutionalized racism, we made significant efforts to address inequality through the war on poverty. We did not lose that war because we lacked resources or met insurmountable obstacles. We lost it because Richard M. Nixon’s “Southern strategy” played on white fears about black power by promising to “restore order” without addressing the root causes of unrest.
Here’s what I find unsettling: North Carolina, like most of our country, is deeply divided politically. It has a progressive streak that led to the emergence of cities like Charlotte and the emergence of regions like the Research Triangle. But it also has a backward element that wants to return to the “good old days” when an elite group of straight Christian white men controlled the writing of laws. Anyone who follows state legislatures knows who is in charge now and can see the kinds of laws they have passed over the past several months since they took charge. When the progressive voters ignored the elections North Carolina took many steps backward… a step toward resegregation, a step toward intolerance for the LGBTs, a step toward ignoring the neediest in favor of the wealthy.
The media ignored Mr. Barber’s Moral Monday movement, a series of organized and peaceful protests designed to bring attention to the backward steps taken by the NC legislature. Now they run headline stories when a small band of protesters react violently to militarized police. As Mr. Barber writes:, “We cannot condemn the violence of a small minority of protesters without also condemning the overwhelming violence that millions suffer every day.” When the media ignore peaceful protests designed to flag the root cause of violence and amplify the violence itself, they are reinforcing the messages of “Mr. Trump and others (who) continue to exploit the specter of violent protests for political gain.”
A post on the Occupy Democrats blog reports that the Michigan legislature has just passed a bill making it illegal for the residents of Flint MI to sue the state for the crisis it created with the tainted water in their community. Why?
House Speaker Kevin Cotter (R-Mt. Pleasant) complained that “a reckless lawsuit could throw the state budget into disarray and undermine everything we’ve done for the city.”
The whole problem with the water in Flint…. AND the schools in Flint… AND the general well-being of the citizens of Flint… is that Mr. Cotter and his friends in theTea Party wing of the Republican party wanted to save the rest of the taxpayers— especially the wealthiest ones— money.
Meanwhile in Oklahoma where fracking is creating a marked increase in earthquakes and draining its most precious resource– water— in order to increase the output of oil, the legislature passed a bill making it illegal to pass a law banning fracking ANYWHERE in the state. So much for local control…
And here’s what’s sad for those of us who advocate for public education: these legislatures are being given more and more control over how federal education dollars are being spent. Do you think the money will be used to help level the playing field in these states? To provide handicapped children with the additional support they need? To supplement local funding in districts where the eroded tax bases and demands for infrastructure upgrades make it difficult to spend on schools? Think again!
NYTimes columnist Frank Bruni devoted his Sunday column to debunking the the rankings published by the USNews and World Report, rankings that tend to overemphasize immaterial things like reputation, the size of the college’s endowment, and “selectivity” while under-emphasizing their ability to provide equitable access to veterans (the focus of Bruni’s recent columns on post secondary education) and minorities and first-time college attendees.
Much of Bruni’s column is devoted to the way colleges “game” the system USNews and World Report devised and the way USNews and World Report promotes its rankings to ensure the sale of its signature issues that do the rankings. But he overlooks an even worse result of the raking mania:, the ranking of high schools. The ranking idea is taking hold at the high school level because it reinforces the notion that public eduction should operate as an open marketplace where parents can choose high schools in the same fashion that they can “choose” colleges… and the choice of high schools is rapidly mirroring the “choice” of colleges: high schools serving to affluent and well-educated children and highly selective public high schools and chatter schools come out ahead of high schools that work diligently to provide an educational opportunity for all the children who attend. This, in turn, adds to the luster of these “high performing” schools and diminish the value and importance of the other schools.
Maybe in a future column Mr. Bruni will see the fruitlessness of the rankings game and focus on the need for ALL children to have the same opportunity as the children of well-educated parents raised in affluent communities.
Yesterday’s Channel 6 newscast featured a story on the State Supreme Court’s hearing today on the funding equity lawsuit between the William Penn School District and the Pennsylvania Department of Education. From my perspective, this case is forty years late!
As a part-time graduate student in 1971 I wrote a paper for a School Law course on the effects of exclusionary zoning on school funding. The conclusion was that suburban school districts who had zoning ordinances that required larger house lots effectively excluded low income housing which in turn drove up the cost of homes which in turn expanded the real estate tax base which in turn enabled those districts to spend more. The whole situation was exacerbated by the way State funds were distributed at that time.
As a graduate fellow a year later I worked in Springfield (Montgomery County), one of the most affluent suburban districts in the Philadelphia region as an intern. The assignment was eye opening after working for two years as a middle school math teacher in Philadelphia, which this district bordered. The 1930s vintage junior high I taught in had 3000 students on a split shift in my first year and over 1600 the second year. Class sizes ranged from 32-36 and the halls were thick with students when classes changed. In Springfield, which bordered Philadelphia on the Northwest, the junior high was built in the 1960s and had no more than 28 students in a class. The halls were spacious as were the athletic fields that surrounded the building, a marked contrast to the asphalt that served as a de facto moat around the fortress-like building in Philadelphia. While the school board in the affluent district worked diligently to contain spending in Springfield, they did so without giving ANY consideration to expanding class sizes to those encountered a mile away in Philadelphia. And while some of my colleagues thought that unions were the problem in Philadelphia, they were reaching agreements with the local unions that resulted in total compensation for their teachers that matched Philadelphia’s.
In 1975 after concluding my fellowship program at Penn, I began my administrative career at William Penn, a recently merged blue collar and racially diverse school district that bordered Philadelphia on the Southwest. The school facilities were superior to Philadelphia but no where close to those in the affluent district, and the housing stock in the district where I worked was more like Philadelphia than Springfield: row houses; duplexes; and single dwellings with postage sized lots. The tax base was marginally better than Philadelphia, but the class sizes at the High School where I worked were larger than those in Springfield and the array of courses was much more limited. Because the district had just merged there was a belief that over the course of time the salaries for teachers and the opportunities for students would both increase since one of the districts in the merger had more resources. As time went on, however, the school board members represented those parents who sent their children to private and parochial schools and those taxpayers who did not have children in school. The result was suppressed spending on public schools. As a result, William Penn is one of many PA schools who suffer underfunding as a result of a State formula that starves public education and state spending that does not compensate for the inherent inequities that result when districts rely on local property taxes.
Forty years ago the students I taught in Philadelphia and worked with at William Penn suffered from the State’s inequitable funding formulas. Today, their grandchildren are saddled with the same disadvantages. the State Supreme Court will hear a case that will determine if future generations will continue to face an uphill battle as they strive to move ahead.
SFGate reprinted an article from The Conversation by Aaron Kupchik titled “Why Are Police Inside Public Schools?” In the article Mr. Kupchik reviews the trends that led to the current situation where over 75% of the schools in the nation have either a policeman or security guard on duty and the consequences of that trend. Some of the consequences have been discussed in this blog earlier: the criminalization of misconduct in schools that led to higher arrest rates among poor minority students; the implicit acceptance of a world where police presence is a given; the incompatibility of a law enforcement approach to discipline and the nurturing and supportive environment that is needed– especially in elementary and middle schools. But in my analysis of the assignment of police to schools I overlooked how this is perceived by law enforcement officers themselves:
In many of these schools, police officers are being asked to deal with a range of issues that are very different from traditional policing duties, such as being a mental health counselor for a traumatized child. This is an unfair request.
Days after the recent tragedy in Dallas, for example, as he grieved for the five slain officers, Dallas Police Chief David Brown referred to this problem when he said,
“We’re asking cops to do too much in this country… Every societal failure, we put it off on the cops to solve. Not enough mental health funding, let the cops handle it. … Schools fail, let’s give it to the cops… ”
Chief Brown is right: in assigning police to schools, by expecting them to be “…a mental health counselor for a traumatized child” we ARE expecting too much from police and from security guards. But there’s a reason schools employ police instead of social workers: the public is far more likely to support a privatized security guard or locally funded police officer to a social worker or psychologist. The public prefers a quick, cheap, and easy solution to the “school safety crisis” to one that is slow, expensive and complicated. And chief Brown’s quote regarding the police’s workload could be echoed by school administrators and school boards across the country as follows:
“We’re asking teachers to do too much in this country… Every societal failure, we put it off on the teachers to solve. Not enough mental health funding, let the teachers handle it. … Schools fail, let’s blame the teachers and hand it off to someone else who will do the job more cheaply… ”
Fixing schools requires more than replacing one set of beleaguered teachers with another set of newer, younger teachers. It requires more than establishing a tough discipline code that results in higher suspension, expulsion, and drop out rates. It requires more than replacing one management system with another. It requires coordinated early intervention with children who are experiencing challenges because their parents are unable to find work, are unable or unwilling to provide a nurturing and supportive environment at home, or are literally or figuratively absent from their lives. It will require money, time, and trial and error. Expecting more from police, or teachers, or social workers who are already putting in long hours and doing their best to help children won’t be sufficient. And giving up by locking up hasn’t worked. Let’s try something different.
Paul Krugman’s column on September 2 described our country’s decision to allow the poisoning of thousands of children due to lead contamination to continue. Why? Two reasons: the children are almost all poor and minorities; and the solution to the problem would involve government intervention and cost lots of money. And how do politicians explain this decision to ignore this state of affairs? By denying the scientific evidence or accepting evidence gathered by “scientists” funded by corporate donors.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve witnessed it before with cigarettes, with acid rain, with lead paint and tetra-ethyl lead in gasoline (both eventually outlawed), and with flouro-carbons, which were also eventually outlawed. But we are also witnessing it now in our denial of climate change, in our continued unwillingness to get the lead out of water in many communities across the country… and in our continued belief that we don’t need to address poverty in order to improve our public schools. Indeed, Krugman emphasizes the link between lead in the water and education:
But I’ve just been reading a new study by a team of economists and health experts confirming the growing consensus that even low levels of lead in children’s bloodstreams have significant adverse effects on cognitive performance. And lead exposure is still strongly correlated with growing up in a disadvantaged household.
But how can this be going on in a country that claims to believe in equality of opportunity? Just in case it’s not obvious: Children who are being poisoned by their environment don’t have the same opportunities as children who aren’t.
I guess it isn’t obvious to those who insist on administering standardized tests to children who are being poisoned by their environment and then concluding that their poor performance is the result of attending “over-regulated government schools”.
Earlier this week the Washington Post writer Emma Brown reported that the Department of Education’s rules for spending ESSA funds require that district use their federal dollars to supplement and not supplant local and state dollars. This is a big deal, because it illustrates that the Obama administration is taking a stand in support of directing money to the neediest children in the neediest schools, as described in these paragraphs:
“For far too long the students who need help the most have gotten the least,” Education Secretary John B. King Jr. said. “No single measure will erase generations of resource inequities and there is still much more work to do. … But today’s announcement is a concrete step toward closing these gaps.”
At issue is the portion of the Every Student Succeeds Act that requires school districts to use Title I dollars in addition to — not instead of — state and local money. The outlines of that provision — known as “supplement not supplant” — has been in place for decades, and is meant to ensure that districts don’t underfund schools in poor neighborhoods and then use federal aid to make up the difference.
Many school districts are living up to the law, but thousands of high-poverty schools are being shortchanged, receiving less state and local money per pupil than more affluent schools within the same district, according to the Obama administration.
As one who led two large school districts (i.e. over 10,000 students) I can see that the last phrase in the second paragraph might be problematic since, in many instances, transfer provisions in negotiated agreements often result in experienced teachers migrating from schools serving low income students to schools serving affluent students. This results in a situation where the student-teacher ratios are equal but the cost-per-student is higher in the affluent school because the median salaries of teachers are higher. Moreover, adding more teachers to the schools serving lower income students is often an impossibility because of limitations in the facilities. These are administrative and political complications that effect adults, though. And writing the rules to mitigate these concerns often results in loopholes that perpetuate the disparities within districts and between districts.
In the end, the supplement-versus-supplant issue comes down to one issue that states and local districts do NOT want to tackle: the need to spend more money on schools:
The Education Department said that the proposed rule would ensure an additional $2 billion in spending in high-poverty Title I schools. But a key question is where those billions would come from: Would state and local taxpayers make new investments? Or would money — and faculty — be shifted from more affluent schools?
The agency said it would like to see districts comply not by forcing teacher transfers or by shifting resources but by devoting more money overall to education. That could be a difficult sell in states and districts where education funding has yet to recover from the hit it took during the housing crash and subsequent recession, and where many schools are struggling with tight budgets.
In earlier posts I’ve advocated that the federal government deny any money to any state that is currently in litigation over inequitable funding to provide leverage to those who filed the suits on behalf of poor and disadvantaged students. While I realize that such a proposal would be unlikely to pass, I DO think it would compel parents, taxpayers, and voters to focus on the root cause of disparate test scores— which is the disparate funding provided to children from the time they are born until they graduate from high school. Until we provide all children with basic needs— food, clothing and shelter— we should stop mouthing platitudes about “equal opportunities”. The Obama administration is doing the right thing by standing its ground on this issue.
- Muslim After School Clubs Illustrate Problems Mixing Religion and Schools
- Charlotte’s Organized PEACEFUL Protests Against Inequities Ignored… Disorganized DISORDERLY Protests Against Police Get Headlines
- “Watchdogs that don’t bark” Mislead Students, Add to Loan Defaults, Rip-Off Taxpayers, Reward Shareholders
- Don’t Medicate or Punish: Meditate
- Neuroscience Demonstrating What We Already Know: Poverty Impacts Learning and Early Intervention is Essential
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