Monday Reading List: School Funding, Race, and Support for a Movement

Welcome to the week, my friends. I'll be in Philly this week, not in an official convention capacity, but for "convention adjacent" activities. If the blogging is slow, I apologize, but I should have some good guest posts throughout the week.

Since I'm in Philly, let's start the week with the words of a local educator. Sharif El-Mekki is a principal in a Philadelphia school, and he writes a great blog. Here he discusses the toll that schools can take on Black boys; funding is part of the problem:

The Black male enrollment in our city’s public schools is a little over 34,000. That equals about 26% of the total student population in Philadelphia (not including charter schools). Yet, 47% of the students suspended are Black boys. As far as academics, 80% struggle with passing the state reading exams. Black boys graduate at paltry rates ... despite continuing to have the most inequitable spending between poor and wealthy districts, [the state of Pennsylvania refuses] to properly fund the new formula. So, now we have a formula without the money to apply it to in our schools. Our equity resistant legislators deemed it prudent and just to only legislate that new funding should be equitable. That means that only $200 million out of the $5.48 billion state funding will be fairly distributed. It is abundantly clear that Black lives don’t actually matter to all. 

Property tax revenues, on a municipal basis, still account for the majority of state funding in most places, which is why "zip code" dictates education spending in many places. States, though, have taken steps to equalize this fundamentally unjust system. Camden County, New Jersey - where I went to public school - is right next to Philadelphia, and the state of New Jersey is required to subsidize urban school districts whose per-pupil revenues are lower than nearby suburbs. Funding alone isn't the answer, but I don't see a lot of suburban folks advocating for lower funding in their own kids' schools.

Robert Croston, a principal in Chicago, thinks that statistics like the ones El-Mekki points out should encourage all educators to be at the forefront of the movement for Black lives:

Black Lives Matter is more than a group of protesters marching on streets inconveniencing commutes home or weekend plans. It’s an extension of the civil rights movement: abolitionism, bus boycotts, sit-ins and the Freedom Riders. If only more people could see this continuum. Educators are working to make the role racism plays in daily life more apparent in order to end it. Illinois state law requires all schools to help students link historical events, like the Civil Rights Movement, to current affairs ...Our systems of education and justice are failing our Black students the most. To fix this oppression will take the hard, dedicated work of countless leaders. What if all school and government officials, especially those in the criminal justice system, had to complete trainings committed to uprooting racial bias?

If you ever ask yourself, "I wonder if I would have been supportive of the Civil Rights movement?" stop wondering. If you worry about the tactics deployed by activists, consider this gentle reminder, which hip-hop artist Talib Kweli Greene shared on his twitter feed: 

Still, Americans have mixed thoughts about the movement, even within the Black community. Theodore Johnson writes in the Atlantic about the effect of the movement on potential voting behavior:

Notably, black voters residing in households with an annual income of less than $60,000 and more than $150,000 held strong preferences for a candidate’s support of Black Lives Matter, but those making between $80,000 and $100,000 annually were much more likely to support the candidate focused on economic opportunity and self-determination. Also, voters with higher degrees in education were less likely to vote for the candidate who supports Black Lives Matter and believes new civil-rights laws are required than the candidate who supports economic opportunity and hard work. These results mirror recent findings that show affluent blacks are moving away from favoring strongly liberal policies. But no other group of black voters prioritized Black Lives Matter in its voting choices more than single parents. They were, by and large, more likely to vote for the candidate who supports the movement and new legislation than the candidate who prefers an economic approach to racial inequality. This was likely driven by the more liberal leanings of young, black women relative to the rest of the black electorate.

The study uses a voting preference model to arrive at its conclusions, so this isn't a survey strictly about support for the movement, but rather on how relative support affects voting behaviors. Still, it is important for White folks, and non-Black people of color, to understand that the Black community isn't an intellectual hegemony. As I've said many times, White folks should spend considerable time educating other White folks about racial differences. Layla Tromble and Terri Kempton took that charge to the next level:

White Nonsense Roundup (WNR) was created by white people, for white people, to address our inherently racist society. We believe it is our responsibility to call out white friends, relatives, contacts, speakers, and authors who are contributing to structural racism and harming our friends of color. We are a resource for anti-racist images, links, videos, artwork, essays, and voices. These can be used by anyone for a DIY white nonsense roundup, or by the WNR team to support people of color upon their request.

Enjoy the videos, and I'll be back tomorrow!