Friday Reading List: Discrimination, Movement Tension, and Voter Suppression

Kate Zernicke in The New York Times has an analysis of the Connecticut education ruling I discussed on the reading list yesterday. Here's the gist:

Though his ruling was about Connecticut, he spoke to a larger nationwide truth: After the decades of lawsuits about equity and adequacy in education financing, after federal efforts like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, after fights over the Common Core standards and high-stakes testing and the tug of war between charter schools and community schools, the stubborn achievement gaps between rich and poor, minority and white students persist ... Judge [Thomas] Moukawsher’s decision in the case, Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding v. Rell, which has been making its way through the courts for more than a decade, did not say money does not matter. But it was a strikingly blunt way of saying what many people feel: The system is broken ... “Money spent well is a good way to boost outcomes; money spent poorly is not,” he said. “You don’t need an awful lot of social science research to prove that common-sense proposition: If you waste money you’re not going to see results.”

Because most incidences of common-sense drive ideologues mad, I'm sure that scores of commentators will try to explain why Moukawsher's decision is only half right. Do your best to ignore them. We will get nowhere in education if folks insist either that the system already works, or that the only problem is money. Neither is true.

A pair of articles in The 74 Million looks at the strains between charter school activists and the movement for Black lives. Beth Hawkins profiles a Minneapolis Black Lives Matter leader who has stepped down from his perch over the national organization's position on charter schooling, and Derrell Bradford pleads for comity:

In the case of law enforcement, when people don’t think they can trust the police, they cannot be policed. It’s safe to offer that policing policies and actions across this country have put that trust on trial and in doubt. And trust may indeed be a casualty of a broad unwillingness to be honest about how the government’s agents of order deal with people of color. If you can’t trust the government to police you fairly, then everyone has a problem. So, then, question two: If you can’t trust the government to keep you safe, despite Black Lives Matter activism, why would anyone expect that same government to adequately educate you?

Bradford's perspective is one I hear from a lot of activists, and it reflects a decades-long conversation about how much the Black community in particular can trust educational institutions run by the state. This is not an argument for privatization, as it often gets mischaracterized; it's an argument against an oppressive system.

Speaking of oppressive systems, there is fishy voter registration activity in Georgia, according to Trey Magnum at Blavity, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

While Republicans have been claiming voter fraud is a problem in states like North Carolina, there seems to be an operation to thwart the black vote at this Georgia university ... Kennesaw State University’s dean of students sent a memo to students Tuesday warning them of what was going on, saying that there were “unauthorized individuals are walking around with clipboards claiming they are registering students to vote” in recent weeks” and they “are targeting particular student populations.” A source told AJC that word has is on campus that these people are targeting black students so that they think they will be able to vote in November, and they actually can’t.

The problem with voter suppression activity is that much of it is hard to prove. Someone can walk around with a clipboard at a university, as is alleged here, pretending to register large numbers of Black students with little fear of reprisal. The subterfuge has been abandoned in places like North Carolina, where the legislature is more-or-less party to a conspiracy to prevent Black citizens from voting, but most voter suppression takes the form of highly localized intimidation and obfuscation tactics, enabled by the massive decentralization of voting procedures in this country.

AirBnB recently admitted that its decentralized host system also has adverse consequences on racial discrimination. Adam Chandler at The Atlantic has the story:

In a sweeping internal report released on Thursday, the San Francisco company formally reckoned with the claims. “An increasing number of Airbnb hosts and guests have voiced their concerns about being discriminated against when trying to book a listing because of their race, sexual orientation or gender identity,” read the report, which was written by the former American Civil Liberties Union director Laura Murphy and the current head of a public-affairs consultancy. To combat bias, the company announced that it would take several steps, some symbolic and others more actionable, to promote a more inclusive platform.

The company retained former United States Attorney General Eric Holder to help develop an anti-discrimination policy, they're going to punish users who discriminate, and they're asking users to take a "pledge" of non-discrimination. We'll see, I guess ...

And finally, some good news. Pedro Noguera is in The Hechinger Report discussing the success of the Young Women's Leadership School:

Education reformers Ann and Andrew Tisch, established the East Harlem school as a way to offer low-income families a choice. It was the city’s first single-sex public school to open in more than 30 years. The Tisches’ idea for the school was sparked by research demonstrating that girls learn better, particularly in math and science, when they are in an all-girl environment. Moreover, they were committed by their belief that higher education can serve as a path out of poverty. This principle motivated them to use their clout and conviction to work intently with the New York City Department of Education to establish the school ...The school has a rigorous academic environment where students are challenged to think critically and are exposed to a wide array of electives. In many ways, it is similar to the kind of environment present in many private academies ... This June, graduates of all the schools are on their way to college, just as the majority has been since the first school opened in 1996.

A nice story to start a nice weekend!