Wednesday Reading List: School Budgeting, Discrimination in Schools, and Cultural Appropriation

Sarah Darville of Chalkbeat explains how the Trump administration's budget might force schools to spend money in different ways:

The budget proposal calls for expanding Title I with money “dedicated to encouraging districts to adopt a system of student-based budgeting and open enrollment that enables Federal, State, and local funding to follow the student to the public school of his or her choice.” In calling for student-based budgeting, Trump joins a host of big-city school leaders and education reformers who argue that money should follow each student, no matter where they enroll. It sounds like a simple idea, but it’s far from how most school districts operate. Districts traditionally create school budgets based largely on how much it costs to pay the salaries of the adults who work in a building. That can mean schools serving high-needs students, which often have less experienced and lower-paid teachers, get less money than schools with more affluent students.

The Trump administration did not invent this concept of "student based budgeting," as New York City, Denver, and other major cities have used this procedure for years. What's unique about this plan is the idea that federal money could be used to support religious schools, private schools, and other institutions without accountability to the public.

That lack of accountability includes adherence to civil rights laws; many private schools have selective admissions procedures that are easy to exploit for the purposes of discrimination. If you're not worried about this problem, Dominic Holden of BuzzFeed has this story of a student in Pennsylvania who is suing his school district because transgender children are allowed to use the bathroom:

By allowing the transgender student to share the facilities, the lawsuit alleges, the Boyertown Area School District has violated the boy’s civil and constitutional rights. Lawyers at Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian advocacy legal group representing the plaintiff, have asked a federal judge to suspend a school policy that lets transgender students use facilities that match their gender identity. The case inverts arguments made in the past by several transgender students in other lawsuits that attempt to overturn school-district rules that restrict access to bathrooms. Among those students is Gavin Grimm, whose high-profile case is winding through federal appeals courts.

Not allowing transgender students to use public bathrooms is discrimination, period. Moreover, if you think that these lawsuits are JUST about the ability to discriminate against transgender students, and not about rolling back broader civil protections for LGBT folks in the public and private spheres ...

Hate rhetoric, of many varieties, is more prevalent in this country than it has been at any other point in my lifetime. This rhetoric is creating a context that will embolden legislatures and courts to infringe on civil rights. Anyone who cares about freedom, civil liberties, and the protection of individual rights should be enraged at every attempt to encroach on those rights. Preventing people from using bathrooms is a way to discriminate against marginalized people. It always has been ...

In other news, Randy Kennedy of The New York Times has the story of a painting at a New York museum, which is drawing protests:

The open-coffin photographs of the mutilated body of Emmett Till, the teenager who was lynched by two white men in Mississippi in 1955, served as a catalyst for the civil rights movement and have remained an open wound in American society since they were first published in Jet magazine and The Chicago Defender at the urging of Till’s mother. The images’ continuing power, more than 60 years later, to speak about race and violence is being demonstrated once again in protests that have arisen online and at the newly opened Whitney Biennial over the decision of a white artist, Dana Schutz, to make a painting based on the photographs. An African-American artist, Parker Bright, has conducted peaceful protests in front of the painting since Friday, positioning himself, sometimes with a few other protesters, in front of the work to partly block its view.

I was actually at this exhibit over the weekend, but I didn't see this painting, or the protest. There's a long history of white artists - visual and otherwise - appropriating both the joy and pain on nonwhite cultures to score artistic points. Bright is drawing attention to that history with this protest, and both Schutz and the Whitney ought to engage in that conversation. Have a great day ...