Friday, March 17, 2017

Education, Race and Poverty: It’s Time to Organize!

Our local NPR station (KUHF) joined with its Dallas counterpart (KERA) for a state-wide conversation on the persistent connections between race, poverty and the education of the state’s childrenYou can listen to the program here.

The invitation to participate prompted me to reflect on my thirty years of studying Texas public schools and the ways year after year, legislative session after legislative session, the story has been one of extraordinary teachers and children inside the schools up against pressures from outside that blame, undermine and disinvest.  I used a part of my time during the KUHF interview to recount a history of what Jean Anyon called “pauperizing,” that is, making poor – taking resources away from our schools. In Texas this has happened through a long history of inadequate and unequal funding (acknowledged in more than one court ruling but rarely remedied by legislative investment), as well as billions in direct cuts under Rick Perry (gasp, now US Secretary of Energy) when he was governor.  

Recent and current top officials (Bush, Perry, Abbott, Patrick) have made families poorer as well, rejecting Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act though the state ranks very high in the number of uninsured children and families, and not even considering such legislation as fair and living wage laws, increased regulation of asthma-inducing industrial pollution, or other policies to mitigate inequalities.

And now the threat to poor families, and to the public’s schools, is the outsourcing of poor, Latino and African American children to charter chains and voucher schools (giving families “freedom scholarships,” with tax breaks to rich “donors” to private schools), an artificial “market” of schooling in no way accountable to or aligned with strong communities and democracy governance.  It can’t be a coincidence that strategic subtractions from the capacities of our public schools come at a time when our student population is most ethnically, culturally, linguistically diverse – that is, less “white.”

Professor Richard Milner of the University of Pittsburg contributed to the radio discussion his research on the ways our failure to address persistent poverty and to address educational inequalities fills the school-to-prison pipeline, abridging the futures of the most vulnerable youth.  In his concluding remarks he urged listeners to organize on behalf of our schools and our children.

I didn’t get to follow up on the air, so I’ll share with you my closing remarks:

Yes, organize!   Get together with your neighbors and with parents and teachers at a school near you.  And join in the efforts of these groups already working on behalf of your children, your community and our schools:

In Texas: 
Community Voices for Public Schools:  See their website for info on Save Our Schools Day, March 25 , to lobby the legislature to defeat vouchers and fund our schools

Pastors for Texas Children , working to keep tax dollars in the public's schools, not in voucher schools; and Texas Freedom Network, vigilant advocacy for public schools, for separation of church and state, for educational equity

Network for Public Education, now 300,000 members strong!  

Only by organizing, by making common cause, can we counter the increasing forces of pauperization and subtraction dominating education policy in Austin and in Washington.

Please comment on my post here

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