More than fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, academic studies continue to reach the conclusion that public schools in the nation, especially in the south, remain substantially segregated by race.  In addition, there is great consternation that the public schools fail to deliver a quality, first-rate education, and that this problem is particularly acute in schools that are substantially or majority students of color.

At present, in the struggle to improve schools to deliver a quality, first-rate education academics, educators, activists, legislators, and judges use two principal concepts to characterize their reform goals:  educational adequacy and educational equity.

Southern Echo takes the position that neither educational adequacy nor educational equity account for the historical context that led to existing conditions in the schools, and neither effectively addresses the impact of those conditions.

Educational Adequacy:  The concept of “educational adequacy” is rooted in a two-step process:

  1. Determine the educational needs of students and schools; then
  2. Match sufficient state and local funding with those needs.

Educational Equity:  The concept of “educational equity” is rooted in two primary ideas:

1.  That all students in the public school system, regardless of where they reside or the wealth of their families, should be treated equally; and
2.  That each student should receive the same level of educational funding regardless of the tax base of the school district, or the willingness of public officials to raise through taxation the resources needed, or the willingness of public officials to spend money, to provide the same, or equal, education to all children.

“Educational equity” is not defined by a single rubric or frame.  Some equity supporters take a more narrow view that equity is achieved when the resources allocated per students are essentially equivalent across all the school districts in the state.  Other equity advocates take a more complex view that equity means students are provided an education that addresses their disparate needs in order to achieve an equal education outcome.  In this analysis, for example, students at-risk or with special needs, receive an enhanced level of resources to ensure that they receive the education to which they are entitled.

Justice Funding:  The concept of “justice funding” which we are in the process of developing is rooted in the following framework:

  1. That the deprivation of an effective public education for children of color and children of low-wealth has been a matter of intentional, official state and local policies;
  2. Therefore, the state has a duty and responsibility, morally and legally, to eliminate the impact of past deprivations and discrimination that have resulted from intentional, official state and local policies;
  3. Therefore, the state and local school districts have a joint duty and responsibility to level the playing field for all children of low-wealth and color by providing all necessary and appropriate funds, resources, programs and support services to eliminate the impact of past deprivations and discrimination;
  4. That the standard for evaluation and assessment of whether past deprivation and discrimination has been effectively eliminated must be based on actual outcomes for students, as opposed to good intentions;
  5. That the standard for outcomes, while the playing field is being leveled and thereafter, must be based on delivering to all public school students a quality, first-rate education, and quality, first-rate support services, rather than the minimum education that may be defined in existing state constitutions, or as limited by the current willingness of legislators to support public education; and
  6. That the issue is not whether every child can achieve at the same level, but that every child receives the quality of education and support services that enable each child to realize his or her capacity and to achieve up to the level of which they are capable.

The unfortunate historical irony is that the education of white children, both of higher and lower wealth, has suffered immensely as a consequence of the education policies pursued at the state and local school district levels that were designed to minimize public education for black children.  The fight to create a quality public education that is accessible to all children, regardless of race and class, ultimately will be a direct benefit to white children, as well as children of color.  As both communities, at both the state and local levels, recognize this common ground they will have a capacity together to impact education policy in a positive way that will be unprecedented in the history of the state

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