S. E. Williams
Black Voice News has recently expanded its team to include a reporter who will primarily focus on education. In my estimation, the timing could not be more perfect.
As Black students continue their struggle to academically compete with their peers and close the achievement gap, a quest set back by the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, previous education funding disparities persist.
As state dollars are pinched and measured, and another generation of Black scholars, in some instances, are able to scratch out success, the majority of Black scholars continue struggling to keep pace with their peers in other groups.
State data indicates that nearly 70% of Black students in California failed to meet state testing standards for English Language Arts in the 2021-2022 school year, compared with less than 40% of White students. Even more egregious however, is nearly 84% of Black students that failed to meet math standards, compared with about 50% of White students.
The state’s local control funding formula (LCFF) enacted in 2013–14, replaced the previous education system that existed for roughly 40 years. LCFF, intended to recognize the higher costs of education at the higher-grade levels, established uniform per-student base grants with different rates for different grade spans. However, not unlike the previous finance system, it too has failed to deliver educational progress for Black students.
Time to re-assess
A 2019 study by the Educational Opportunity Project at Stanford University, showed that racial segregation remains a major source of educational inequality. It further highlighted, however, that this is because racial segregation almost always concentrates Black and Hispanic students in high-poverty schools.
“The only school districts in the U.S. where racial achievement gaps are even moderately small are those where there is little or no segregation. Every moderately or highly segregated district has large racial achievement gaps,” said Sean Reardon, Professor of Poverty and Inequality at the Stanford Graduate School of Education. “But it’s not the racial composition of the schools that matters. What matters is when Black or Hispanic students are concentrated in high-poverty schools in a district.”
Opportunity for change
The state legislature is currently weighing a proposal by Governor Gavin Newsom to set aside $300 million for low-income schools, but there are some who are advocating for more, proclaiming it is necessary to improve the educational outcomes for Black students.
One such advocate is celebrated educator and student advocate Dr. Margaret Fortune, CEO of the Fortune School of Education (FSE).
In a recent interview with Black Voice News’ newly assigned education reporter Asante-Ra, Fortune explained how she is on a mission to close the African-American achievement gap by getting scholars ready for college.
Listed among Fortune’s top priorities is advocating for the support of Black students in the state who do not receive the same level of funding and accountability as other designated high-needs groups. This is because even though Black students’ academic performance is comparable to other high-needs groups, they are not officially considered ‘high needs’ by the state. Thus, Dr. Fortune co-founded the Black in School Coalition to raise awareness and push for change.
I, for one, agree with Fortune and others who claim the governor’s proposal does not go far enough. A January report by Cal Matters noted that less than 26% of Black students attend a school that would qualify for additional funding under the governor’s initial plan.
Education unlocks opportunity. Yet, in the 21st century Black children continue to grow up too often deprived of access to quality education and thus an opportunity for a better future because they are economically segregated and too often treated by educators with unconscious, and at time, conscious racial bias.
The legislature has until the end of May to make changes to the state budget. So, there is still time to raise your voice on this issue by emailing your legislator and demanding his/she/they consider additional funding for Black students as part of the governor’s education proposal. Remember what the great Frederick Douglass advised, “Power concedes nothing without a demand.”
Of course, this is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real.