How the Blind Lines Prevent Educational Resources for Black and Hispanic Children

(Photograph courtesy of Pixabay/Pexels)

This article is part of a series of articles produced by Word in Black with support provided by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Word In Black is a collaboration of 10 black-owned media outlets across the country.

Through Maya Pottiger

In the 90s, Puff Daddy would talk about how life was “All About the Benjamins” – but, really, it’s all about postcodes.

ZIP codes often determine the school district—or school within a district—where children will attend K-12, which also determines the opportunities and resources they have access to. These school zoning boundaries are invisible, but they have a very real effect on children. Live on one side of the street and your child could have access to a better education — a policy we are supposed to accept as such. What if you don’t follow it? Black parents inadvertently crossing a school zoning line in search of better educational opportunities for their children have been arrested.

So what are the differences when you cross a zoning boundary – and the racial boundary – between schools? The big three, it turns out, are (surprise, surprise) teacher experience and quality, access to school counselors, and number of security guards.

Word In Black analyzed the Urban Institute’s Dividing Lines database, which examines key differences between neighboring pairs of public schools along more than 65,000 zoning boundaries. When creating the database, Urban Institute paired schools based on their school attendance boundaries, sorting the pairs into Groups A and B. Group A is the side of the border with more Black or Hispanic residents , and Group B is the side with fewer Black or Hispanic residents.

Majority black and Hispanic schools have more early career teachers

Overall, schools on side A, the predominantly black/Hispanic side of the border, have a higher proportion of early-career teachers than side B.

The analysis showed that early career teachers are teaching in schools on the majority black/Hispanic side of the border at a rate of 7% more than on the other side. If we just look at majority black schools, the disparity is even greater: early career teachers are in majority black schools 47% more than in majority white schools on the same side of the border.

It’s been going on for decades, according to Dr. Ivory Toldson, a Howard University professor and director of educational innovation and research at the NAACP. In the end, it comes down to stark disparities in funding: more experienced teachers are paid more and less experienced teachers receive less money.

“You have teachers who want to teach in what they consider a good school district: a district that has more resources, more affluent students,” Toldson says. “Schools that have those kinds of resources and have that reputation, they get more applicants and they’re able to select the most qualified applicants.”

“What tends to happen is that where you have concentrated black students and Latinx students, you also have concentrations of poverty,” says Dr. Camika Royal, associate professor of urban education at the Loyola University of Maryland. “Teachers, for the most part, don’t always want to teach in these environments — not because they’re necessarily terrible people, but because it comes with more stress, more demands, more supervision. “

Students face more surveillance on the predominantly black and Hispanic side of the border

There’s been a lot of talk in education circles about the school-to-prison pipeline, and it appears to be working as intended.

Word in Black found that there are 17% more security guards at schools on the Black/Hispanic side of the school zoning boundary. And, on this majority black/Hispanic side of the border, on average, majority black schools have about twice as many security guards as majority white schools.

And in their series Criminalizing Kids, the Center for Public Integrity found that in 46 states, black students were referred to law enforcement at rates higher than the total national referral rate.

Royal says teachers learn to run their classrooms and schools in general in “ways that are dehumanizing – that control this idea of ​​tough love”.

“I always ask when can black children experience sweet love?” Royal said. “The love that is tender? Redemptive or compassionate love? I think our schools still don’t just see black kids — black families, black people — as people who need to be controlled and need to learn how to be instead of just working with us as human beings.

Mental health shouldn’t be a privilege – in schools or elsewhere

Compassion should come from school counselors, but they are a more common resource on the border with the smaller share of black and Hispanic residents. While the data doesn’t show significant differences in the presence of school counselors, Toldson says it’s misleading and there’s still “unevenness.”

“Students from more affluent backgrounds, their parents will often pay for counselors outside of school,” says Toldson. “On the other hand, if you have mostly students whose parents can’t afford counselors, private therapy, or private mental health care, you actually need a higher counselor-to-student ratio in This is a case where when they even appear, it may in fact still be a disparity.

The pandemic has taken a toll on everyone’s mental health. Especially black people, and especially black children. Unfortunately, Royal says, the conversation surrounding student mental health has been “very narrow.”

“Not only are the kids very stressed, but the adults who are supposed to help them deal with stress, they’re also very stressed,” Royal says. “School districts, especially underfunded school districts, are in trouble. They are responsive and try to understand all these competing interests.

Between the immense pressures of trying to keep kids in school and COVID-free, Royal says mental health is pushed down the priority list and lacks the rich conversation it deserves.

“Unfortunately people think the only thing you have to do for mental health is socialize them, which is hard in the midst of COVID,” she says. “Our children have a lot to do: will it kill me? Will it kill my family? Does my school have the capacity to protect me? »

Where are we on school desegregation?

The Urban Institute’s Dividing Lines report features an interactive map to show where school boundaries are drawn and exactly how schools stay separated. Seemingly arbitrary imaginary lines group black and Hispanic students, keeping white students on the other side.

Royal addresses this subject in his forthcoming book, Not Paved for Us: Black Educators and Public School Reform in Philadelphia. While she’s not opposed to school desegregation, Royal doesn’t think it’s the only way to ensure black children get a great education.

“Why are black children in their own schools not worthy of these resources? asks Royal. School desegregation, Royal explains, was a way to sell schools and neighborhoods considered “undesirable for white people.”

“School desegregation became something where our needs weren’t necessarily centered,” Royal says. “It was like, ‘we have to sell it to white people. We have to kind of make black students acceptable to them, but also present black students as a learning opportunity,’ which then isn’t fair to black students.

Dr Royal’s insight makes sense to Toldson, a parent, who says he doesn’t believe ‘just being around white students is good enough for them to get the kind of education they need. need”. However, he says having a separate environment is a “dangerous proposition”, especially with income disparities.

“In this country,” Toldson says, “it always leads to mixed results.”

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