You can also read my colleague Hailly Korman’s coverage of the Movement for Black Lives’ education platform in this post from yesterday.
Student march in Minneapolis, MN via flickr user Fibonacci Blue
The Movement for Black Lives’ K-12 education platform has only been public for a few days, but it’s already a success in one sense: It got people talking about the education of black students. Perhaps no part of the education platform was more provocative than the call for a moratorium on charter schools. It forced this uncomfortable question: Why – if so many black families are choosing charters – would the Movement reject them?
Looking at the data, it’s a hard position to explain. It’s no secret that traditional public schools are failing black students. Nationally, the eighth grade black-white achievement gap in public schools is 29 points in reading and 32 points in math. Only 72.5 percent of black students graduate high school on time, almost 15 points behind their white peers. On the other hand, many charters appear to be doing better. A recent study found that nationally urban charters provide higher levels of growth in reading and math. Furthermore, the majority of black parents report supporting charter schools.
So, why would the Movement for Black Lives want to stop the expansion of charters when the evidence seems to suggest that they should want just the opposite? Continue reading
Last week, a collective of organizations engaged in the Black Lives Matter movement published two policy briefs (here and here) which together articulate an education platform. Although Black Lives Matter crystallized into a cultural force after several well-documented incidents of police violence, it has never been a single-issue movement. For many Americans, critical analyses of public schools have never lived very far away from conversations about racism, policing, and the fundamental role of government.
In many education circles, these conversations became open and explicit with the introduction of “school resource officers.” A school resource officer is an on-duty police officer assigned to a school campus. These positions ballooned after the Columbine tragedy, ostensibly to protect students in the event of another attempted school shooting. That hasn’t worked out as designed, and although there are stories of heroism, they’re dwarfed by the ongoing incidents of mass violence with student casualties. Unfortunately, the presence of school resource officers on campus has also meant that every discipline problem (even fake burping) can quickly escalate to an arrest.
And just like formal policing outside of the school gates, the unofficial policing of behavior on campus shows markers of racism and bias. Black students, both boys and girls, are disproportionately suspended and expelled. For a school, that might be the end of the story, but for a young person and their family, it’s likely just the latest in a series of disruptive encounters with agencies supposedly tasked with protecting and caring for them.
This new Black Lives Matter education platform acknowledges the central role that schools play in communities today and that they are woven into the fabric of families’ lives. Education, policing, and criminal justice are in constant interplay, and none of them function independently of the others. Some of the policy wonks among us might take issue with the particulars of the recommendations — and that’s fair — but the platform should be read in its intended context, and policy debates should be informed by an understanding of the complex relationships among these public agencies.