Public schools receive half or more of their funding through local property taxes. If a school is in a low-income neighborhood – refer to information on the housing system for further details – then that school will not receive the same amount of funding as a school in a wealthy neighborhood. Predominantly white schools receive around $23,000,000,000 more in funding compared to districts that serve mostly students of color. Imagine what that creates: opportunities for programming, sports, clubs, hiring more teachers so class sizes can be smaller, etc. It all comes down to access. Not all students have access to the same quality of education. This is why you hear people say they want to move into a neighborhood with “good schools”. That becomes a race-neutral way of saying you want to avoid living in neighborhoods with people of color.
That also plays into assigning unqualified teachers to the most disadvantaged students. Due to the teacher shortage, about 25% of new teachers are hired without meeting certification standards. These 25% are the most likely to be sent to teach in low-income and high-minority population schools. Whereas the most highly-educated new teachers are hired by wealthier schools who have funding to pay them based on their education.
None of us are free from implicit bias, even teachers. When implicit bias goes unaddressed in the workplace, it can have detrimental effects, especially on students in classrooms where teachers don’t realize they are making decisions fueled by their bias. This shows up in the way students of color are underrepresented in gifted and talented programs and over-represented in disciplinary issues.
The implicit bias begins with Black children being perceived as older than they are. A 2014 study, for example, found that people generally view Black boys as older and less innocent starting at the age of 10. Another study released in 2017 produced similar results, finding that Americans overall view Black girls as less innocent and more mature for their age. People were more likely to say that Black girls, compared to white girls, need less nurturing, less protection, less support, and less comfort. This is known as the “adultification” of Black girls. They are seen as older and therefore held to stricter standards of behavior than their peers in the same classroom. This will lead to greater, more frequent punishment. This is why Black boys are suspended at 3x the rate of white boys and Black girls are suspended at 6x the rate of white girls. And this isn’t just high school. These disparities start in pre-school. Even though there are fewer Black students in pre-school programs, they are three times as likely to be suspended.
When there are police officers on school campuses, normally called student resource officers, teachers are more likely to resort to bringing them in rather than employing behavior modification or coaching methods of discipline. Once a student has contact with a school resource officer, the situation is more likely to escalate and can turn a routine school disciplinary issue into an arrestable offense. Thus, creating the school to prison pipeline - refer to the legal system page for further information on that. All of these systems are so interconnected and tainted by racism that they are hard to discuss independently of one another.
Another way schools are structured unjustly is the actual curriculum being taught. Textbooks use selective and whitewashed history, eliminating all perspectives of people of color. This creates a white-centric worldview that is vastly incomplete. These textbooks also tend to gloss over large parts of history in a few sentences or paragraphs, not allowing room for nuance and discussion. While this deficit is becoming more well-recognized, a recent study showed that almost 60% of school teachers did not see an issue with the way their history textbooks presented information. We still have a long way to go.
Lord, we acknowledge our failure to address racial and systemic injustice. Please intercede on our behalf in the Church’s heart towards racial justice; May You open all believers’ eyes and take away anything inhibiting them from hearing, seeing, and responding to the pain of their brothers and sisters in Christ. God, open staff, adminstrators, and teachers’ hearts, minds, and eyes to the racial injustice within the education system and place an urgency in them to eliminate systemic racism. Give our Black brothers and sisters strength to advocate for themselves and their loved ones in the education system. Please allow their concerns to be heard, received, and acted upon equitably by those in leadership. Show us how to advocate alongside them and support their needs through this process. Give us ears to hear and eyes to see the injustice playing out so we can interrupt and change it, setting a new course in education towards Your heart for justice for all people. Allow us to be bold in stepping into anti-racism work, acknowledging our weaknesses and stepping aside to leave space for Black and Brown leaders. Guide our words, our thoughts, and our actions, Lord. Reveal opportunities for us to support Black and Brown people in our lives without centering ourselves. Break the chains of the sin of racism in the education system. Give us revitalized focus, energy, and ideas for moving forward with restructuring the system around equity. Amen.