Significant progress has been made in our society’s race relations since the era of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. That said, significant gaps still exist and the economic crisis threatens to make them worse.
Socio-economic statistics show marked differences by race/ ethinicity in terms of personal income, employment opportunities, incarceration rates, and success in higher education. African-Americans and Latinos are far behind Whites.
Clearly there are many reasons for these differences but education attainment tops them all. Knowledge has the potential to level the playing field of opportunities and close the gaps.
That is why it is devastating when the public school system is not up to its task because instead of closing the gap it widens it even more. Students leave school without sufficient knowledge to succeed in life while the adults in charge put their own self-interest first and charter schools cherry-pick their students to insure strong outcomes.
From there begins the middle class flight from public schools for those who can afford private education. For the majority of parents, however, this is not an option.
Some school districts, like the Los Angeles Unified School District, have demonstrated innovative collaborative efforts that offer a glimmer of hope that things can be turned around.
Unfortunately, California’s fiscal crisis has cut more funds from the state’s public education system than anywhere else or redirected its resources to pay for other priorities.
Cuts have been made from pre-school to university level, making it harder for young people to gain the knowledge to suceed. Cuts have even resulted in differences in resources among schools within the same district making inequities even greater. In this way, instead of leveling the field, education it making the difference greater.
No one needs racist laws these days to promote segregation. The education gap is doing that on its own. Instead of providing the opportunity for the low-income students to raise themselves out of poverty, it condemns them to a destiny that could have been changed.
Quality education with the resources to learn is a civil right. Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed of a society where opportunities didn’t have color. That world begins with education.