#BlackEdChat: In 2020, We Must Demand a Black Education Agenda

We don't need candidates talking education business as usual - we need policymakers protecting Black youth from hostile systems

#BlackEdChat | by Christina Laster in TheRoot.com

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As a Black woman, mother and grandmother, the words I want to hear from presidential candidates on “public education” are this: How do we innovate for, build true academic progress around and save trapped Black students from dysfunctional education systems?

Full stop.

Instead, what I’ve heard as candidates discuss education on the campaign trail — like what they did last month during a major forum on the topic — is that Democratic presidential “hopefuls” are eager to just carry out business as usual.

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Now, here we are in 2020, and there are still few signs the “leaders” of the education conversation are really prioritizing it. Amid all the ambitious talk of wealth tax increases, funding formula fixes, teacher and para-educator pay increases, student debt loan reductions, fully funded IDEA, Title I tripling, universal pre-K, and CTE pathways, we haven’t yet heard candidates share a plan that eliminates present inequities and race-based disparities. We have learned, however, that candidates are paying little attention to Black children, K through 12, trapped inside toxic buildings, school-to-prison pipelines and worsening achievement gaps—with no plans to remedy that list and more anytime soon.

It’s true that we need a public education conversation. But, you can’t have that conversation by ignoring America’s very destructive Black student crisis. Maybe we’d have one if we considered or included the voice of Black parents who know all about that. Instead, no one is sounding alarms about National Assessment of Educational Progress 12th Grade Reading Level Assessments showing just 17 percent of Black high school seniors at or above reading proficiency — the lowest of any demographic group. Or how Black 8th graders remain dead last in mathematics proficiency scores behind all their racial peers.

Missing from the education conversation are plans, policies and models that punish teachers, schools and districts that disproportionately target Black students for that kind of curriculum or for excessive suspension and expulsion. Also missing is a plan to identify and create policies that protect Black youth from the daily attacks they face in a hostile public school system.

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