Short Changed on Education

August Martin High School
August Martin High School

Whether it is stepping up a grade, graduating or having a degree presented to you, all these steps are important because Education is crucial. In short and crude terms: the dumber one is, the poorer one is destined to be.
Thomas Piketty in his book ‘Capital in the 21st Century, names education as the main force in favor of great equality of wealth. High literacy and an increasing and skilled workforce are the key elements to achieving growth and equity.
Sixty years post the landmark Supreme Court decision, Brown versus the Board of Education (BOE), which focused on the issue of separate and unequal, the topic of education remains complex. It is what many people believe is the next civil rights issue as people of color continue to lag be-hind in the education system designed for all.
There is a four year, four grade gap between the reading scores for white and African American students.
“This should be a national scandal, demanding action,” said former President George W. Bush on the anniversary of Brown versus BOE. President Bush called this the soft bigotry of low expectations.
It is no secret that there is an education problem in New York City. The rising number of charter schools, the closing of failing schools, the retention rate of teachers and low graduation rates are all signals that there are troubles.
Recently, Mayor DeBlasio scored a win by getting additional funding for early child-hood education. He believes like, President Barack Obama, that it is critical to get to students early in the learning process to be most effective and to ensure their academic success.
Because success in the classroom is about more than reading, writing and arithmetic. It is about employment, families, communities and opportunities.
When a student doesn’t receive a quality education, they are unable to compete for jobs that will help sustain a good quality of life. Times were, one could opt out of college and go to vocational school and still be able to compete for a good paying job. Times are shifting the demand for jobs toward a more educated skill set with the technology sector leading the way. Although the service and retail sectors remain fairly strong, those jobs tend to fall to the low and minimum wage earners. There are no signs that the current struggle to lift the minimum wage above poverty levels, will be won.
What happens when education fails or when students do not get a quality education?
This is said to be the first generation in which the students will not do better than their parents. What happens to those homes in Cambria Heights and Laurelton for which parents have paid for over a lifetime when their children do not earn the wages to sup-port maintaining that home?
Many see what happens in communities when homes are purchased by those who have the means and are looking for more cost effective options, gentrification. The current example of Brooklyn’s massive gentrification has leaders crying out against such aggressive neighborhood attacks, especially when it comes to Southeast Queens.
But, gentrification isn’t the only issue to be address. It is downward mobility.
Author Jamelle Bouie recently refo-cused the spotlight on the fact that Black Americans live in neighborhoods with sub-stantial pockets of poverty. Sociologist Patrick Sharkey in his book ‘Stuck in Place’, highlighted that approximately 65% of African Americans live in neighborhoods that are at least 20% poor.
These neighborhoods have the worse schools and the most violence. That means more children of different and impoverish backgrounds co-existing in schools. Repeatedly there is a cry from schools in these areas about a lack of resources to care for the number of issues brought to the school by children in higher poverty areas.
Students in these schools are also under higher scrutiny…for behavior problems. It has been documented that students of color are more likely to be profiled as engaging in criminal behavior than their white counter-parts. That puts these students on the path of criminal justice early and further limits their educational opportunities and puts them into the pipeline to prison. Once they have been indoctrinated into the justice system, their income levels, both potential and actual, diminish as a result. So what is the solu-tion? What do we do?
First it has to be real-ized that the problem does not lie with our children! Children of color are not incapable of learning. They are not handicapped when it comes to matters of education. It should be no surprise that a child of color, born to immigrant parents can be accepted to all Ivy League Schools because of their efforts!.
Second, voting is key. People must vote officials into office that will whole-heartedly back educational efforts. Efforts that must get children into institutions early enough to impact their lives. They must support programs that will help children succeed globally. Those elected officials must be held accountable. They should give an accounting on what programs and initiatives were funded in schools. While it is great to get behind much needed recreation and after-school programs, it is equally important to come out hard on educational initiatives.
Third, community accountability. Everyone in the community needs to have a stake on the success of its students. Who are the current crop of teachers in area schools? Do they drive in from Long Is-land Counties or do they have homes in the area? Do you run into them in the supermar-kets or at church? Can your children point to them while in the neighborhood? These are more than causal connection that help monitor the level of education of your child, but accountability measures to look towards a community’s common goal. When those that teach our students have a stake in their success: property rates on houses they own, safety based on prison and recidivism num-bers, then results are fed back into the com-munity.
The link between education, income and inequity is clear. As this school year comes to an end and a new one begins, these are areas to be aware of it and take action in. While it may seem that our children are not part of the education discussion and are far behind their counterparts, that doesn’t mean there cannot be effective measures that can work to turn the situation around.§