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How Long Will Our Schools Be Separate and Unequal?

cold-class-baltimoreOn January 2, 2018, news of the miserable, freezing, flooded and uninhabitable conditions of Baltimore City Schools was an all-too familiar scene for countless urban school districts.  The scene of brilliant, innocent children bundled up in coats, hats and gloves as they huddled with bowed heads in the classroom, mirrors similar, infuriating scenes often necessitated in Detroit’s dilapidated public schools and reflects an unacceptable reality of the continuing mis-education of Black students and increasingly separate and unequal public schools in America.

As recently as September, 2016 in Detroit, the world watched in horror as the state of Michigan was sued for its’ gross violation of the 14th amendment’s equal protection clause and accused of having excluded urban students from a right to education/literacy amidst images of mold and vermin infested classrooms.  While in Baltimore, according to vehement, outraged social media posts from teachers and students, inclement weather conditions contributed to the pipes bursting and heating failure during the course of the recent holiday break.  The Baltimore district claims to have been prompted to survey schools for the presence of unheated buildings, and flooded classrooms.  Yet, despite their non-existent or cursory ‘review’ of safety conditions, schools still opened.  When buildings were discovered to be unfit, staff was forced to corral herds of students into the limited heated areas of cafeterias and libraries.

Wow, what a transparent way to welcome back educators and students than to remind them of how low on the totem pole of priorities, schools actually are to the American value system.  Happy New Year ‘you filthy animal’ is the sentiment that comes to mind.  Clearly no authentic teaching or learning can conceivably take place in such an environment.  Why then are educators and students forced to endure these conditions? What other institution or profession is so disregarded and undervalued as to allow this inhumanity?!

Given that states like Maryland and Michigan have proven themselves ill-equipped to ensure equal educational opportunities to ALL children, it is incumbent upon the federal courts to intervene, via the precedent set in Connecticut, to order an immediate overhaul to public education as a means to mandate the fulfillment of each state’s constitutional duty to provide an education to urban students, by respective state government officials.

Alas, America’s inferior educational offerings are age-old, particularly where Blacks are concerned, and are not merely limited to the institutionalized racism fueled realities of:

  • School funding inequities via flawed, wealth-based, property tax formulas
  • Low-quality and often uncaring highly credentialed instructors (who do not resemble the increasingly Black/Brown majority in our schools); and the woefully underpaid/under-appreciated yet supremely qualified and burned out ‘true educators’ (who represent the enrolled demographics and/or consciously commit to offering their vast talents in urban districts)
  • Increasingly common teacher shortages (due to the aforementioned realities), fueling overcrowded classrooms
  • Outdated or non-existent 21st Century technological innovations and even when offered, do not begin to measure the 1:1 ratio of wealthy, suburban districts
  • Not to mention the common urban, high-poverty school companions of:  sub-standard curricula which include an absence of advanced placement/art/music course offerings, outdated textbooks, non-existent laboratory materials, and dilapidated buildings (as deftly outlined in this article).

Please be collectively forewarned that educators, particularly those of us who have intentionally committed the entirety of our careers to urban school districts, are incensed and otherwise pointing an unforgiving finger of blame, that in the dawn of the year 2018…separate and unequal is STILL the norm in American schools.  Enough is enough – do not even begin to address other forms of the righteous, universal struggle for freedom and justice in society, if our children are continually forced to be relegated to second-class citizenship and our schools are merely bastions of ineptitude and neglect.


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