Almost 70 years after the U.S Supreme Court ruled unanimously that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional in the Brown v. Board of Education case, the issue of systematic racism and inequalities still permeates within the national educational system.
The research and advocacy non-profit Children at Risk hosted “The Resegregation of American Schools,” an education summit bringing together education leaders and advocated to discuss ways to create a more inclusive school environment for diverse student populations.
As many teachers, administrators and students prepare to return to the classroom after what many educators are calling more than a year of lost learning, the summit examines the root causes of these inequities and solutions to ensure a robust thriving economic future for Texas.
For many families in Houston, the COVID-19 pandemic further exposed the socioeconomic challenges that have disproportionately impacted people of color. Millions across the country were impacted by the lack of internet access for virtual learning, increased food insecurity due to the closure of school buildings, incidences of violence against Black people during nationwide protests against police brutality and homelessness, on top of the problems that already exist in the public education landscape.
“Children at Risk works to conceptualize a racial equity score for our school rankings, measuring how well schools serve students of color,” said Sharon Watkins Jones, director of Texas Racial Equity Collaborative at Children at Risk. “Educational equity ensures that each child has access to a bright future. So, when every child in Texas can freely achieve, we build stronger communities…we create a pipeline for a stronger workforce, stronger businesses, a stronger economy. The economics of inequity is data-driven and solution-oriented because we can make life easy for Texas children.”
Examples of resegregation were highlighted in the Children at Risk analysis of data which include the fact that Black children raised in integrated or white neighborhoods earn nearly $1,000-$4,000 more as adults per year than those raised in highly segregated communities of color. In 2021, Houston has 21.2% African American teachers compared to 52.4% white educators.
Byron Sanders, president and CEO, of Big Thought, said another challenge is the disparity in policy and disciplinary practices leading to the growing issue of school-to-prison pipelines. “We’ve seen that children of color particularly Black and Brown youth oftentimes end up receiving harsher, more significant disciplinary consequences for similar offenses to white peers or middle-income peers. You see higher levels of disciplinary incidences and punishments.”
According to data from the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, HISD had the highest number of referrals, making up five percent of the state’s juvenile probation referrals for making a terroristic threat. “Instead of out-of-school suspensions what I’m encouraging other districts to do is to put resources toward healing…and trauma-informed programming…and in-house suspension turns into a place that is a lot more therapeutic. It’s changes in policy, practices and programs… to have a system-wide effect.”
Percentage of teachers by race/ethnicity in Greater Houston 2019
African Americans: 21.2%
Two or more races: 1.3
Count of out-of-school suspensions by race/ethnicity 2018-2019
African American: 48062
Two or more races: 1693
Laura Onyeneho covers the city’s education system as it relates to Black children for the Defender Network as a Report For America Corps member. Email her at email@example.com