The Equity In Education Coalition is Washington State’s largest coalition of stakeholders from communities of color and white allies who are striving to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for children of color. Though we comprise a diverse spectrum of backgrounds, perspectives and circumstances, three qualities hold us together:
- Our members have direct experience with schools and districts which failed to provide a quality education for children of color.
- Our members have seen the devastating and life-long consequences of inadequate and unfair educational practices in the lives of our children.
- Our members believe that an equitable and just educational and system where each and every children can thrive and succeed, is entirely within our reach.
As a coalition representative of communities of color and low-income communities, we are taking a strategic approach to closing the opportunity gap that takes into account the effects of race, homelessness, racial and institutional discrimination, children and parents whose first language is not English, poverty, and family instability.
Why Equity In Education Matters:
The opportunity gap can be closed, but not with quick fixes.
Closing the opportunity gap necessitates a focus not only on the inequitable distribution of educational resources, but also on the complex ways that prejudice and discrimination infiltrate the learning process.
Closing the gap is a complex task that requires multiple, simultaneous, coherent, and long-term efforts that target school and societal issues. Responsibility must be shared by policymakers, educators, community leaders, parents and students. State policy should be designed with educational equity in mind from the start.
The Equity in Education Coalition is a unique opportunity to change the way decision makers on a local and state level view education funding and the opportunity/achievement gap.
It starts with access. Children from communities of color simply do not have access to the same level of resources as other students. For example, in Seattle Public Schools, nearly 60% of white children have access to the highest performing public schools in Seattle, while only 8% of black children have similar access. Also, only one in four elementary schools in Southeast Seattle are considered high performing, compared to 67% of elementary schools in the rest of the district.
- Money and performance – Washington State’s distribution of funding for schools makes no provisions for the high level of need in districts serving predominately low-income communities. Specifically, schools in wealthy communities which raise substantial supplemental funding through local PTSA groups, receive the same amount of state funding as those schools in low-income communities where PTSAs are not able to raise supplemental funding. As a result, schools in low-income communities struggle to pay for even the most basic educational functions, and simply cannot consider other vital enrichment programming such as music, drama, sports and other programs.
However, it’s not just money that is distributed inequitably. Senior-level teachers with established records of performance are more likely to have long-term assignments in higher performing schools. Conversely, schools in low-income communities have far more turnover among teachers, and a far greater chance that newer, less experienced and under qualified teachers will be assigned to these schools.
- Inequitable disciplinary practices – According to Seattle Public Schools, Hispanic students were three times as likely to be expelled and African American and Native American students were four times as likely to be expelled as white students. Inequitable discipline is cited as a primary contributing factor in the high drop-out rate among children of color.
- Homelessness, hunger and poverty – According to recent reports, more than 30,000 students are homeless in Washington State and several hundred thousand more struggle in deep poverty. We know that homelessness and poverty has a devastating impact on a child’s ability to consistently attend school, much less succeed in school.
Despite this direct correlation between poverty and student success, State funding decisions too often benefit education at the expense of effective programs addressing homelessness and poverty among children.
- Lifelong impact of education – A child’s ability to learn and thrive in school will have consequences that last a lifetime. Indeed, education is directly linked to increased economic opportunity as well as improved health outcomes.