Recently the college admissions scandal shook mainstream media and college students felt the despair of money making the admissions process unfair.
The scandal centered around a crime, but there is an entirely legal and systemic way that keeps educational opportunities away from communities that need them. There is a problem with how money is distributed to public schools based on the property tax of the neighborhoods around them.
Basically, if the school you go to is zoned in a wealthy neighborhood, you’ll get more resources and your school will have a larger budget. If the school you’re zoned to serves a poor neighborhood where the property value is low, your school’s budget will reflect that.
Why does this happen?
If we consider the history of property value in communities of color, banks and government housing agencies have consistently undervalued these neighborhoods.
Investments never reached these communities in the way they were encouraged in white communities. Neighborhoods with non-white residents were considered bad investments by banks and backed up by government agencies that oversaw the banks.
Using a tactic called “Red-Lining” on maps, home owner’s associations could rate the value of Black-owned homes as less valuable than white-owned homes.
Richard Rothstein author of “The Color of Law:A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America”, explains how mortgage discrimination exacerbated dwindling property values, with banks putting high interest rates on mortgages to non-whites, considering lending to people of color too risky, and cementing those communities’ inability to own and invest in property.
Fast forward to the internet age, data about you is sold to advertising companies and those same demographics are not showing the same search results as white people.
What are the consequences?
This all feeds into the growing economic disparity in the public education system.
If a kid grows up in a low-income neighborhood, with limited resources, to begin with, it’s insane to think that the school that kid goes to will be unable to provide the same resources to them as other schools provide to kids that live in higher income neighborhoods.
Wealthy white neighborhoods enjoy public schools that are well funded, while schools that serve people of color are severely underfunded and often prone to become charter schools. Charter schools are schools that receive public funding but are largely independent, like subsidized small businesses.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, “More than 40% of low-income schools don’t get a fair share of state and local Funds.” So, the government is distributing funds unfairly.
With fewer resources available for low-income schools, education disparities between white and non-white students grow. A research article on segregation between school districts, noted, “Large achievement gaps exist between high- and low-income students and between black and white students.”
What should we do about it?
The U.S. is in need of a lot of things, but the way we fund our schools is hurting the community. There needs to be a more equal distribution in funds to public schools.
Call your local representatives and pay attention when candidates that want your support talk about education. You would’ve thought we were legally done with separate and equal, but the effects of segregation are still very well alive.