Tag Archives: education

Conservatives Just Don’t Understand That Racism Runs Deep in American Education Behind the push to roll back school discipline protections lies a dangerous dismissal of bias in classrooms.

Betsy DeVos and company are at it again. The DeVos-led Department of Education is currently cooking up ways to get rid of the 2014 Obama-era guidelines for K-12 public school discipline, which was aimed at ameliorating discrepancies based on race, class and disability when it comes to how students are punished in school.
In November, conservative think tanks Center of the American Experiment and the Fordham Institute helped coordinate a meeting at the Department of Educationwherein teachers critical of the 2014 guidelines testified about their experiences with violent students in their schools. Such testimony is being collected by conservatives to argue that the guidelines represent not only a sort of governmental “PC police” but that they are also actively making U.S. schools more unsafe by muzzling how teachers are able to discipline their students.
“For a time, education reform used to be a bipartisan or nonpartisan enterprise for improving student achievement,” writeRobert Pondiscio and Max Eden of the Fordham and Manhattan Institutes, respectively, in an op-ed for the New York Daily News. “But much of the movement has morphed into an arm of the social-justice industrial complex, dedicated to causes du jour from the travel ban to transgender bathrooms.”
In addition to disparaging the humanity of immigrant families and transgender people as if their lives are no more than a liberal fad, Pondiscio and Eden go on to reference the school-to-prison pipelinein scare quotes, arguing that education reform activists’ concern about racism in schools is a “refus[al] to admit the possibility that differences in poverty and family structure play a role.” This type of argument is a shorthand for the “culture of poverty” argument expounded in the infamous Moynihan Report during the 1960s, which controversially explained black poverty and family instability as in large part a cultural defect of the black family structure, found in the figure of the overbearing black mother in particular.
Conservatives’ latching onto such an explanation allows them to gloss over black oppression as the logical historical outcome of being enslaved, denied intergenerational wealth-building opportunities through that enslavement (and on the contrary, growing the wealth of white families through forced and unpaid labor), disenfranchised from jobs and housing, and exposed to manifold other forms of violent anti-black terrorismthat have punctuated black life in America since black people were brought to this nation’s shores against their wills.
Pitting education reformers against teachers, Pondiscio and Eden claim in a false dichotomy that “[s]ocial justice reformers … limi[t] teachers’ subjective disciplinary judgment … blind[ing] themselves to reality as a school spirals dangerously out of control.”
In contrast, Dan Losen, director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at UCLA and a former teacher for a decade, tells AlterNet that the 2014 guidelines are crucial for addressing the implicit bias that exists in schools, even among well-meaning teachers, just as such bias exists throughout society.
“Stereotypes are in the air we breathe,” says Losen. “Not because we want [them] to [be], but because in every depiction [in media], we have not escaped the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow, and after that, the criminalization of black youth and the negative characterization of black males.
“What we find from research is that these negative stereotypes permeate our thinking in ways we’re just not aware of. And that’s not to blame teachers or slander them… it’s to acknowledge that the playing field is not level.”
Derek Black, professor of law at the University of South Carolina, voices a similar position, saying, “School suspension rates have skyrocketed over the past four decades and the lion’s share of the increase has been on the backs of poor and minority children.
“In most districts across the nation,” explains Black, “African American students are suspended and expelled at anywhere from two to six times the rate of white students. And it is not because they misbehave so much more. Studies consistently show that even when engaging in the exact same type of misbehavior, minorities are more likely to punished, and punished more severely, than white students.”
These types of inequalities are what the Obama-era guidelines sought to remedy as a response to the reality of systemic racism, classism, and ableism, systems of oppression that conservative ideologues attempt to downplay or outright attack in their arguments against the guidelines.
Addressing the conservative claim that investigating the disproportionate punishment of students with disabilities and students of color will turn schools into dens of violence, Curtis L. Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network, wrote recently, “[T]he [Obama-era] guidance … does not inform school districts that they must refrain from suspending students who behave in a dangerous manner toward students, staff, or themselves.” According to Decker, “It does not dictate to states or schools how they should structure their programming. Schools may choose to implement the recommendations found in the guidance or not.”

“What it does do,” argues Decker, “is support schools in their efforts to create and maintain safe and orderly educational environments that allow all our nation’s students to learn and thrive.”
Losen has come to a similar conclusion, saying that in Los Angeles, “teachers were not complaining [about] the change in policy; they were complaining that they weren’t getting enough training in restorative justice. They wanted more of the change, not less of the change.”
Such teachers, according to Losen, are more interested in shifting existing school resources, especially those related to professional development and classroom management.
Many conservative researchers’ refusal to recognize the reality of the unequal playing field for students of color, says Losen, “informs their take on any kind of research,” with the result being that they often rely on cherry-picked evidence to support their claims. The Obama-era guidelines are in fact supported by major research studies, such as a 2016 Yale study that found that black male children are more likely, as early as preschool, to be closely observed by teachers in the expectation they will misbehave.
Such constant and disproportionate monitoring from the beginning of one’s life, Losen says, “can erode trust in the institution if you’re a black male and you start to pick up on the fact that you’re being watched all the time and being profiled all the time.
“Eventually as you become a young adult you’ll become more aware [of the discrimination], and that will breed resentment and mistrust.”
The notion that schools are “spiraling out of control” due to dangerous students too often functions as part of the assumption of black male criminality, a pattern that has been documented in the field of education. Ann Arnett Ferguson, in her 2001 book Bad Boys: Public Schools in the Making of Black Masculinity, refers to this process as “adultification,” whereby “black children’s … transgressions are made to take on a sinister, intentional, fully conscious tone that is stripped of any element of childish naïveté.
“The discourse of childhood as an unfolding developmental stage in the life cycle is displaced in this mode of framing school trouble,” Ferguson writes. In other words, young black students, especially boys, are seen as being on the same level as adult criminals. Ferguson gives as an example a white teacher who—shortly after the 1992 LA riots in response to the acquittal of the four LAPD officers who beat Rodney King—called black students “looters” after they failed to return books she loaned them and described the situation as “just like the looting in Los Angeles.”
History has shown time and time again, from Emmett Till to Tamir Rice, that this adultification of black boys can have fatal consequences. Yet black children—including girls, who, according to a 2017 study by Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty, are perceived by adults as “less innocent and more adult-like” than white girls starting at age 5—deserve to learn, feel safe and thrive in educational environments where they won’t be punished at higher rates than their white peers due to racist assumptions about their lack of innocence and predilections for criminality.
At the core of conservative attacks on the 2014 guidelines is an attack on the reality of the implicit bias that continues to permeate classrooms across the country, and it must be vociferously challenged at every turn.
In the end, says Losen, “If you know there’s a better way to do something, and you know what you’re doing is fundamentally unsound, it behooves the district to change those policies.
“Anything else is immoral.”

By Shannon Weber/AlterNet

Posted by The NON-Conformist


60 years after Brown v. Board of Education, how racially balanced are America’s public schools?

’s been more than 60 years since the Supreme Court, in Brown v. Board of Education, ruled “separate but equal” schools unconstitutional. In that time, school populations have diversified, thanks in large part to an increase in the numbers of Hispanic and Asian students attending U.S. schools.

But how closely do America’s traditional public and charter schools look like the communities they serve? And if schools’ student bodies don’t reflect their neighborhoods’ racial makeup, how come?

In “Balancing Act: Schools, Neighborhoods, and Racial Imbalance” (PDF), Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst, Richard V. Reeves, Nathan Joo, and Pete Rodrigue examine the share of white, black, and Hispanic students at 86,109 public schools—both traditional and charters—across the country and identify schools whose racial imbalance with respect to their surrounding neighborhoods makes them ‘outliers’ within their states.

The analysis finds that though most schools are relatively similar to their surrounding neighborhoods in terms of racial makeup for white, black, and Hispanic students, there’s a lot of variation between school districts and states. Charter schools, in particular, display greater racial imbalances than traditional public schools and are on average 6 percent more black than their neighborhoods. When compared to traditional public schools, charter schools are on average approximately 14 percent more black, 22 percent less white, and 8 percent more Hispanic.

Want to see how your school compares to other schools within your district? Search for it in a new interactive, or read on for more top-level findings.

Most schools look like their neighborhoods

The authors find that many schools are similar, in terms of their racial composition, to the neighborhoods in which they are located. The average U.S. public school (including charter and magnet schools) is 2.6 percent less white, 1.8 percent more black, and 0.9 percent more Hispanic than its surrounding neighborhood.

More schools are “outliers” in terms of black student representation

Though most schools are similar to their surrounding neighborhoods, approximately one-third are outliers. Further, schools that qualify as outliers tend to have either an overrepresentation of black and Hispanic students, or an underrepresentation of white students.

To better understand what it means to be an outlier, it helps to understand more about the methodology. First, the authors match school to neighborhoods like this:


Then they determined whether a school is an outlier for each racial category (white, black, Hispanic) based on the degree to which the racial imbalance between a school and its neighborhood is substantially outside its own state’s pattern of school-neighborhood differences, assuming a normal distribution.

This means there are some schools—in Washington, D.C. or Mississippi, for instance—where the black or white student populations are underrepresented or overrepresented by as much as 30 percent compared to their neighborhoods, but aren’t classified as an outlier. That’s because the threshold for determining outliers varies by state, and some states or districts—like D.C. or Mississippi—have higher thresholds because the state’s range of imbalance scores is wider.

Charters show more racial imbalance, especially in terms of their black student populations. But why?

Charter schools tend to have an overrepresentation of black students compared to their surrounding neighborhoods. In contrast, Hispanics are underrepresented in charter schools. So why is this? The most obvious explanation is that charters allow students to attend schools outside of their neighborhoods. But as the authors argue, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

The authors find no substantial correlation between the quality of statewide charter school laws and racial imbalance. At the same time, they don’t find anything beyond a modest correlational relationship between the degree to which charter schools may act as substitutes to traditional public schools (based off of geographic proximity) and charter school racial imbalance.

Schools in some states show more racial imbalance than others

There is also significant state-level variation in the racial imbalance of schools. In the regions with higher minority concentration, the South (for black Americans) and the West (for Hispanic Americans), the chances of seeing larger racial imbalances in public schools increases.


The authors aren’t able to conclude whether this is because more minority density translates into more opportunity for minority populations to freely form more homogenous schools or because it translates into increased propensity for white-flight from the school system.

School district boundaries divide some communities along racial lines

For some school districts across the country, the way district lines have been drawn masks the extent to which schools don’t look like their surrounding neighborhoods in terms of race.

In Long Island, for example, school districts are quite small (the island is 1,400 square miles and has 125 districts, with the typical district having only one high school). When the authors relax the boundaries of their analysis and ignore district lines (incorporating schools outside of the school district, but within the 2-mile neighborhood radius), they find the racial imbalance in some of these “gerrymandered” school districts grows dramatically.

For more on how gerrymandered districts affect the racial makeup of some U.S. schools, read more on the Social Mobility Memos blog.


School-level data on racial imbalances can be valuable for a number of reasons, especially for local policymakers trying to understand the effect their policies may have on the racial makeup of local schools. Many localities such as Wake County, Boston, Charlotte, and Seattle have ended or substantially curtailed their efforts at K-12 school integration. Since 2000, at least 71 communities across the country have attempted to create new, smaller school districts (47 have been successful). Some fear such action could lead to greater segregation in public schools.

The authors emphasize caution, however, against drawing overly broad conclusions. The fact a school is more black than its surrounding neighborhood may be the result of intentional policy and is not necessarily good or bad. And when it comes to charters, the authors find it’s equally likely that they could lead to a deepening of segregation (in part by allowing for black students and white students to choose schools in which students of their race dominate enrollment) or they could reduce it and lead to greater equity (by loosening the connection between neighborhood and school).

The authors conclude that though recent history has seen a decrease in policy to encourage integration, it’s still possible to increase school diversity.

“The variation in the racial composition of schools across different districts shows that it is possible to increase integration. But it is important to be aware that this will be challenging given such high levels (still) of residential racial segregation, area based attendance policies, and a natural preference of many parents to send their children to a nearby school. Schools make the degree of residential segregation highly visible. School segregation is a symptom of residential segregation; which lies outside the scope of this paper.”

Read the full paper to learn more (PDF).

By Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst, Richard V. Reeves, Nathan Joo, and Edward Rodrigue

Posted by The NON-Conformist

DeVos Appoints Former Governor Engler as Chair of NAEP Governing Board

Betsy DeVos apointed her friend and ally in the school choice movement, former Governor of Michigan John Engler, as chair of the National Assessment Governing Board, which administers the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Engler is a charter member of the “schools-are-failing” club. He recently retired as president of the Business Roundtable, an association representing some of the nation’s leading businesses, and before that was head of the National Association of Manufacturers.

Expect every release of NAEP scores to be a dire warning about how terrible our public schools are, how we are no longer globally competitive, and why we need drastic steps (school choice?) to close the achievement gaps.

via DeVos Appoints Former Governor Engler as Chair of NAEP Governing Board — Diane Ravitch’s blog

Posted by Libergirl

Opinion: UNC Center for Civil Rights vote diminishes university’s history

The UNC Board of Governors really deserves a more accurate name. One that fits is the UNC Board of Political Meddlers.

Certainly that new title was earned Tuesday when a committee of the board voted 5-1, with one abstention, to strip the UNC Center for Civil Rights of its ability to file lawsuits on behalf of its clients, primarily low-income people. The center’s work focuses on education, housing and community development, economic justice and voting rights. The full board is likely to vote on the issue at its September meeting. It is expected to approve the ban on lawsuits by the center or any other UNC academic center.

The committee vote represents not just an attack on the center, but a rejection of the founding principles of the university itself. The University of North Carolina was created to give the public the power of knowledge, not only with regard to its students, but also with regard to those whom its students, faculty and graduates would assist. This vote seeks to cut that vital service.

Steve Long, a 56-year-old Raleigh tax attorney and member of the UNC Board of Governors, is the driving force behind the ban. He says, “The university should not be, in my opinion, hiring full-time lawyers to sue anybody.”

Posted by Libergirl




Multiracial adolescents show no test score gap with whites

The stark, stubborn race gaps in educational achievement undermine the American promise of equal opportunity. In particular, the divide between the test scores of white and black students reflects and reinforces unequal life chances.


But not all students fall into single racial category. As Bill Frey shows in his book Diversity Explosion, there has been a rapid increase in the numbers of multiracial couples and children. In 1980, only 3.2 percent of U.S. marriages were between races; by 2010, that number had grown to 8.4 percent, including 15 percent of new marriages in 2015, according to Frey. A sizable and increasing share of U.S. children will think of themselves as multiracial over the next several decades.

Despite the growing number of multiracial students, almost no attention has been given to their educational outcomes. But gaining a better understanding of how multiracial students perform may cast useful light on the causes of race gaps more generally. My analysis shows that:

  1. Students of multiracial identity are from families with lower socioeconomic status than whites;
  2. They attend schools that are far more integrated with whites and Asians compared to blacks, Hispanics, American Indians, and Pacific Islanders;
  3. Multiracial students have the same average test scores as whites on math, science, and writing;
  4. For reading tests, multiracial students outperform other groups, including Asians; and
  5. These results contradict the controversial hypothesis that between group differences in IQ result from genetic differences between races.

These findings suggest that the race gaps in academic achievement in the United States are the result of inequality, especially in terms of access to educational opportunities, and therefore could be closed under fairer political, social, and economic arrangements.


Compared to mothers and parents of single-race non-Hispanic children, the mothers of multiracial non-Hispanic children are less likely to have a college degree, less likely to be married, take-in lower family incomes and were more likely to have been teenagers when they gave birth to their multiracial child. The percentage of children with at least one parent with a bachelor’s degree is lower. Fathers are also less likely to be present.

Not surprisingly, the family social status of multiracial children tends to fall somewhere in between that of single race non-Hispanic whites and blacks on each of these measures. I limit the analysis to non-Hispanics for the simple reason that Hispanic test score data are reported separately from every other group—including multiracial children, since Hispanic is considered an ethnicity rather than a racial group.

Table 1. Family characteristics of non-Hispanic multiracial and non-Hispanic single-race students aged 15 to 18 who live with at least one parent
Parents of white children Parents of black children Parents of multiracial children Parents of single-race children Difference mixed-race & single race
Median family income $118,107 $58,686 $72,800 $80,700 -$7,900**
Mother is single 24.2% 59.0% 38.6% 29.8% 8.8%**
Mother was teenager during pregnancy 4.7% 12.7% 7.5% 6.0% 1.5%**
Maternal bachelor’s degree attainment rate 40.8% 23.3% 35.4% 38.0% -2.6%**
At least one parent in household has a bachelor’s degree 49.3% 26.4% 43.2% 45.6% -2.4%**
No father in household 18.0% 54.4% 31.9% 24.1% 7.8%**
Source: Analysis of IPUMS-USA, 2015 American Community Survey. Notes: ** indicates significant at 99% confidence intervals. Sample is restricted to non-Hispanic population because test score data groups all Hispanic children together regardless of race and does not count them as multiracial if they identify as Hispanic. Sample is also restricted to children who are currently enrolled, live with at least one parent and are between the ages of 15 and 18 and drops a small number of observations in which the likely parent was identified as less than 25 years old (implying 7 to 10 at birth of child). Teen mom identified if mother is less than or equal to 35 years old, implying age 16 to 19 at pregnancy.

Nearly half (46 percent) of multiracial students aged 15 to 18 report having black ancestry, and black-white combinations are the most frequent inter-racial origin of multiracial children in this age group. Still, white combinations with other races are also common, and 9 percent of multiracial students report having no white ancestry. I estimate that the average U.S. multiracial child 15 to 18 years old is roughly 45 percent white, 23 percent black, and 18 percent Asian, with further ancestral contributions from American Indians or Pacific Islanders. These patterns do not play out evenly across mothers and fathers. Multiracial children are about twice as likely to have a black father as they are to have a black mother, whereas Asian women are much more likely to parent multiracial children compared to Asian men. White women are only slightly more likely to parent a multiracial child compared to white men.

Table 2. The most prevalent ancestral groups for multiracial students aged 15 to 18
Estimated share of ancestry
White 45%
Black 23%
Asian 18%
American Indian or Alaskan Native 12%
Pacific Islander 3%
Source: Analysis of IPUMS-USA, 2015 American Community Survey. Sample is restricted to non-Hispanic population because test score data groups all Hispanic children together regardless of race and does not count them as multiracial if they identify as Hispanic. Sample is also restricted to children who are currently enrolled, live with at least one parent and are between the ages of 15 and 18. Shares are calculated by dividing mentions of each of five possible racial groups by the total number of racial groups indicated by the individual. The “other” racial group is excluded from the numerator and denominator. I also estimated these contributions using parental data, but that is limited to cases where both mothers and fathers were surveyed by the census. In such cases, blacks remain the second largest ancestral group (with 16 percent), but the contribution from non-Chinese or Japanese Asian and pacific Islanders becomes larger, roughly 10.5 percent.


What kind of schools do multiracial students attend? The short answer is: those with high proportions of white or Asian students. At the average public high school attended by a multiracial student in the 2014-2015 school year, 60 percent of the students are white or Asian, which is comparable to the national share of white and Asian students of 57 percent. By contrast, at the average high school attended by black students only 33 percent of students are white or Asian and 32 percent for Hispanic students. American Indians are also segregated from whites and Asians, with only 44 percent of their classmates coming from those groups on average.

Table 3. Degree of racial isolation and integration in U.S. public high schools by student race and Hispanic ethnicity, 2014-2015
Average share of students at school attended Share of total U.S. public school student population Share of students who are white or Asian
Multiracial 5.1% 2.6% 59.9%
Pacific Islander 17.4% 0.4% 47.2%
Asian 20.6% 4.9% 59.9%
American Indian 29.9% 1.1% 44.1%
Black 46.2% 15.7% 32.8%
Hispanic 52.3% 23.3% 32.4%
White 71.5% 52.1% 75.2%
Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Elementary and Secondary Information System, 2014-2015 school year; universe of schools restricted to those with at least one 12th grade student, to proxy for high schools.


As of 2015, there is no test score gap between white and multiracial high school students; an important fact that, to my knowledge, has never been documented. My analysis is of data for 12th grade students from the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). This is the largest nationally representative sample of cognitive performance in the United States, with approximately, 47,000 students (1.5 percent of all students) in public and private schools taking the exam. Of test-takers, about 2 percent(roughly 1000 students) are multiracial.[1]

There is no statistically significant difference between whites and multiracial students on tests in science, math, and writing. For reading, multiracial students slightly outperformed both white and Asian students, becoming the highest-performing racial or ethnic group with reported data by a small but statistically significant margin:


What’s more, my estimates suggest that multiracial students outperform the combined scores for single-race students on all subjects, despite coming from less advantaged families. Since the NAEP Data Explorer does not report precise sample sizes, these estimates are only rough and rely on a weighted average that applies demographic distributions from other Department of Education data sources—namely public high school students, where multiracial students comprised 2.6 percent of the total population.

A limitation of the analysis of socioeconomic status is that the data on family characteristics reported in Table 1 are from the American Community Survey, while the test score data are from the Department of Education’s NAEP. Both are meant to be representative of the U.S. population, but sampling issues may over- or under-state the true population values for test scores or socio-economic status.

As a check on these sampling issues, I compared the multiracial versus white test score gap from the NAEP to test score gaps from the 2016 California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, which was taken by approximately 3.2 million public school students. From grades 3 to 11, mean test score gaps between multiracial and white students on both language and math were less than 0.1 standard deviations (and negative for 5th and 6th grade language), which I estimate to be well within the margin of error.[2] Consistent with the Census data, multiracial students are also 6 to 9 percentage points more likely to be classified by the state of California as “economically disadvantaged,” meaning their parents are either poor, migrants, or lack a high school diploma, when compared to white students.


A group of academic psychologists and behavior genetics researchers subscribe to the view that racial differences in social status and cognitive performance have a substantial genetic component, in addition to environmental factors. Charles Murray’s infamous book with Richard Hernstein, The Bell Curve, popularized this view, known as hereditarian theory in the psychology literature.

There has never been any direct evidence in support of the idea that racial differences in cognitive performance are the result of genetic differences. At the individual level, twin studies suggest that genetics has some role to play in cognitive performance (40 percent is the mean estimate for hereditability across studies of U.S. residents), but the methodology of extracting hereditability estimates from twin studies suffers from many problems that likely inflate this number. Even with decades of research on twins, very little is actually known about the precise mechanisms through which genetic factors influence educational attainment and cognitive performance, or to what extent. Thus far, molecular biologists have been able to explain only 3.2 percent of variation in educational attainment and cognitive performance with genomic data, even in large sample sizes, though it is believed this figure will increase to as much as 20 percent as samples get larger.

At the group level, racial categories based on continental ancestral origins seem to have little if any genetic relevance. The hereditarians that Hernstein and Murray referenced never attempted to produce a coherent theory for group differences that are consistent with what is known about human evolution and population genetics. More recently, Nicholas Wade, a science journalist, has taken a stab at developing such a theory, but his ideas were not well received by population genetics and scholars of human evolution.

Nonetheless, the idea that group differences in themselves provide indirect evidence for genetic differences seems to retain popular support around the world, particularly among the so-called “alt-right.” It is not clear how one could reconcile theories of racial differences in genes for intelligence with the findings here that multiracial children score no lower than groups who are supposed to be genetically advantaged, even though they are born into families with lower socio-economic status—which hereditiarians argue is itself indicative of lower IQ.


In the recent past of the Jim Crow era, there were few multiracial children, and so group outcomes were hard to study. But multiracial Americans are rising in numbers and growing in prominence: producing, in Barack Obama, our 44th President, to give one example. The academic success of multiracial students bodes well for the future, demonstrating how the integration of schools and of broader society can eliminate achievement gaps between groups of children, regardless of their race, or indeed their races.

By Jonathan Rothwell/Brookings

Posted by The NON-Conformist


Mississippi Accused of Unequal Schooling for Black Students

Image result for segregation
Image: Think Progress

Mississippi’s leaders are being sued again over school funding, this time by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of four black public school students.

Mississippi is violating the federal law that enabled the state to rejoin the union after the Civil War, a civil rights group alleged Tuesday in a lawsuit over school funding.

The lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of four African-American mothers with children in public elementary schools asks a federal judge to force the state’s leaders to comply with the 1870 law, which says Mississippi must never deprive any citizen of the “school rights and privileges” described in its 1868 constitution.

That law still obligates Mississippi to provide a “uniform system of free public schools” for all children, the SPLC said. Instead, Mississippi has repeatedly watered down education protections in its first post-Civil War constitution ever since, as part of what the lawsuit calls a white supremacist effort to prevent the education of blacks.

“From 1890 until the present day, Mississippi repeatedly has amended its education clause and has used those amendments to systematically and deliberately deprive African Americans of the education rights guaranteed to all Mississippi schoolchildren by the 1868 Constitution,” the suit states.

More from US News

Posted by Libergirl…a product of those segregated Mississippi schools

Is There Still a Place for HBCUs In Trump’s New America?

By most conservative estimates, the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities are on life support. A combination of gaps in federal and state funding, alumni contributions and student enrollment has many of the institutions in this essential portion of the Black education portfolio desperately seeking options, with several close to shutting their doors.

While the recent chain of “misstatements” by the Trump administration represents the perceived lack of faith the Black community has with Republican promises to protect Black education, it actually represents a lack of sensitivity and understanding of how precarious a situation Black higher education faces today.

“We are deeply concerned about the proposals highlighted for the U.S. Department of Education, which include flat funding for the core Title III Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) program and deep cuts to federal student aid programs,” wrote Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund in a letter to the OMB.

“The proposed $3.9 billion cut to Pell Grant funds would undercut needed reforms to boost the purchasing power of Pell Grants for financially needy students, including the 70 percent of HBCU students who receive Pell Grants to earn college degrees. The proposed elimination of Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, which supplement Pell awards to the poorest students to pay college tuition, would negatively impact more than 55,000 HBCU students who rely on this assistance to go to and through college. Reductions to Federal Work Study could impact more than 26,000 HBCU students who receive work-study jobs that not only help pay for college expenses but also enhance their employment prospects.“

While “HBCU” may be a relatively new designation, the distinction refers to the Southern states’ refusal to integrate higher education. The Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890 allowed for federal one-to-one funding with the states for the purpose of starting and operating land-grant colleges. This funding, however, can only be made available to states that offer access to the land-grant colleges to African-Americans. The institutions that would become the HBCUs were attempts by the Southern states to qualify for Morrill Act funding while not having to integrate any of their schools

While African-American enrollment in HBCUs has dropped to nine percent of Blacks enrolled in college and while the HBCUs represent only three percent of the national higher education portfolio, the 100 HBCUs graduated 15 percent of all the bachelor degrees African-Americans received in 2013-2014. According to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, 80 percent of all Black judges, 50 percent of all Black lawyers and non-HBCU professors, 40 percent of all Black engineers and 40 percent of all Black members of Congress are HBCU graduates.

HBCUs continue to be the leading source of Black higher education — especially, for low-income Blacks — in large part because they can offer a specialized focus in a largely nondiscriminative environment. However, with Black enrollment in HBCUs dropping and with the closure of Saint Paul’s College and Lewis College of Business in 2013 and the potential closing of Wilberforce, South Carolina State University and Cheney, one must ask if the HBCUs have “run their course”? If not, is there a way to save them?

The Question of Federal Funding

The chain of Trump administration fumbles regarding HBCUs — starting with the president’s assertion that funding HBCUs may be unconstitutional because it is race-based funding and continuing through the recent booing and heckling of U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy Devos during a commencement speech at Bethune-Cookman — represents an unease and sense of perceived insensitivity from Washington. While Trump has said he will do more for HBCUs than any other president, for example, a deep dive into the statements he already made suggest otherwise.

With Trump’s Feb. 28 executive order transferring oversight of HBCUs from the U.S. Department of Education to the White House, the Trump administration took symbolic and factual ownership of the federal government’s role with HBCUs. While Trump’s “America First” budget proposal seeking to maintain last year’s initial budgeting of $492 million to HBCUs suggests a commitment to honor that promise, the devil is being found in the details. According to New America Foundation estimates, the Trump proposal would actually slash funding to HBCUs by 15 percent once 2016’s additional discretionary funding is factored in.

Worse, the White House’s call for cuts to the Department of Education’s budget means a $1.3-billion reduction to the Pell Grant Program’s $10.6-billion surplus for 2017, with another $3.9 billion in cuts proposed for 2018. While it is unreasonable to think that such cuts can be introduced into this year’s budget at this point of the process, the notion of the recommendation is causing confusion between the administration’s thoughts and actions concerning HBCUs.

With 70 percent of all HBCU students requiring federal student grants and work study programs and with the Trump administration additionally planning to eliminate the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, Trump’s walked-back comment on the unconstitutionality of HBCU funding seems now to be a moment of truth in a storm of political spin.

“My Administration shall treat provisions that allocate benefits on the basis of race, ethnicity, and gender … in a manner consistent with the requirement to afford equal protection of the laws under the Due Process Clause of the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment,” Trump wrote in his signing statement for H.R. 244 on May 5. Experts feel that Trump may not have understood the legal underpinnings of HBCU federal funding or the notion that the HBCU designation does not refer to the member schools’ demographics, but the mission and year of founding, when authoring the statement.

“With the advent of integration, Black students gained a plethora of new and exciting educational opportunities. High-achieving Black students are intensely recruited by well-endowed institutions in a position to provide full scholarships,” said Felicia Davis, a former United Negro College Fund official and director of the Building Green Initiative at Clark Atlanta University.

“Cash-strapped HBCUs serve a disproportionate share of lower- and moderate-income students. These institutions are dependent upon tuition from students that are dependent upon financial aid and student loans. This challenge is exacerbated by the fact that many HBCUs strive to serve students that lack a quality high school education. For some time, HBCUs were still able to recruit and sustain based upon their exceptional legacy. Millennial students seemed far removed from the era of segregation and even the civil rights movement was receding into history.”

A Part of the Puzzle

Blaming the Trump administration for all of HBCUs’ financial problems is both unfair and shortsighted. A bigger part of the problem existed long before the 2016 general election.

Per a 2013 report from the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, HBCUs in Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia have reportedly not received the proper state allocations they are entitled to by law.

The Morrill Act of 1890 creates one-to-one financial support for the land-grant colleges with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the hosting state. While the USDA met its end of the HBCU funding agreement, the states only matched $188 million to the USDA’s $244 million between 2010 and 2012. The Morrill Acts provide no punishment for states that fail to meet their funding obligations. The schools themselves are obligated to match up to 50 percent of the USDA’s funds in the absence of state funding to maintain continual federal funding.

This is creating a situation where HBCUs are increasingly becoming trigger-shy in seeking grants that require matching state funds. This is a second strike for schools that do not have a strong tradition of research and development, a key component of government and charitable grant securement.

This is also creating the illusion that the Southern states are engaging in picking winners for educational funding between HBCUs and other land-grant colleges, which tend to be larger, predominately White universities.

The problem with slashes to state and federal funding is compounded by the continuing nationwide trend of millennials foregoing college to go directly into the job market. Total post-secondary enrollment in the United States has dropped 1.4 percent from fall 2015 to fall 2016, extending the declining streak to five years. While most of this figure can be attributed to students over the age of 24 opting out of continued education and a major rejection of “for-profit” colleges, enrollment from recent high school graduates also is declining.

As non-research schools, HBCUs rely principally on government funding, student tuition and alumni contributions to pay the bills. With alumni investment with HBCUs falling below levels found at PWIs, many HBCU endowments have been depleted to the point that school-based financial aid and capital projects have been ignored.


Finding Solutions

The road to closing the attainment and wealth gaps between African-Americans and whites is education. If HBCUs are important toward the employment viability of the African-American community, then preserving them should be a priority.

Unfortunately, HBCUs carry psychological baggage that may be causing pause in the current conservative administration. “Many of those who argue that public Black colleges should not operate at the public’s expense do so because they consider these institutions to be ‘racially identifiable’,” the policy brief “Comprehensive Funding Approaches for Historically Black Colleges and Universities” by Marybeth Gasman reads.

“Missing from this argument is that white institutions also are racially identifiable. Too often, diversity or integration is defined as ‘start with white people and add people of color.’ It is also possible, as HBCUs have shown, to begin with a base of Black students and add whites, Asians and Latinos. HBCU allies and those within the HBCU community need to make sure that others understand that HBCUs are not ‘vestiges of segregation.’”

HBCUs are finding themselves in the crosshairs of the hyper-partisanship that has consumed the nation. The booing of Devos and the revoked invitation of U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) from being the commencement speaker at Texas Southern University is creating a situation that the people being insulted by these gestures are the very same people controlling the schools’ fate.

This represents a certain level of fatalism that HBCUs have engaged in. Failure to make themselves more attractive to students, to reach out to alumni, and to restructure more toward research and STEM preparedness have led many to think that HBCUs are suffering from a self-inflicted wound that the government happens to be rubbing salt in.

“I believe the enrollment lag can primarily be attributed to four things: ‘degree quality,’ a lack of recruitment efforts, feeder school partnerships and financial aid,” Nijinsky Dix, assistant director for Trio programs at Notre Dame, said to Atlanta Black Voices. “The conversation regarding the quality of one’s degree has always existed.”

“Due to the perceptions of HBCUs as [they compare] to predominately white institutions, degrees earned from Black institutions are deemed as subpar due to a lack of or inadequate resources, faculty and wavering admission standards. For instance, if one were to review the U.S. World News report for best colleges, an HBCU does not appear until No. 124 – Howard University.”

Dix points out that a lack of high school recruitment, inadequate financial assistance and the nonexistence of strategical partnerships — which were instrumental to her enrollment in a HBCU — are working to turn away Black students from HBCUs.

The health of HBCUs lies in breaking down misperceptions. Not only must HBCUs work to help allay white fears that HBCU funding somehow disadvantages non-Black students, but they also must convince the Black community that they are not just a part of the past but a key to the future.

How this could be accomplished is yet to be determined.

“Virtually all endowments are race-based – just as it is at Harvard, as well as Howard,” Felicia Davis added. “One is historically and predominately white, while the other is Black. The difference in magnitude of their endowments can be attributed to the fact that one group labored without compensation, placing it at an economic disadvantage. Education remains a vital key to closing persistent gaps and ensuring America’s greatness for generations.

“The future of HBCUs rests largely with the Black community. Judging by the student demand for diversity, cultural validation and creative authenticity, institutions known for advancing justice and human rights have the potential to attract students from diverse backgrounds as long as the commitment to academic excellence and productive student outcomes is honored.”

By Frederick Reese/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist