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  • Lasha Pierce MD

Financing Equity in Education


History, Her-story and Our-story are in continual evolution.

What happened just moments ago is now history. In tribute to the collective

Black story, we examine the past, present and future state of our

education.


There is no amount of time that would be adequate to discuss the ancient

and contemporary history of our collective body of education. Classical

African civilizations in Kush, Nubia and Kemet (now called Egypt), as well

as post classical African Civilizations tell the tale of our extraordinary

academic, philosophical and intellectual beginnings. Both formal and

informal modes of education travelled with us across the continent and

across the Atlantic at various stages in world history (not just the Maafa-or

African holocaust), and those of us who have claimed the United States as

home have gone onto to create over 100 Historically Black Colleges and

Universities (HBCUs).


Education has always been our thang.


After years of being violently attacked for our appetite for knowledge,

education was finally de-criminalized and much later public education in

this country was desegregated. Access was granted legally, but there was

(is) still an economic barrier. Segregation in housing ensures continuous

segregation in educational opportunities. Public schools that serve Black

students are routinely less funded by the government than schools that

serve White students. In fact, mostly white school districts received $23

billion more in funding in 2016 than districts that are predominately non–

white, even though both groups serve roughly the same number of

students, according to a report by research and advocacy group EdBuild.


Locally, the Black Panther Party started the Oakland Community School in

the 1970s (virtually tuition free) due to the unequal outcomes for Black

children in public schools. This unequal access to quality education

persists nationwide and in fact, there have been at least 2 landmark legal

cases attempting to address it in the 20th century.


Serrano v. Priest (CA, 1971)


The 1971 case, also referred to as Serrano I, was the first of three cases

called Serrano v. Priest. Students of Los Angeles County public schools

and their families argued that the California school finance system, which

relied heavily on local property tax, disadvantaged the students in districts

with lower incomes. The California Supreme Court found the system in

violation of the Equal Protection Clause because there was too great a

disparity in the funding provided for various districts.


*San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez (TX, 1973)


Parents of students in a Texas school district argued that the school finance

system in Texas, which relied on local property tax for funding beyond that

provided by the state, disadvantaged the children whose districts were

located in poorer areas. Unlike the state court in Serrano v. Priest, the

Supreme Court found that the system did not violate the Equal Protection

Clause after determining that the system did not intentionally or

substantially discriminate against a class of people.


The current state of affairs we find ourselves in, is that school districts are

not by law compelled to provide equal funding for all public schools, thus

perpetuating the current disparity in educational access, quality and

outcomes.


Funding our education must now become our thang as well.


With an eye to our immediate future, we at AFRE embrace the challenge of

finding funding sources to drive the engine of resurrecting equity and

excellence in Black education. Clearly that funding may or may not come

from governmental sources- depending on how the wind blows in any

particular time period, geographic region, whims or will of current or future

politicians, etc. We cannot and will not wait for the political, judicial or

societal decision makers to decide when supporting Black education is

beneficial to their own professional gains.


That funding is being sought in every corner of our community as well as

among social justice allies. Community members in philanthropy, Black

interest groups at local corporations, online and social media pushes,

community spiritual groups, community events and individual community

donors are all putting their money where their mouth is. And we couldn’t

be more thrilled about our collective abundance!


Dr. Lasha Pierce

Executive Director AFRE

Co-founder SILE school

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