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
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
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
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