I am down here in Washington to attend several policy gatherings. One was last Thursday at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace where the promise of school integration for all children was discussed. The other policy event is the National Arts Action Summit where 85 arts education advocates will get a chance to make a difference with our legislators, to advocate for the funding of the arts nationwide through the National Endowment of the Arts and through the US Department of Education.
Integrated Education Benefits All Students
The Learning Policy Institute brought experts on integration from all over the country to discuss the increasing disparity between and among schools in the United States. The Learning Policy Institute report reminds us of why separate and equal is problematic—as integration benefits all students:
“In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the doctrine of “separate but equal” in its ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, which represented a major legal effort to dismantle legal segregation in public schools. That ruling paved the way for federal, state, and district efforts to expand access to quality educational opportunities to all students, regardless of race or ethnicity. Research presented in an amicus brief in Brown showed that integrated education benefits all students. Those findings have been supported by an overwhelming body of research conducted since. A review of the research shows that integrated schools contribute to:
—Learning Policy Institute Report: The Federal Role and School Integration
developing cross-cultural understanding;
eliminating bias and prejudice.
increasing the likelihood of students living in integrated neighborhoods as adults and holding jobs in integrated workplaces later in life;
improving academic achievement and critical thinking skills;
improving educational attainment; and
promoting civic participation in a diverse global economy.”
So, what is the National Arts Action Summit?
“The National Arts Action Summit is a multi-day event giving you the opportunity to receive crucial advocacy training from experts in the field and then put that training into practice on Arts Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill. Hosted by Americans for the Arts in partnership with over 85 national arts organizations, Arts Advocacy Day is the largest gathering of its kind, bringing together a broad cross section of America’s cultural and civic organizations. Grassroots advocates from across the country come to Washington, DC to meet with their Members of Congress to garner support for issues like arts education policy, the charitable tax deduction, and funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.”—Americans for the Arts
The lessons here are that policy makes a real difference to our nation when it is grounded in the practice of teachers and schools all around our country. Policy is often made without consulting teachers and it doesn’t work. I really value the words of teachers, the realities they face, and the wisdom they hold for all of us in making new schools.
Additionally, the movement to take action and integrate schools cannot happen unless we realize that 23 billion is the difference between white schools and minority schools:
“School districts that predominantly serve students of color received $23 billion less in funding than mostly white school districts in the United States in 2016, despite serving the same number of students, a new report found. The report, released this week by the nonprofit EdBuild, put a dollar amount on the problem of school segregation, which has persisted long after Brown v. Board of Education and was targeted in recent lawsuits in states from New Jersey to Minnesota. The estimate also came as teachers across the country have protested and gone on strike to demand more funding for public schools.”—New York Times New York Times
Democratic Education Goals
We have 54 million students and four million teachers in US Schools but we have an inherently unequal education system based on local taxes and local school boards. One day, we must make this more equal, and support all students through rigorous academics, qualified teachers, vast amounts of arts experiences and a school system that enhances our democracy.