Or, and I’m just spitballing here, we could prioritize students in need.
As Portland Public Schools grapples with potential cuts of up to $12 million in the coming academic year, district leaders say the coronavirus pandemic’s ever-evolving financial impact makes it difficult to pinpoint exactly where they’ll trim.
But Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero and a rotating cast of administrators told the school board Tuesday they’ll aim to soften the blow to schools with high concentrations of students of color and those in low-income households rather than institute cuts across the board.
I have no doubt there’s significant overlap between the two groups of “students of color” and “low-income households.” But I’m also sure that the Venn diagram isn’t a perfect circle. What we should be doing is helping those who need it regardless of other characteristics. Our obligation to students isn’t to say (rather paternalistically I might add), “You are X, so you get extra help.” The obligation is to say, “You need X, so you get extra help.”
For a society frequently torn by racial divisions—the protests and riots of Minneapolis are only the latest example—we have to find ways of moving forward that don’t divide us unnecessarily. The rightwing and online Russian trolls trump up (pun intended) enough of those things without additional help from the progressive left.
But this sort of thing is now endemic to education in Oregon, pervasive in educational funding, the treatment of students, and the hiring practices of districts:
District budget documents outline an approach to hiring and spending meant to drastically boost literacy, math proficiency and high school readiness for students of color, goals the school board and district officials settled on last year.
What message is being sent to families and students, both minority and caucasian? To former, it’s “you need help because you’re a person of color.” Maybe it’s warranted, maybe not, but “you need help because of who you are.” We are past the point of even trying to disguise this, and it’s a sad commentary that so many people on the left—almost all of whom are well-intentioned I might add—see this as a feature not a bug.
To the latter set of parents or students, it’s hard to see how a low-income white student or parent doesn’t feel resentful. Their need—which now more than ever might be great—is not a priority simply on the basis of race. If the races were reversed most people would rush to condemn this. This resentment is not imaginary; it forms a large part of Trump’s appeal to his white voters. (Whether they’re right or not is immaterial here. I’m simply illustrating how some progressive policies are received by those who believe themselves to be disenfranchised by them.)
Officials also signaled they’ll prioritize retaining and promoting educators of color.
Over the course of the next year, the district will also have 300 employees undergo training in racial equity and social justice.
I take this to mean things are going to get worse, not better. We can’t continue to do what we’ve done and expect different results. And we continue to prioritize the wrong things.