Introducing Texas Appleseed’s Education Justice Project
In keeping with long struggles to secure civil rights and liberties for all people in the United States, efforts to gain equal access to educational opportunities have been led by Black, Indigenous, and people of color for centuries.
From the Reconstruction era following the Civil War, to the Civil Rights Movement in the twentieth century, to the Movement for Black Lives in our present moment, historically underserved communities — led by those most directly impacted by racist policies and oppressive systems — have often placed the need for a quality education at the top of their demands for change.
In a bittersweet moment each May, the nation commemorates the anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education. In the case, the Supreme Court unanimously decided that the doctrine of “separate, but equal” had no place in American public education. However, school districts immediately resisted the decision, and this struggle has continued in various forms for the past 66 years. In sum, given the educational realities of so many kids in 2020, the decades since Brown have demonstrated how far we must go to achieve its full promise.
For so many young people throughout the country, school environments are no more than small prisons. Myriad children enter their school doors, pass through metal detectors, and walk past school police officers on their way to their homerooms. They seek to learn in traditional public schools that require significant investments from individual teachers from salaries that are not commensurate. Even as they earnestly seek their education, kids find themselves distracted by empty stomachs and health concerns — which often cannot be addressed since nurses are frequently not assigned to their campuses. Their responses to hunger, abuse or other health issues may manifest in a way that is designated as “willful defiance” by school administrators, and young people have been suspended for indefinite amounts of time from year to year.
At home, their parents are inundated with mailings and advertisements from charter schools - institutions that do not have to be accountable to their families in the ways that traditional public schools must be. Families are forced to consider these options because so many of the schools that they’ve attended for generations have now closed their doors — almost always because of consistent under-investment by the government. Parents and young people worry about adequately preparing for state standardized tests and college admissions exams. They battle against privatization and segregation while calling out the detrimental effects of environmental racism.
Now, in a whiplash turn of events, families must contend with the negative impact of the coronavirus pandemic on so many aspects of their daily lives. More than any other period in recent memory, families now struggle to maintain their finances, provide food for their children, and ensure that their young people can continue their education as consistently as possible. School districts have responded with various distance learning initiatives — often combining online resources with physical packets — but the administration has been uneven. At initial glance, as always, it appears that well-resourced suburban schools are receiving everything that is available under these initiatives, and Black and Brown kids in cities and rural communities are left with the crumbs.
In a sobering thought, it is uncertain what the path will look like as the world recovers from this pandemic.
It is simply an exhausting landscape for those who fight for education justice, but we remain tireless in our efforts to secure equal educational opportunities for all children.
With all of this in mind, we are proud to present Texas Appleseed’s Education Justice Project, a continuation and expansion of our longstanding focus on justice in the K-12 school system. For decades, we have been honored to stand with young people and parents in deepening the public's understanding of the school-to-prison pipeline and demanding more holistic learning environments for K-12 learners. Our data analysis over the years has shown the harms of exclusionary discipline and school policing. We are encouraged by recent actions in Minneapolis, Portland, Denver, and Charlottesville; school districts across the country are finally moving to meaningfully address the unfixable harms of school policing and sever ties with local police departments. We will continue to fight for the police-free schools movement to come to Texas.
That work continues, but we plan to expand the scope of our work to explore new areas of focus that apply our research-and-advocacy lens to the inequities discussed above — examining racially discriminatory school closures, charter expansion, the overuse of standardized testing, and advocating for trauma-informed care for young people when they return to school after the coronavirus pandemic subsides. This list is non-exhaustive, and we look forward to being nimble and innovative as we address the education justice challenges of today.
As with all laudable struggles, the road will not always be easy, but it will certainly be worth it.
We invite you to check out our Education Justice Project page and social media channels for more updates. And send us your thoughts for this ever-evolving advocacy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to hearing from you and continuing our work on behalf of all historically underserved Texans, especially the young learners among us. Stay tuned.