By Casey Quinlan
The Department of Education recently released some startling numbers about how much our country spends on prisons versus schools that added fuel to the fire of national conversation about criminal justice reform.
One way to think about our national priorities is to look at where we spend our money. For example, according to the department’s report, every single state spends less all on pre-k-12 education than they do on corrections. And over the past 20 years, state and local spending on public colleges and universities has remained stagnant while spending on the prison system rose by almost 90 percent.
Amid the conversation about systemic racism sparked by the Black Lives Matter movement, especially in the wake of the police killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling and the subsequent protests across the country, it is important to look at how racism manifests itself in our education system.
In addition to inadequate levels of education funding, there are other factors that affect quality of education, such as racial bias that reveals itself through school discipline and our curricula choices. Decades of racial bias against black Americans and the legacy of slavery are evident in our classrooms.
Ongoing school segregation that reduces opportunities for black students
Although it has been more than 60 years since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision establishing that separate schools for white students and black students are not equal, schools in the U.S. remain very economically and racially segregated.
School segregation is often assumed to be a problem specific to the South. But northern cities and midwestern cities — like Chicago, New York City, Detroit, and Boston, where people arguably fought hardest against court-ordered busing — also have many racially isolated schools. On the west coast, California had 31 open desegregation cases as of 2014.