In its famous 1954 decision legally ending segregated schools (Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka), the Supreme Court found segregated schools to be separate and clearly unequal. The same could be said for the “unofficially” but still segregated schools that existed in the North and elsewhere. But major racial differences in educational achievement and opportunity remain nearly 70 years later.
A few years ago, Dr. Jerry Arkin, a retired UGA administrator, and I did a column regarding the University of Georgia and black students. In it, we indicated that black students are only 8% of UGA students, although African Americans make up over a third of public-school students in Georgia. Obviously, the problem goes much deeper than the University itself. It originates in our history and society.
In this vein, this column continues the discussion about meaningful reparations which was begun in the recent op-ed regarding minority business development and reparations. In this current piece, the possible use of that reparation money for improving educational opportunities for black students is explored.
But first, let’s look at historical educational expenditures by race. There is not a wealth of recent conclusive research in this area, although there definitely should be, and different studies have shown varying results.
The National Center for Education Statistics
The National Center for Education Statistics is one good source of information. Their bottom line: when cost of living is factored in, districts with high levels of minority students spend $286 per student less per year ($4,103) than those with the lowest percentages ($4,389).
This discrepancy in spending is clearly a problem that should be addressed by targeted achievement programs funded via reparations money. There have been numerous academic studies regarding improving black educational achievement, as detailed on the Regional Educational Laboratories web. We will explore a couple of those below.
One particularly broad study was done by the Child Trends research group. This study recommends looking at the problem in a more wholistic fashion, including programs that strengthen black families and tie communities more closely to local schools. Academic readiness, motivation and achievement are key factors. However, the study also recommends funding educational efforts regarding substance abuse, sexual health, physical health, and social skills. Plus, building skills in violence reduction.
Other studies have similar findings. One particularly good one is from National Center for Biotechnology Information/NIH. This paper recommends mentoring to improve achievement. But it also goes deeply into using “racial identity” as a motivator and working to tie self-esteem to academic achievement versus other measures.
In conclusion, I believe that President Biden should appoint a bi-partisan Task Force on African American Educational Achievement to review the existing literature and studies and then come back with specific recommendations including, a. how much federal funding is needed and b. how this money should be spent to maximize results. Clearly, there should be significantly more money per student spent on black children as a form of reparations, enabling them to catch up to their white counterparts educationally.