Education

Academic Segregation in Tulsa Public Schools

Screen Shot 2018-10-07 at 10.02.22 AM.pngTulsa Public Schools | 2017 – 2018 State of the District

Academic segregation reproduces ethnoracial and socioeconomic inequality in an integrated, affluent community, and the institutional success frame provides a rationale for institutional actors to legitimize and justify the inequality. 

*Minority students with low SAT scores means remedial classes at community colleges and more college debt. 


OPINION | By Nehemiah Frank

Tulsa, Okla. — Are Tulsans serious about closing the academic achievement gap between Black and White students or is the low expectation for academic performance among Black children the continuous norm, the expected, in this city? 

When you are a Black American, exposed to the troubling statistics that indicate, it is your race, your group of people that academically continues to lag, the negativeness of that reality begins to eat away at, and agitate, your spirit. You want to do something positive about it by destroying the age-old system that caused the gap. You want to see it to burn in the flames and fold to its knees.

Then reality suddenly strikes you like a freight train without breaks. Rationality reminds you that you are only one person with so little time. Society convinces you that not one single indivudal, especially a Black person, can overturn centuries of cognitive and social systemic-damage left over from a racist era with left over residue. Residue that to all appearances maintains the status quo, seemingly indicating that Black students are inferior to White students.  

At every turn, the evil system to all intents and purposes creates and reinvents the perpetual achievement gap, an abstract separation that has painfully categorized a majority of Black  students as America’s future prison population. 

At school board meetings, I always have anxiety when I’m in a room full of White folks, who are listening to the same horrible academic-performance stats about my race. It is the kind of information that painfully pierces a Black person’s soul because we know that that ‘unintellectual’ and ‘undisciplined-people’ stigmatization continues to layer. We Black folks want to explain ‘the why’; however, there isn’t enough time in any single meeting to explain to folks why Black students are still lagging academically. The first insecurity we fight is wondering if White America is apathetic towards closing the gap. 

The further branding of Black people as academic inferiors hurts as bad as hearing the statistics that 1 in 3 Black man between the ages of 18 and 29 are incarcerated.  

White America will never fully grasp the depth of emotional pain a Black person feels and internalizes when hearing the reoccurring report of low academic performance among Black students. It makes us worried about the future of our people in America. 

School districts willfully reveal the results, publicly, never informing the Black community on a plan of action to close the gap.

I can see with my, own, eyes and decidedly determine that we, as a society, are not trying hard enough to close the gap between Black and White students.

Despite principled ideas of the need for equity in public schools, past studies fallibly indicated that low academics performance has less to do with race and more to do with income. However, overall, Black student performance even lags behind poor White rural communities. 

Stanford’s Center for Education Policy Analysis reported: “Socioeconomic disparities are not the sole cause of racial achievement gaps. Other factors—including potentially the availability and quality of early childhood education, the quality of public schools, patterns of residential and school segregation, and state educational and social policies—may play important roles in reducing or exacerbating racial achievement gaps.”

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Courtesy of Tulsa Public Schools

Cause and Effect of Racist Policies 

Oklahoma has a long history of racial discrimination and oppressing Black intellectual access and advancement. Even with minorities in administrative positions, changing the systems towards equity is proving harder than most realized. Past policies have made closing performance gaps in a timely manner nearly impossible in Oklahoma public schools. 

Title 70, § 5-8. Taxes for separate schools — In all cases where separate county schools for white and colored children are maintained, the county excise board shall annually levy a tax on all taxable property in their respective counties sufficient to maintain such separate schools as hereinafter provided…[ Laws 1949, p. 537, art. § 5, 8]      

A law that has since evolved, due to the passing of the Civil Rights Act, but is still very much intact.

“Significantly contributing to the failure to educate is the method by which public schools are financed. In the vast majority of states, a large portion of public school funding is provided by local property tax revenues. This creates gross inequities between school districts in the amount of money available to spend on education in each district and, therefore, the kind and quality of that education.” — “Constitutional Issues in Property Tax Based Public School Financing Systems” by Elizabeth M. Rice

PROPERTY TAX AS THE BASIS FOR PUBLIC SCHOOL FINANCING

Public schools are largely financed by local taxes based on property value, supplemented by state and federal contributions. Thus, school districts in neighborhoods of relatively low property values have less money available to fund the education of children who live in such neighborhoods than those in areas of higher property values. For example, the wealthiest school district in New York spent $4214.00 per pupil in the academic year 1974-75; the poorest spent $396.00 on each child, a difference of 4.5 to 1.6 

Inequalities 

In Tulsa Public Schools Black students continue to perform poorly academically. Although the academic achievement gap is slowly closing in our school districts (Tulsa, Jenks, Broken Arrow, Union, and Owasso Public Schools), the pandemic in decades of low Black student performance which reoccurs seemingly perpetually raises a question: Is it intentionally not solved to keep the inferiority stigmatization alive to perpetuate this belief that Black students are less intelligent than White students? 

America’s public education system gives the impression that it is a sailing ship with a broken motor. But when delving into the capitalistic history of America, we see the logic and need for a large portion of its population to be less educated. Stable societies need a subservient population, worker bees, whose job is to do the laborious work. Hence, the theoretical premise that Blacks are ‘still’ that chosen go-to group to be used as cheap laborers. That is the only end that Blacks can conclude. 

The low scores follow Black students for the rest of their lives. They determine their ability to climb the economic later. If they receive quality health care. If they will be able to contribute to positive developments in their community — creating jobs or educating the next generation. Their ability to perform academically well determines if they get into a good college, receive a scholarship, complete a rigorously intense program free of debt. 

The question is: Are we brave enough to change how we allocate school funding so we can truly pursue our quest as a city and state promoting racial equity in our public schools? That is the path to conciliation, reconciliation, and reparations. 

Until then, Black Tulsa’s future looks blighted. Everyone knows it. 

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Tulsa Public Schools | 2017 – 2018 State of the District


lip_9760Nehemiah D. Frank is the founder and executive editor of The Black Wall Street Times. He graduated from Harold Washington College in Chicago, IL, and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Oklahoma State University. A rising voice in America and an emerging leader in the education reform movement, Nehemiah frequently travels for speaking engagements around the country, is a blogger for Education Post, and has been featured on NBC as well as in Blavity and Tulsa People. Nehemiah is also a teacher at Sankofa School of the Performing Arts in Tulsa, OK, a 2017 Terence Crutcher Foundation honoree, a recipient of the 2017 METCares Foundation Community Impact Award, and a 2018 Oluko Fellow. He gave a TED Talk at The University of Tulsa in the spring of 2018. Nehemiah has recently been appointed to the Community Advisory Board at the Tulsa World.

 

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Categories: Education