By Nehemiah D. Frank
The one thing that irks me the most is when a person of privilege presumes to know our walk. And by walk, I mean ‘black folks walk’ — people of color, the marginalized.
These dangerous people of privilege are those who have an influential platform. And I know that many of their hearts are seemingly in the right place; however, their armchair approach, when vocalizing personal opinions within their powerful spheres of influence, can be quite damaging to the progress for people of color.
I frankly think that their actions are sometimes irresponsible. Because when you’re a person of color, living in America, every adverse action a non-person of color does without rational thought triggers stress that vibrates and echoes throughout our black and brown world.
Recently, I came across an article titled “Is Expanding Charter Schools the Best Way to Achieve Equity?” This piece was published in Tulsa Kids, a local monthly magazine in the city of Tulsa. Thousands of people read this publication, mostly non-people of color.
As an African-American educator, I was offended by the article.
The editorial missed the mark because it incorrectly theorized and negatively castigates an unverifiable shadow over charter schools — and does so without asking the why?
Why do ‘public’ charter schools exist?
That’s right; I said, ‘public.’
Charter schools use tax dollars, which makes them public schools, too. Moreover, they usually serve students who live in low-income communities. Many of these students are on free or reduced lunch. And most of them are black and brown.
Therefore, black and brown people have the right to take their school dollars to where ever the hell they choose.
First, the Op/Ed spoke in-opposition of Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education’s decision to grant its charter-partners permission to expand grade levels.
Betty, the article’s author, presented the reader with a scenario that ignores the plight of people of color, while simultaneously using ‘black and brown’ folks as financial variables, ‘valuables,’ as to justify why charter schools should be funded as the stepchild of our society.
Why should schools be funded on the backs of black and brown bodies all while failing the majority them?
Betty may as well wrote: Black and brown kids must attend traditional public schools so the rest of the non-students of color can keep benefiting — a reminiscent of institutional slavery when whites economically and socially benefited from the dehumanization of black bodies.
“Before we fund anything that further drains students and resources from our public schools, we must stand firm in ensuring that all of our children in every school, including those with special needs and disabilities, black and brown children and English language learners, are getting the resources that they need,” Betty Casey Managing Editor of Tulsa Kids
“Float like a buttery fly and sting like a bee.” That’s what Mohammad Ali said. And ‘hontee’ I am here to tell you that the majority of black and brown folks are tired of hearing the broken records when black and brown students continue to perform at abysmal levels at most traditional public schools.
Where has Betty been when only 14 percent of black students who took the ACT’s are college ready?
‘Ain’t nobody got time for that.’
These traditional public schools have had since Brown v. Board of Education to close the equity gap between children of color and the privileged.
Today the gap is just as wide as it was back then and now includes a pipeline that will land a black child in prison or a brown kid in the captivity of ICE.
Second, the writeup theorized that public schools would have to do the same to serve kids but with less money because the funds would be sucked up by public charter schools, which is yet another miscalculation.
Charter schools are doing more with less, and that’s a fact. A recent journal was published by the University of Arkansas, spotlighting a 32 percent funding disparity between traditional area schools like TPS, Jenks, and Owasso and public charter schools in Tulsa.
Public charter schools receive $7,904 per pupil while traditional public school students receive $11,656.
Furthermore, traditional public school students receive local tax dollars, while charter school students receive zero local dollars, that’s a 100 percent funding disparity gap.
Let’s talk about discrimination and financial segregation — when the majority of these high-performing charter schools serve a majority of low-income minority students, all while receiving less funding.
I literally have flashbacks to the 60s.
Last, what is the obsession in the article with bashing the current administration of Tulsa Public Schools?
The last I checked, conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion have been had more in the past three years than in any previous TPS administration combined.
Nehemiah 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.