We have discussed before the difference between what the law says and how it is enacted. “Separate but equal,” did not really mean that the education for blacks was equal in quality to the education that whites were receiving. Even when segregation was made illegal and blacks were allowed to attend the same schools as white students, black students were excluded from certain classroom settings and were not afforded the same amount of resources or opportunities that were available to the white students in the same school.
There are still inequalities in public schools. These inequalities are impacted by a variety of factors, but it appears that race and socioeconomic status play a large role in the materials and resources that are available to students. In addition to what is provided to students, there are other hurdles that disadvantaged students have to overcome that better-off citizens and even teachers may not realize or care about.
For instance, I come from a public school where the ratio of white students to minority students is approximately 1:1, with black students making up a majority of the minority-status students (Ohio Department of Education 2014). In addition to the racial composition of the school, the school’s poverty status is considered medium-high (Ohio Department of Education 2014). Speaking from personal experience, many students come from single-parent homes and have one or more younger siblings. So when the School Board proposed a change in school time for elementary schools and the high school students, that was a large problem for a lot of families. Who was going to be there to see the younger children off to school or pick them up after school? The new schedule would not have made it possible for the younger children to be looked after by the older children, which was the situation for a good amount of people. This is just one example of how the current system upholds inequalities in education and opportunities for students that have more obstacles to overcome, be that race or income. If school times in my district had changed, then the rates of tardiness or absence from school likely would have gone up, which means less time for older students in the class room. Other factors such as fees for certain activities and sports also make it less likely that disadvantaged students will be able to participate in the same activities as other students.
We already knew that education isn’t equal for everyone, but it is important to recognize that there are still hierarchies even within public schools as to which students have which resources and opportunities at their disposal. This problem is exacerbated when a School Board is comprised of middle-class white citizens yet is supposed to represent the needs of a school with a large minority population and a medium-high poverty level.
Citation: Ohio Department of Education. “Ohio School Report Cards.” Ohio School Report Cards. 2014. Accessed May 2015. http://reportcard.education.ohio.gov/Pages/default.aspx.