Inequity Injustice Poverty Racism South Carolina

Paul Thomas: The Political and Judicial Abandonment of Poor and Black Children in South Carolina

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Paul Thomas summarizes the long conservative tradition of racism and classicism in South Carolina, once the property of the Democrats, now the domain of Republicans.

The politicians never wanted to spend money on black and poor children. Even the judiciary says it’s time to stop throwing money at schools, which has never happened.

“SC public schools (and public universities, in fact) exist in 2017 as a bold middle finger to everything promised by a democratic nation. But despite the political rhetoric, SC has failed its public schools; public schools have not failed our state, whose political leaders care none at all about poor, black, or brown children being currently (and historically) mis-served by K-12 education….

“Political and judicial negligence in SC—a microcosm of the same negligence nationally—remains entrenched in commitments to ideology over evidence, hard truths neither political leadership nor judicial pronouncements will admit.

“First, and foremost, one hard truth is that public schools in SC are mostly labeled failures or successes based on the coincidence of what communities and students those schools serve. Schools serving affluent (and mostly white) communities and students are framed as “good” schools while schools serving poor (and often black and brown while also over-serving English language learners and students with special needs) communities and students are framed as “bad” or “failing.”

“This political lie is grounded in the three-decades political charade called education reform—a bureaucratic nightmare committed to accountability, standards, and testing as well as a false promise that in-school only reform could somehow overcome the negative consequences of social inequity driven by systemic racism, classism, and sexism.

“The ironic and cruel lesson of education reform has been that education is not the great equalizer.

“Education reform is nothing more than a conservative political fetish, a gross good-ol’-boy system of lies and deception.

“Second, and in most ways secondary, another hard truth is that while education is not the great equalizer, public schooling tends to reflect and then perpetuate the inequities that burden the lives of vulnerable children.

“In-school only reform driven by accountability, standards, and testing fails by being both in-school only (no education reform will rise about an absence of social/policy reform that addresses racism and poverty) and mechanisms of inequity themselves.

“Affluent and white students are apt to experience a higher quality of formal schooling than black, brown, and poor students, who tend to be tracked early and often into reduced conditions that include test-prep, “basic” courses, and teachers who are early career and often un-/under-certified.

“Nested in this hard truth is that much of accountability-based education reform depends on high-stakes standardized testing, which is itself a deeply flawed and biased instrument. Tests allow political negligence since data appear to be objective and scientific; in fact, standardized testing remains race, class, and gender biased.

“Like school quality, test scores are mostly a reflection of non-academic factors.”

Bottom line: racism and classism.

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