By Lee Edwards, Chicago Crusader
Failing grades. Dropouts. Suspensions.
Some 100 years after the Great Migration, the problems are getting worse for Black students in Chicago Public Schools, where staff layoffs, poor resources, unequal funding, budget cuts and poverty continue to eat away at academic success in the nation’s third largest school system.
But a new, extensive report from the Chicago Urban League ties the problems to residential segregation that has kept Black students at a disadvantage for decades in the most segregated city in America.
The Chicago Urban League released the second installment in its’ “The Enduring Legacy of Racial Residential Segregation in Chicago in the Post-Civil Rights Era” three-part series titled, “The Impact of Segregation on Education in a “No Excuses” Environment” at the CULtivate Thought Leadership Breakfast at 155 N. Wacker Dr., on February 28.
“The Enduring Legacy of Racial Residential Segregation in Chicago in the Post-Civil Rights Era” series is the first in a collection of works under CUL’s “CULtivate Series” which intends to examine issues, draft informational reports, and take measured steps toward achieving informed results to positively impact the African American community.
Breakfast attendees were given a brief overview of the 114-page report that addresses and suggests solutions for the disparities African Americans in Chicago endure in terms of public school funding from the city, state and the impact of segregation and income inequality in schools. CUL researchers collected data from Chicago Public Schools, City of Chicago Data Portal, Illinois State Board of Education Report Cards, the U.S. Census, among other portals to assess the entirety of the issues.
Shari Runner, President and CEO, Chicago Urban League said given the information at hand public school funding inequality can and should be resolved. She said the CUL is willing to partner with individuals and organizations.
“We talk a lot about the violence that’s going on, the unemployment, but we’re not talking about the root causes very much, so it’s important to us to highlight exactly what the problems are and what are some of the things that we can do about it to change the trajectory of our kids,” said Runner.
The findings of the report,“The Impact of Segregation on Education in a ‘No Excuses’ Environment” were not surprising, said Runner.
“We know that we are facing a very difficult environment in our racially segregated communities and the resources are not there so to say that and to know that this education piece is something we can do something about and then not do it is a tragedy, that’s what we really have to think about,” said Runner.
The CULtivate Thought Leadership Breakfast was presented by U.S. Bank and hosted by Skadden. A representative from both companies joined CUL staff and event attendees for the hour-long presentation of the report and a Q&A session.
Marsha Cruzan, SVP, Regional President, U.S. Bank said, “We’re proud to support all of the efforts of the Urban League in this endeavor to promote equality in education.”
Brian Duwe, Partner, Skadden said he was aware of the state of Illinois’ educational funding but seeing the data in context brought the issue to a new height.
“If you look at the data from this morning there are simple, direct ways in which our government and our people can respond to making a difference in funding education that would make a huge difference for people in the communities that are most at risk and danger across the city,” said Duwe. “When you see where we stand you can’t help but conclude that we have to act. The data that was presented here really goes to that point; I don’t know how anyone can look at that data and say we shouldn’t do more.”
Stephanie Schmitz Bechteler, VP and Executive Director of the Chicago Urban League Research and Policy Center, who prepared “The Impact of Segregation on Education in a ‘No Excuses’ Environment” report, explained during her presentation how the state’s dependence on local property wealth creates vastly different educational experiences for students. She said “tipping factors” such as community wealth, family human capital, community built environment, among others have worked in concert to create educational disparities between low-income and more affluent students based on Illinois’ funding formula.
Under Illinois’ current educational system, local property tax revenue is used for funding schools. In 2015, on average the state of Illinois accounted for just 24.9 percent of the revenue for Illinois school districts, federal funding accounted for 7.7 percent, leaving local school districts to pay 67.4 percent, according to the Illinois Report Card.
Ralph Martire, Executive Director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, who spoke after Bechteler, echoed her position and advanced the discussion to highlight the impact of disproportionate educational funding in the African American community. Since 1980 the wage gap between Caucasians and African Americans in Illinois has worsened by 197 percent, said Matire.
“We know that unfortunately our African American children tend to be clustered at the bottom of our lower income communities, that’s a reality, that’s a problem because their schools are consistently underfunded which means they’re not getting the resources they need invested in them as children to develop the skills they need to be competitive in the modern economy,” said Martire.
To read the full “The Impact of Segregation on Education in a ‘No Excuses’ Environment” report visit: http://www.thechicagourbanleague.- org/cms/lib07/IL07000264/Centricity/Domain/1/CULtivate%20Part%202_Education_FINAL.pdf.