Big Ideas with an Equity Lens

I wanted to write up my thoughts from the Big Idea Roundtable I was able to attend a few weeks ago (I was added from the waitlist at the last minute and I saw a few of you there!). I heard a few people talk about equity issues in a really positive way and they are clearly working on these issues themselves, including a former school board member currently working on health equity issues and who is collaborating with the County on taking an “equity lens” to everything we do, who I’ll hopefully be meeting with over the summer) and another community member who I’m working on getting connected to as well. The Chair of the County Board was also at my session, and she continues to be an advocate for equity issues in our community.
The discussion ranged among many topics, but the ones that stuck out at me had to do not just with how our county should grow, but how it should thrive. Standard of living, green spaces (building nature into the urban environment), the shifting structure of county government and how citizens will be heard, especially as our population grows, a better connection between the county and schools, “complete communities” (everyone should be able to live here), and incentives for families to use public transportation. One of the things that the county needs help with is how to engage more population groups, especially those far less represented in the methods used now. If you have things to suggest, please reach out to County leadership to share your thoughts with them.
And please encourage an equity lens in everything you do, just to see how it might work. How does what I’m doing affect those not at the table? Who are the stakeholders and how can we engage them? It’s a difficult and challenging and time-consuming process, and the results are often better and certainly more representative and considerate than they would be otherwise. Try it out, at home, work, wherever.
I also went back over my notes from our meeting with the Chair of the School Board. She stated that for those interested in directly influencing the emerging equity policy, the Advisory Council on Instruction is the best way to do that. Please let me know if you need any support in being considered.
She also mentioned that a super lottery option is being researched over the summer, which could be very interesting in terms of opening up schools as option choices and could go a long way towards desegregating our schools if it is managed well and if the public is educated properly about the choices available. The conversations we are all having with our fellow community members can contribute to a culture change around these issues. Please keep advocating and speaking up!
I also wanted to call attention to recent data on economic inequities in our country and in our community. Doorways for Women and Families sends out a really informative and broad-ranging newsletter each month. This month, it included data from a HuffingtonPost article about housing affordability, which uses data from a report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. From the newsletter, Arlington and DC have the same housing wage level of $34.48/hour to afford a modest two-bedroom rented home, but because VA’s minimum wage is lower, the income gap is higher than in DC, making our county less affordable for renters earning lower incomes. Problems like this are why it is harder and harder for our county to keep teachers, police officers, firefighters, bus drivers, etc. employed locally. It’s going to take intentional action to address it — as someone said in the Big Idea Roundtable, this is not something that fixes itself naturally.
Also, if you missed the discussion started by one of our members about contributing towards putting together backpacks for children housed by APAH, please contact her and/or check out the information on their website. Thanks to those who have already contributed!

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