More PTA Spending Data and School Board Advocacy

Hi Friends!
It might finally be spring! If you’d like to accompany me to the SURJ NoVa meeting, please let me know. I’ll be speaking about our efforts in Arlington to address racism and inequity in our schools.
The Chair of the local School Board spoke at my neighborhood association meeting last week and I had the opportunity to ask her about her thoughts on how we might address inequities in our schools. I purposefully avoided providing specific examples to see what she would assume and she was very careful/political in her response (she’s also up for re-election this November). She did, however, talk about the intentional placement of particularly qualified and dedicated principals at our county schools that have lower test scores (and usually have more lower income students and more students of color), which is a good step.
This is happening at one south side school, for example, and may have actually happened because privileged white parents who live in that zone expressed concern about their children attending that school. It’s an interesting twist on the impact privileged parents can have that benefits the entire community (even if they aren’t necessarily acting with the interests of the community in mind). I followed up with her afterwards and she said that she would be interested in speaking with our group. So, I’ll see what I can do about setting something up.
I should have mentioned this last week — the Starbucks incident that led to the (completely inappropriate) arrest of two black men in Philadelphia and has (rightfully so) been getting a lot of national attention, to the point of many boycotting Starbucks altogether. This kind of situation is why those of us with privilege need to examine our own biases and start talking to encourage others like us to do the same. Karen Attiah says it well, as does Radley Balko.
Case in point — I presented a summary of the county-wide PTA grant awards last week and included some very helpful data about PTA fundraising disparities and the segregated nature of schools in our county. The presentation was received very well and yet, some who support this effort still made comments that were clearly biased and out of touch with the realities of disadvantaged families in our community.
Here’s a quick rundown of that data (PTA spending per student):
Elementary Schools: $195 north side, $92 south side
Middle Schools: $40 north side, $20 south side
High Schools: $41 north side, $15 south side
These numbers are based on 26 (out of 32) PTA budgets received from the 17–18 school year. It is relevant context that our county is significantly economically segregated, which has been true from the beginning of its development. Evidence of this is obvious in the fact that of the nine Title I schools in the County, eight of those are located on the south side.
Here’s a good article about how to discuss race and whiteness in particular with our children.
Another federal action to undermine anti-bias legislation is taking place, this time with the auto industry.
There was also an interesting conversation on Facebook in the local education group about the potential move of option schools and the benefit (and potential drawbacks) of placing option schools on the south side of the county. It was encouraging to see community members stepping up and having a useful conversation about this topic.

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