Is New York State Ready to Drive Dollars and Services to the “Truly Disadvanged”?

A couple of years ago I made my annual ophthalmologist visit with the high tech gadgets, the doc said, “You’ll need cataract surgery down the road, they’re not ripe yet.” Ripeness is an interesting concept; in addition to cataracts ideas also can become ripe.

A “ripe” idea may be driving dollars and programmatic assistance into schools to the “truly disadvantaged” students.

At the height of Johnson’s Great Society the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965) allocated significant federal dollars to states and on to school districts and schools. While the law itself has morphed to No Child Left Behind to the Every Student Succeeds Act Title 1 of the law provides supplemental funding to schools. In New York City Title 1 school budgets can reflect about 10% of the total school funding. (Check out a history of ESSA here).

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act uses census poverty numbers and allocates dollars to states that in turn drive dollars to school districts and the formulas are decided locally.

At the district level in New York City, poverty cutoff rates are established by county and based on individual students’ eligibility for free lunch. Students are eligible for free lunch if their family income is at or below 130.0 percent of the federal poverty level, as self-reported on lunch eligibility forms.

“Self-reported on lunch eligibility forms” is a low bar and a crude method of determining poverty.

Twenty years after the Great Society program William Julius Wilson in the Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass and Public Policy (1987) asks,

In the period following the thirtieth anniversary of the 1954 Supreme Court decision against racial separation . . . and the twentieth anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, a troubling dilemma confronts proponents of racial equality and social justice ‘ a black underclass has emerged and conditions in inner city ghettos have deteriorated, despite civil rights victories and the creation of the Great Society. What went wrong? Have affirmative action and Great Society programs made things worse? Has racism intensified? Or are other factors at work?

Wilson’s findings were highly controversial. Some argue he was blaming the poor for their failure to rise out of poverty.

In “More Than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City” (2009) Wilson responded to his critics pointing to cultural factors in addition to inequity and poverty, countering the “blame the victim” and pointing to how housing and transportation institutionalize inequality in America.

Critics of Wilson point to racism as the underlying reason for persistent poverty.

Molefi Kete Asante, a professor at Temple University and a leading theorist of Afrocentricism posits,

Race in America is a psychological, physical and social location for determining the conditions of one’s current and future life. This is because America’s benefits and privileges have been structured around race and its markers for difference. Those markers, largely physical, identify some people as being privileged and others as being victims. As a central concept in America’s history, race has always been an arena for selecting who will eat and who will not eat or for determining the quality and condition of a group’s possibilities.

Critical Race Theory and the Black Lives Matter movement point to the prime importance of race and aver the subtext of every conversation is race.

Ibram Kendi, the author of “How to Be an Antiracist,” (2019) rejects assimilationist ideas, the belief that African-American people and spaces should strive toward a standardized white norm — as inherently racist.

 There is no such thing as “not racist” ideas, policies or people, he argues, only racist and antiracist ones.

Kendi expands on his anti-racism beliefs here.

Can diversity training eliminate anti-racist mindesets?

Eesha Pendharkar is a race and diversity reporter at Education Week and closely followed a black-led equity and diversity training program in a high school in Bangor, Maine. Eesha comes from a privileged caste in India and concludes,

 If schools keep doing the best they can to help everyone, and, particularly, if white students and teachers understand the history of how and why people of color were treated as they were in the past and why that needs to change with the investment of a lot of time, money, and commitment, the experiences of students of color in school may improve.

But I remain skeptical. I don’t know that schools can fundamentally change the mindset of teachers, administrators, parents, and students, perhaps because I come from a culture where racism, too, is so deeply embedded. The answer might be that it can’t. Because unless you acknowledge that systemic racism is ingrained in schools, pledge to identify how, and work constantly to make changes, the education system will not get better. I stand on more than 3,500 years of Indian history to prove it.

The identification of the “truly disadvantaged” and driving funding and supports and driving funds based on specific metrics and rejecting racism are not in conflict.

The Biden American Rescue and Infrastructure Plans may have more impact than the 1930s FDR New Deal and the 1960s LBJ Great Society. Nobel Prize Paul Krugman explains here.

The time is now ripe.

The Center for NYC Affairs report “A Better Picture of Poverty” (2014)

… looked at absenteeism-endemic schools through the lens of what we characterize as a “total risk load” of social and educational factors in the schools. Our goal: To identify New York City’s “truly disadvantaged” public schools. This is a concept brought forward by researchers at the Consortium on Chicago School Research (who expanded on the term by the renowned urban sociologist William Julius Wilson). Some urban schools serve students and their families who face the heaviest misery and hardship imposed by poverty and family dysfunction, and these are typically in neighborhoods most bereft of the reserves of community “social capital” that can offset poverty’s worst effects

Inspired by recent research on truly disadvantaged public schools in Chicago and Philadelphia, we devised a risk load instrument of 18 salient indicators from census data and other sources. We wanted to go beyond the yardsticks commonly used to measure poverty in the schools. When, for example, some 80 percent of public school students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, such familiar statistical brushes paint with strokes far too broad to be very useful.  Read the Report here and an Education Week article here.

We can now readily identify the “truly disadvantaged.” The question: will we use the data to drive policy?

The San Antonio school district,

…. calculates a ranking for each Census block in the city, maps the level of poverty in each neighborhood, and pinpoints the areas with the greatest need. The district then reserves space for children from the poorest neighborhoods at its highest-performing schools. The district also adjusted the way it allocates resources to ensure that children with the greatest needs get appropriate levels of support. Texas adopted SAISD’s socioeconomic block system in what has been called “perhaps the biggest change in the way the state funds schools.”

Will New York State take the same action?  Will New York State move from identifying Title 1 by submission of free lunch forms to “risk load factors;” identifiers of the truly disadvantaged?

The New York State has adopted Culturally Relevant Sustaining Education Frameworks (Read here) and a policy statement on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (Read here), although, there is a caveat, “The Board expects that all school districts will develop policies that advance diversity, equity and inclusion – and that they implement such policies with fidelity and urgency,” in other words, the Board can only ask, not force districts or schools.

In New York State curriculum is school district responsibility; the state can “expect,” can “urge;” however the state does not control curriculum at the local level.

The State can adopt the truly disadvantaged “risk load factors,” in the distribution of state and Title 1 funds

The time is ripe.

One response to “Is New York State Ready to Drive Dollars and Services to the “Truly Disadvanged”?

  1. Pingback: Is the Next Chancellor Standing Offstage? Is the Next Chancellor David Banks? | Ed In The Apple

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