A new report released by Forward Through Ferguson details the resurgence of segregation in St. Louis-area public schools and outlines key root causes of the student achievement gap.
“Still Separate, Still Unequal” asserts that past efforts to address achievement gaps largely failed because they did not engage with the sources of the outcome disparities: the structure of our education system. The report asserts that our education system is doing exactly what it was built to do: affording better opportunities to white, wealthy students at the expense of poor, Black students.
The St. Louis region’s education funding landscape is highly uneven, Forward Through Ferguson reports, and it’s not an accident. Majority-white districts spent over $2,000 more per student and received $1700 more in funding per student than majority-Black districts. The largest funding gap between individual districts was about $14,000 more per student.
Funding education through property taxes is inequitable, Forward Through Ferguson argues. Majority-white district communities have almost twice the property wealth and household incomes than majority-Black districts, who must tax themselves at a higher rate to try to make up the difference.
Federal, state, and local policies and practices led to de jure and then de facto segregation in our region and schools, Forward Through Ferguson argues. Today, St. Louis-area public schools are almost as segregated as 60 years ago before meaningful integration took place, with 78% of public school students attending a racially concentrated district.
Racialized differences in funding contribute to differences in education environment, Forward Through Ferguson reports. For example, teachers and administrators at majority-Black districts are paid on average about $6,000 and $15,000 less, respectively, than majority-white districts. For example, 1 in 4 Black students doesn't have access to AP or calculus classes.
“While I am pleased that this significant work is being done, it saddens me that we are still addressing many of the same issues that we thought had been long resolved,” said Nettie Collins-Hart, superintendent of Hazelwood School District.
“In many regards, we appear to be worse off than we were when I was a student in the ‘70s. I witnessed and benefited from the fights for school desegregation and racial equity in schools. However, I am encouraged that awareness, advocacy, and action are again at the forefront, and this time, we must take measures to ensure that 30 years from now, my grandchildren and other school children are not having this same conversation and fighting these same battles in our schools, and in our nation.”
In addition to partnering and building capacity, Forward Through Ferguson is calling on education advocates, public officials, and business leaders to join in several next steps, including:
- Continue to grow understanding and tell the story of structural inequities in the St. Louis regional landscape
- Collaboratively redefine regional indicators of a quality education, and
- Establish the Education Design and Finance task force as recommended by the Ferguson Commission to grow a community-wide mandate for policy and system action on education in the St. Louis region and state of Missouri.
“The Brentwood School District is committed to partnering with Forward Through Ferguson and regional school districts in efforts to re-design systems to equitably support all students,” said Brian Lane, superintendent of Brentwood School District.
For more information on “Still Separate, Still Unequal,” visit stillunequal.org. A printed version of the tool will be carried by both the St. Louis County and St. Louis City library systems.
Forward Through Ferguson is hosting an information session on October 8 at 6 p.m. Registration for this event can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/events/730655167662107