Research Roundup, Jan 2018: Social Justice Philanthropy and Funding Inequity

New to the SD notebook in 2018, I am planning to do research roundups every month or so. This is the first one of 2018, and it includes two reports that take very different ways of looking at the relationship between money/funding and school segregation.

The first report is from the Sillerman Center at Brandeis University. If you’re not familiar with it, the Sillerman Center (@sillermancenter) aims to promote “social justice philanthropy,” largely by connecting grantmakers to groups who are doing work oriented towards social justice. Their director is Susan Eaton, whose long history of publishing on school segregation includes the widely cited “Dismantling Desegregation” book published with Gary Orfield.

Sillerman’s new report is called “Diverse, Equitable and Inclusive K-12 Schools: A New Call for Philanthropic Support.” As implied in the title, the report was written to address a major problem in the school integration movement: lack of funding. I found the background on this to be interesting and somewhat unexpected. The report notes that:

  • “In our work, we regularly talk with grantmakers who recognize that segregation drives inequality and at that same time, are also deeply committed to moving resources to uplift and empower people and organizations in their current contexts. Funders may have the sense that they are powerless in the face of entrenched segregation in schools and neighborhoods.”

The premise here is that funders would be more interested in supporting school integration work if they had better “on ramps” to the school integration movement. So, the report then outlines where there is common ground between existing priorities of funders and existing school integration work.

For example, the report notes that youth leadership is a major focus of existing funding efforts and that this could be directed towards the school integration movement through “grants to organizations that train youth leaders to advocate for greater school diversity or that train them to take the lead on fostering greater racial equality within their schools.” Other on-ramps include:

  • Racial Equity, Economic Inequality & Social Mobility
  • Economic Prosperity/Regional Prosperity
  • Empathy & Cross-Racial Relationship Building
  • Deeper Learning & Critical Thinking
  • PreK-12 – Social and Emotional Learning
  • Immigrant Integration
  • Strengthening U.S. Democracy
  • Closing Opportunity and Achievement Gaps

Each of these has at least four specific grant funding ideas/opportunities, similar to the one quoted above for youth development, that connect these topics to the school integration movement.

There is a lot of great stuff in the report that I do not have the time to discuss here. In one section, the report uses interviews with practitioners in school integration to present “a mutually reinforcing four-pronged strategy to accelerate transformational change.” (See diagram here).

Screen Shot 2018-01-29 at 10.04.10 PM

I did want to highlight a few interesting things that I found digging through the appendices. The first appendix is a scan of national and regional work in the school integration world. (In the spirit of full-disclosure, I should note that the SD Notebook is listed among the national actors – pg. 28! –  I was thrilled and honored to see this.) If you’re looking for more information about school integration work, the scan is easily one of the most comprehensive resources out there.

A few other things I found –

  • A Diversity Database that can “create customized reports describing over 100 measures of diversity, opportunity, and quality of life for 362 metropolitan areas.”
  • An interactive map, currently being updated, that “provides contact data for organizations and actors in the school diversity/integration landscape.”

The second report addresses the connection between funding inequity, school segregation and access to affordable housing – “Public Education Funding Inequity in an Era of Increasing Concentration of Poverty and Resegregation.” It was led by Catherine Lhamon, who was the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights under President Obama – as noted in an earlier post, her successor in the current DOE has troubling views on civil rights (and has even written a country song about it). Lhamon is now the Chair of the US Commission on Civil Rights, which has stepped into the vacuum left by the Trump Administration.

This report is extremely thorough and deserves a close look from anyone who is interested in these issues. It has chapters on the political history that led to current forms of inequity, inequitable funding structures and the corresponding effects on student achievement, and on the connection between housing policy and educational opportunity. Based on extensive review of literature and policy history, the report offers a number of findings that are extremely important (if not unexpected). Here’s a few examples:

  • “Low-income students and students of color are often relegated to low-quality school facilities that lack equitable access to teachers, instructional materials, technology and technology support, critical facilities, and physical maintenance. These absences can negatively impact a student’s health and ability to be attentive and can exacerbate existing inequities in student outcomes.”
  • “Many students in the U.S. living in segregated neighborhoods and concentrations of poverty do not have access to high-quality schools simply because of where they live, and there is potential for housing policy to help provide better educational opportunities for these students.”

It then offers several recommendations for governmental action that can address educational inequity. Here are my favorites:

  • “Congress should make clear that there is a federal right to a public education.” Yes – this would be a very, very big change (to put it mildly) and it seems impossible now; but I think it’s important for reports like this to keep this ideal alive in case it one day becomes politically viable. In the most recent PRRAC newsletter, law scholar Derek Black writes that the constitutional right to education is long overdue
  • “Federal, state, and local government should develop incentives to promote communities that are not racially segregated and do not have concentrated poverty, which in turn would positively impact segregation and concentrated poverty in public schools and the educational challenges associated with such schools.”

I was happy to see that the report got decent media coverage. This PBS Newshour and Al Dia articles focus on what the report says about the persistence of segregation in American public ed. Meanwhile, this NPR article has a nice overview of the historical background in the early parts of the report.

And, this Twitter thread from Lhamon herself connects the reports to recent major issues in public education, including the Cruz-Guzman Supreme Court case and the research on school district attendance zones, discussed in an earlier SD news roundup.

https://twitter.com/CatherineLhamon/status/951464817386315776

She basically says that if we (as a country) care about these issues, we really need to start doing something about them.

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