Since the Democratic debates, the media has been giving a lot of attention to the exchange about school bussing between Kamala Harris and Joe Biden. What is not being discussed is the racism behind America’s educational system.
A lot of the funding of American public schools depends on local property taxes. The greater the value of the property in your area, the more funding your local schools will get.
Thanks to America’s racist history from slavery, through redlining (government policy that prevented black people from getting mortgages in certain areas), and to all of the issues we face today, property values are systematically lower in areas where people of color predominately live. With those lower property values comes poorer schools.
If we were truly interested in discussing educational reform, we wouldn’t be discussing bussing and failed policies from decades earlier–we would fund schools equitably.
The word “equitably” was intensional. We can’t begin to make up for centuries of racist policies by continuing to pretend equal funding would solve the problem. Equitable funding would direct money to where it’s most needed. Equitable funding would mean that for the first time schools systematically denied needed resources would get more of the available education dollars.
No one is talking about equitably funding public education because most white people simply aren’t that progressive. Most progressive white people will talk about the need to atone for America’s racist history; however, very few of them will sacrifice to do so.
In 1968, Berkeley, California began its efforts to desegregate its elementary schools. In 1970, the year Kamala Harris began riding the school bus to a better school in the white part of town, Berkeley was 23 percent black. In 2010, Berkeley was 10 percent black.
Bussing and all the other ideas to address segregation failed because they never addressed the route problem. They never addressed the reality that most white people aren’t willing to sacrifice the privilege they have come to expect.