Milwaukee School District Earmarks Funds For Black Lives Matter Initiative

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BlackLivesMatter

Black Lives Matter / Johnny Silvercloud

May 24, 2016; WITI-TV (Milwaukee, WI)

School board officials in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, recently held a meeting to hear opinions about a proposed resolution that would allocate almost a half a million in dollars in funding for a “Black Lives Matter” program that would specifically address issues affecting children of color in the school district.

While the earmarked funds won’t go directly to the “Black Lives Matter” social movement, Milwaukee Public School officials say the goal of the program is to help minority students succeed. As a part of the program, three social studies teachers would be hired and a selected council would help to “develop a cultural studies curriculum and provide staff training on restorative practices.”

Considering current statistics on academic achievement for minority youth, this is not a foreign concept for school systems to adopt. According to U.S. News & World Report in 2015, 16% of blacks have less than a high school education, versus only 16% of whites. Only 13% of blacks get a bachelor’s degree versus 21% of whites, and only 6% get an advanced degree, versus 12% of whites.

And the disparities don’t end with the amount of college degrees obtained; they also exist in school disciplinary policies. Black children are suspended and expelled at three times the rate of white students. They make up 16 percent of school enrollment, but account for 32% of students who receive in-school suspensions, 42% of students who receive multiple out-of-school suspensions, and 34% of students who are expelled. Black students are also arrested and referred to law enforcement more often than whites.

The differences are also stark when it comes to the ways school districts where minority students make up a majority of the population are funded. More than 2 million black students attend schools where 90% of the student body is made up of minority students, and schools serving these students tend to have less-experienced, lower-paid teachers who are less likely to be certified. The Center for American Progress reported that a 10-percentage-point increase in students of color at a school is associated with a decrease in per-pupil spending of $75. Minority students are also 57% more likely to attend a “dropout factory”—a school in which 40% or more of the students stop attending school before graduation.

The district’s proposed “Black Lives Matter” initiative doesn’t stand alone. In 2012, President Obama signed an executive order that is a White House initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans. One of the elements included in the initiative is:

(iv) Implementing successful and innovative education reform strategies and practices in America’s public schools to ensure that African American students receive a rigorous and well-rounded education in safe and healthy environments, and have access to high-level, rigorous course work and support services that will prepare them for college, a career, and civic participation;

It even goes further to discuss the disproportionate dropout rates…

(vi) Reducing the dropout rate of African American students and helping African American students graduate from high school prepared for college and a career, in part by promoting a positive school climate that does not rely on methods that result in disparate use of disciplinary tools, and by supporting successful and innovative dropout prevention and recovery strategies that better engage African American youths in their learning, help them catch up academically, and provide those who have left the educational system with pathways to reentry;

It also seems that everyone recognizes the need for more African-American teachers. While African-Americans make up 16% of the United States population, only 7% of teachers are black. Teach for America has implemented their own African American Community Initiative that is supposed to, in part, “work in solidarity with the African American community to dramatically increase the number of black men and women who choose teaching as a career.” President Obama addressed this in his executive order as well, with one of the outcomes being “to improve the recruitment, preparation, development, and retention of successful African-American teachers and school leaders and other effective teachers and school leaders responsible for the education of African American students.”

Update: As of Thursday night, the initiative was approved.—Alexis Buchanan