Public education is facing a second crisis like no other in years. However, the historic crisis of school segregation prevails into the 21st century and must be addressed to ensure all students have equitable access to academic opportunities.  

 On August 18th, CHILDREN AT RISK hosted “The Resegregation of American Schools: The Economics of Inequity,” a discussion between education leaders and advocates about the need to create a more inclusive school environment for diverse student populations. Presented in partnership with Shell Oil Company, Texas Family Leadership Council, Families Empowered, and RGV Focus, experts examined and addressed the root cause of the inequalities in our education system, to ensure a robust and thriving economic future for Texas.  

Dr. Frazier Wilson, Vice President, Shell Oil Company Foundation welcomed attendees and Donald Bowers, Vice President Federal Reserve Bank, Houston Branch & Children at Risk Board Member opened the event with personal reflections of his experience as a young student in an elementary school classroom. 

“As a child entering kindergarten in 1973, my parents, especially my mother, made it a priority to put me and my brother in the best schools possible… And so, for me, that meant a series of transitions from kindergarten through sixth grade where I ultimately attended five different schools before finding stability in middle school,” Bowers reflected.  “What happens to children who don’t have Shirley Bowers as their mother, who has the capacity to do the research and take the necessary measures to put their children in the best schools possible?” 

Robert K. Nelson, Director, Digital Scholarship Lab, University of Richmond laid the framework for the day’s robust discussion with a historical breakdown of discriminatory practices in the drawing and development of neighborhoods and the schools that serve them.  Additionally, Meshea L. Poore, Esq., Vice President & Chief Diversity Officer, West Virginia University, and President, Big XII Association of Chief Diversity Officers in Higher Education, wrapped up a series of presentations on virtual education and school choice by pointing out that “rather than choosing to see no color, educators must focus first on seeing people.”  

CHILDREN AT RISK Texas Racial Equity Collaborative Director, Sharon Watkins Jones led a panel of educators and child advocates in a discussion of the need for culturally responsive teaching and learning. The panel included retired teacher Victoria Finger Franklin, who advised new educators to use their “heads and hearts” to ensure all children feel “included and appreciated” in the classroom. Beverly Cross, Holder of the Chair Excellence, College of Education, University of Memphis defined culturally responsive teaching as seeing, understanding, and meeting the needs of the whole child.  

Randy Bowman, CEO of At Last Boarding shared the efforts of a Dallas program to provide economically disadvantaged children the opportunity to receive “resources that can propel them to success,” such as safe and adequate housing, nutrition and educational support, including technology, for the hours outside the classroom.    

Sharmily Roy, Director, Center for Social Measurement & Evaluation, CHILDREN AT RISK presented data regarding the impact of racial segregation in schools, and Isabel Lopez, Executive Director, NestQuest demonstrated how families can use the data to make decisions in the best interest of their children.  

Finally, Helen Stagg, CEO, Change Happens! And Derrell Bradford, President, 50CAN highlighted community solutions to improving student outcomes.   

“I was born in the era of civil rights… [and] I remember even the face of the professor, I can see him now even fifty years later, of being looked at indifferently like I didn’t matter like my ideas or opinions were less than.  If I didn’t have that protective layer that came from my community, I don’t know how I would have responded to that,” reflected Stagg.   

“It’s good to be heard, but it’s insufficient…  You can go to a school board and give them a piece of your mind, and it sort of ends there unless you are prepared to do other things like offering a policy alternative.  Angst alone is not enough unless you’re prepared to run for school board or unless you are willing to advocate [through many different channels when you experience roadblocks].” 

“If there’s one thing that the pandemic has taught us, it’s that there is an oceans-worth of will, desire, and ingenuity [in local communities] to help solve both their own problems, and very specifically, problems of education,” said Bradford. 

 

Watch a recording of the entire webinar below. 

MORE LIKE THIS