Nov 17, 2010
November 17, 2010
Public School Financing – Broke, Busted and Disgusted
Marc H. Morial
President and CEO
National Urban League
“Simply put, many states do not provide sufficient funding or distribute that funding to address the needs of their most disadvantaged students and schools.” David Sciarra, Executive Director, the Education Law Center
With all the talk about firing poor teachers, closing the achievement gap and adopting “common core standards” for students, one essential element of American education reform is too often overlooked – the inherently unequal and unfair system of state funding for public schools. A new study, co-authored by David Sciarra and Danielle Farrie of the Education Law Center and Dr. Bruce Baker of Rutgers University sheds new light on this problem. Their report, “Is Education Fair? A National Report Card,” reveals that most states are failing the test of fairness when it comes to public school financing. The authors state, and we agree, that “a fair funding system would be progressive in that funding would increase relative to the level of concentrated student poverty.” This would ensure that more funding would be available to students with greater needs and that all students would have the support necessary to achieve rigorous academic standards.
The study identified four “fairness indicators” – funding level, funding distribution relative to poverty, state fiscal effort and public school coverage. Based on those measures, only Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, Iowa, Wyoming and New Jersey qualify as doing “relatively well” on funding fairness. But even in those states, significant irregularities persist. According to David Sciarra, most states are failing. Instead of progressive funding, some states have a regressive system, meaning districts with higher poverty rates actually receive less funding than more affluent districts. And there are entire regions – the South and West – where public schools are chronically underfunded.
The National Urban League and many others in the civil rights community have long-noted the inequity in public school funding as a contributing factor to the achievement gap that finds half of African American and Latino students dropping out of high school. Because school funding relies so heavily on state and local taxes, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, speaking at the National Urban League centennial conference in August admitted that “America’s system of funding public education is inherently unequal.” He pointed out that “Over 40 states have faced legal challenges to their school funding system because they are so unfair.”
Secretary Duncan’s response was the establishment of an Equity and Excellence Commission, proposed by Congressmen Chakah Fattah and Mike Honda that is now working to “expose the inequities in funding, gather public input and issue policy recommendations on finance reform.” It is unconscionable that some public school students have access to computers and other state-of-the-art resources, while many of the most disadvantaged students barely have enough books and supplies in their classrooms.
This is an issue that will be decided largely outside of Washington at the local level. About 90 percent of public school funding comes from state coffers and funding decisions rest in the hands of local officials. If we believe that all our children deserve a quality education and that given the right support all of them can succeed, citizens must demand that their governors and state legislators end public school financing inequities now.
To read the full report, visit www.schoolfundingfairness.org
11/17/10 ▪ 120 Wall Street ▪ New York, NY 10005 ▪ (212) 558-5300 ▪ WWW.NUL.ORG
Nov 4, 2010
To Be Equal#43
November 3, 2010
Black America to Construction Unions: Open Your Doors
Marc H. Morial
President and CEO
National Urban League
“If you live in America, you should be able to have bacon and eggs on Sunday morning. It means you can work. That you got a job.” Nate Smith, labor and civil rights leader who broke the color barrier in Pittsburgh’s construction industry
Harry Alford, President and CEO of the Black Chamber of Commerce recently reminded us that African Americans face an added barrier to finding good jobs in this struggling economy -- discrimination by construction unions. In a National Newspaper Publisher’s Association (NNPA) column, Alford said that construction unions “have fought affirmative action and have excluded Black hiring in a criminal fashion. Today it is still close to Jim Crow.”
The National Urban League was founded 100 years ago to open the doors of opportunity to African Americans workers who migrated north from the Jim Crow south in search of good jobs and a better life for their families. It has been a cruel irony that labor unions, created to protect and empower the dispossessed, have historically fought to keep Blacks out - none more egregiously than construction unions. Despite this opposition, today one in every five Black workers belongs to a union. These workers earn about 40 percent more than non-union workers. They are also more likely to have health insurance, defined pension benefits and greater protections against discrimination on the job.
The National Urban League has been in the forefront of the fight to expand union access to more African Americans for decades. The great Lester Granger, who served as National Urban League President from 1941-1961, worked tirelessly to integrate racist trade unions. He teamed up with A. Philip Randolph in a successful campaign to persuade President Franklin Roosevelt to sign the 1941 Fair Employment Act, barring discrimination in defense industries.
Other African American leaders, including Coalition of Black Trade Unionist president, William “Bill” Lucy, have repeatedly called for the construction industry and other unions to open their doors to blacks. In the 1960’s Nate Smith an aspiring professional boxer and construction worker in Pittsburgh laid down in front of bulldozers, challenged established union authority and developed a training program called Operation Dig that helped raise minority union rates from 2 to 15 percent in that city.
Since the start of the recession in 2007, our economy has lost almost 2 million construction jobs. Another 21,000 disappeared in September. The Obama Administration’s stimulus plan recognized that the key to getting those jobs back and to fueling our economic recovery is a robust investment in rebuilding the nation’s roads, bridges and public works infrastructure. Construction unions, which stand to benefit greatly from that opportunity, have an obligation to open their doors to workers of color so that no one is left behind.
###43TBE 11/3/10 ▪ 120 Wall Street ▪ New York, NY 10005 ▪ (212) 558-5300 ▪ WWW.NUL.ORG