Pushing Back Against the Racial Wealth Gap and Inequity in Schools

The Washington Post, highlighting our Parent Empowerment Program, recently spotlighted how the racial wealth gap contributes to the opportunity and resource gap in public education. Across America, the average wealth for white families is seven times higher than average wealth for black families. And more and more, wealthy parents are raising large sums of money to improve their already-advantaged schools.

In DC, vast discrepancies in parent group funding across wards mean some wealthy schools raise around a quarter-million dollars per year or more and have large budget surpluses, while other schools don’t even have the funds to form a parent group. This money pays for teachers, school supplies, field trips, technology, after school programs, music instruments, and other enrichment activities. Schools without parent-funded resources, on the contrary, must make hard decisions about how to allocate limited public funds among competing student needs.

Simply, parent-raised private funds are contributing to the inequity among DC schools.

The Washington Lawyers’ Committee is combatting the intersecting forces that limit the opportunities and potential of District students. Our Parent Empowerment Program, led by Jhonna Turner, supports parents realize their own power to benefit their neighborhood school communities and exercise a greater voice in shaping their children’s educational opportunities. The School-to-School Initiative featured in the Washington Post article is one way we provide an opportunity for parents to understand the resources that are available to them and how to best raise additional funding for their school communities, despite the challenges and injustices that they face.

The Committee also partners with a citywide coalition of education advocacy organizations to advocate for more equity, parent and school community input, transparency, and accountability in DC public schools. In March, we joined forces to demand public school budget briefings by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education prior to the April 24 budget oversight hearing before the DC Council. March also marked our 18th Annual Cooking for Kids Bake Sale & Taste Off, raising thousands of dollars to support academic enrichment activities for students at DC public schools throughout the city. Every day, our school partnership volunteers are supporting over 50 school communities in the District.

More than 60 years after Linda Brown, who died last week, courageously helped bring the case that created the legal precedent to desegregate American schools, many of our Nation’s children still receive a separate and unequal education. Get involved in our Education Justice work to make a difference in your school community today.

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