Mostly white schools spend $733 more per student than mostly nonwhite schools: 18% of the median per-pupil spending nationwide. And a 10% increase in students of color at a school is associated with a decrease in per pupil spending of $75.*
I learned a lot last month at the National Black Child Development Institute’s 47th Annual Conference in Atlanta GA. I was impressed over and over again by the power wielded in sharing or obscuring data. For instance, when examining the relationships between racial disproportionality in child welfare systems, the foster care and prison systems (thanks to Sherri Simmons-Horton, Deborah Green and T’wala Lochher for their presentations), it becomes abundantly clear how these legal systems effectively continue our nation’s history of genocide of Black and First Nations/Native populations by taking their children away from them.
Who do you love so much?
But the conference certainly wasn’t all numbers. From Michael Eric Dyson’s opening keynote, in which he spoke of the Black teachers “who loved me so much,” to Dr Aisha Ray’s closing keynote in which she spoke to the need for “teachers with a track record of actually loving our children,” I was repeatedly humbled, inspired, and motivated to examine how libraries—run by a profession that is 87% White—might work to move our spaces and services to a more equitable platform for all parents to raise their children, and ensure we stop contributing to the school-to-prison pipeline. This is our vision, after all: Members of the Association for Library Service to Children engage communities to build healthy, successful, futures for all children. It is aspirational, for a reason.
How can we create more, and more readily accessible opportunities for decision-making for all children in the library?
This is just one note-to-self I am cogitating on, from workshops I attended led by Dr. Debra Sullivan, and Kenneth Sherman, which focused on strategies to build on the learning styles and strengths of Black children (mostly in the early learning classroom). They got me thinking a lot about how rigidity in our spaces, programs, and rules for behavior in libraries can be a set-back for many children, and whether as a profession we can exercise the same level of flexibility and understanding for all children, considering the inherent racial bias in our ranks. All children need opportunities for choices, planning their own learning, and decision-making, from the youngest age, and I think there is room to do this, better, in libraries. I’m looking forward to my copy of Dr. Sullivan’s Celebrating the Genius of Black Children arriving in the mail, to explore this more.
I wasn’t sorry to be in Atlanta during beautiful early fall weather, and was glad to slip away to catch Painter and Poet: the Wonderful World of Ashley Bryan, at the High Museum of Art. Mr. Bryan’s persistent cultivation and sharing of beauty in image, word, and soul amazes me every time I see or hear it, and serves for me as a symbol of what one person can do in service of loving others. I turned to Mr. Bryan, through You Tube, not a few times throughout the conference. His reading of Langston Hughes’ “My People” never gets old.
Check out #NBCDI47 on Twitter and Facebook, and find out more about resources and local affiliates at https://www.nbcdi.org
*Ary Spatig-Amerikan’s report for the Center for American Progress “Unequal Education: Federal Loophole Enables Lower Spending on Students of Color” is worth reading in its entirety; it analyzes school-level expenditure data collected in 2009, which for the first time included real teacher salaries.