Commentary

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In both instances, the future of Black and brown Americans and Pennsylvanians are absolutely at stake

Image via WikiMedia Commons)

By Michael Cogbill

Pennsylvania as well as the rest of the nation is in a new age civil rights battle.

After every single Republican member of the United States Senate denied Black people a simple right to vote by blocking changes to the filibuster, It is hard for me not to consider the idea that the Pennsylvania education funding formula is also a diabolical plan to keep students of color at an intellectual disadvantage.

This is especially true when you consider that educational apartheid has long been the primary weapon of colonialism and white supremacy.

As far back as 1619, African slaves in North America were beaten and tortured if caught with any form of literature. Three-hundred years later when slavery ended in the United States, the Supreme Court ruled 7-1 that racial segregation did not violate the U.S. Constitution if the facilities for each race were equal in quality.

Two years after Plessy vs. Ferguson, the Supreme Court would decide that states can tax black and white citizens alike while allowing the revenue to go to white-only schools.

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Unfortunately, education policy violence did not end with just black students, in 1927 the Supreme Court also allowed states to identify Chinese students as non-white to solidify the doctrine of segregation.

For years after winning Brown vs. Board of Education, African Americans were still beaten and tortured for having the audacity to attend integrated schools that were also far away from our homes.

We would eventually make strides and dismantle many of the front-facing segregation policies in the late ’60s,

But in 1974 in Milliken vs. Bradley, the Supreme Court blocked any effort to integrate public schools between urban and rural communities. This high court’s decision would be widely known as the Detroit school bussing case and would shape the landscape of public education for decades to come. As late as 2007 the Supreme Court considered voluntary school integration plans unconstitutional and a parent can face jail time if they send their children to a school outside of the jurisdiction.

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Modern-day education segregation happens to be a much darker force as racist policymakers are just as innovative as the helpers. Hence the funding formula change under former Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration in 2014, which only applied to newly generated tax dollars and would essentially be the ear to ear for our public education infrastructure after cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from the budget years prior.

If you want to think like a revolutionary for a second, you may consider that cancer is the consequence of educating poor children in America.

During the late ’90s, then-state Rep. Dwight Evans, D-Philadelphia, would advance legislation that ultimately created the city’s school reform commission. In 2001, then-Mayor John Street would execute the largest school takeover in modern history, giving Republican Gov. Mark Schweiker control of the Philadelphia Public School District.

Fast forward to 2022, and we are in a state of crisis with school buildings deteriorating, a total of 4 libraries district-wide, and a mold and asbestos problem that the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, the union that represents the city’s educators, is begging for remediation of in fear of contracting mesothelioma.

If you want to think like a revolutionary for a second, you may consider that cancer is the consequence of educating poor children in America.

Unfortunately, black and brown students happen to suffer the most, but not while enjoying half days and pizza parties with altruistic educators. It will be long after grade school when the western fascination to hoard, conquer and oppress drives the undereducated to the dead-end and back-breaking jobs or no job at all and potentially incarceration, which is widely known as the school-to-prison pipeline.

I would encourage readers to see the American Civil Liberties Unions’s definition as it most adequately applies to urban schools. The school-to-prison link in rural schools happens to be somewhat direct for black children because of aggressive school resource officers. Similar to the way gun-carrying police behave with unfamiliar phenotypes.

In addition, microaggression from white counterparts in an advanced workplace setting can be challenging for even the most intellectually savvy, in addition to the depressing inability to obtain promotions because of a sub-par education or the color of your skin.

In districts across Pennsylvania, our schools are far from engines for the future. This fight in Commonwealth court between education advocates such as Children First PA, the NAACP, and the seven severely underfunded districts happens to be much more than a court battle over money for schools, but merely a fight for the future of our civil and human rights.

Michael Cogbill is community organizer and advocate from Philadelphia. His work appears frequently on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page. 

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