With scandals involving wealthy parents and their children clouding the news, there’s a much more sinister issue that looms over us all. In our communities, near and far, property taxes have continuously disenfranchised millions of students in regard to equity.
In a nation where redlining and segregation were the status quo some 50 years ago, this is a problem. These consequences continue to affect tens of millions of people today.
The risk-based distribution of Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans extremely disenfranchised minority communities. These loans severely affected millions all over America, uplifting “White America” and devaluing everyone else.
The historical precedence regarding the redlining that happened in this country, and still does on a de facto basis, started with the federal government’s disbursement of FHA loans to veterans and their families along with the rise of suburbanization and white flight.
Over 91% of all students in the K-12 system attend public schools rather than private schools, and the funds these schools receive are heavily influenced by the legacy of redlining.
For many wealthy and upper-middle-class communities, this is not a problem because common terminology like “good schools,” which exacerbate these problems and cover them up at the same time. It should be completely unethical that schools can fund IB and AP programs and assist in the upkeep of schools, while districts such as Jackson Public School District lacked water pressure and schools in the Baltimore City Public School System lacked heat.
We see the effects today with countless parents being arrested and indicted for registering a child at a school district that’s not their own in order for their children to have a chance at a better and better-funded school.
Where does this show up locally? In Mississippi public school data from 2016, funding per student was around $8,702. Next door, Louisiana had around $11,038 in funding. This state-level funding gap is atrocious even though the two states are next to each other and have a similar cost of living. This leaves us with lack of funding for property upkeep, more student enrichment or pay increases for teachers and their support.
Ultimately you can’t say things like, “Pull yourselves up by your bootstraps,” the American motto, when the children’s boots may not have soles because they have to use cardboard instead. Education can, and has been proven to, improve a child’s outlook, but if that child is disenfranchised by the geography of where they were raised, then that should be seen as completely un-democratic. The African saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child,” but if we continue to segregate ourselves in forms of de facto segregation, how can we forge toward a more equitable society where everyone has a chance at the American dream — unless we intentionally don’t want to?
Jonathan Lovelady is a senior sociology and geology major from Los Angeles.