Systemic vs. Individual Justice: A Call for Educational Equity


One of my heroes of the faith is Dr. Marian Wright Edelman, the founder and director of the Children’s Defense Fund.  Her relentless pursuit of justice in the name of Jesus inspires me, and her ability to articulate the barriers we face along the way continue to amaze me.

One of her recent blogs is entitled “A Call for Educational Equity.”  It lays out some significant data showing the discrepancy that exists in the United States of America when it comes to educating our children.

These types of articles are really important for us all to be reading and talking about.  Too often we blame the failures of young people on the bad choices they make without looking at the severe inequities that contribute at least as much (I would argue they are actually far more impactful) as the individual choices.

Here is her opening paragraph:

Title I was created “to ensure all children a fair and equal opportunity to obtain a high-quality education.” However, the formula for distributing Title I funds is stacked against the very children it was most intended to help. The current formula (a complex combination of four formulas) favors large districts regardless of their child poverty rate while children trapped in areas of concentrated poverty in mid-sized cities and rural districts are seriously disadvantaged. The inequities between and within states are blatant and must be rectified in this reauthorization cycle.

An example of this discrepancy:

Why should Mississippi, the state with the highest concentration of Title I eligible students (27.2%) and the highest concentration of child poverty (30.4%), get an average allocation of $1,318 for each Title I eligible student while Wyoming, with the lowest percent of Title I eligible students (11.6%) and a three times lower child poverty rate (11.6%), receives an average of $3,149 per Title I eligible student—a $1,831 difference per child?

Her summary, of which I give an “Amen”:

This is simply wrong and widens the opportunity gap between rich and poor districts and rich and poor children Title I was intended to help close. This resource inequity denies children in areas of concentrated poverty a way out and fuels the cradle-to-prison pipeline which is creating a new American apartheid. A revised and more just allocation must ensure ALL children an equal opportunity to learn and succeed. Injustice to any child or group of children for a single day is morally indefensible, and the five years of this reauthorization period is a very long time in the life of a child.

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