Today’s post comes from James Cecil, most recently a candidate for the Board of Education in District 2, and a continuing member of the Columbia Community Care volunteer team. His words are a response to this article from Propublica Illinois:
Mr. Cecil responds to this story with empathy. His words move us from the realities of the individual case to the immediacy of our own challenges in Howard County. He gives us a lot to think about.
This absolutely breaks me.
Grace is a child like so many of our own or those that we know. She struggled with the transition to distance education. She was deprived of the support services known to help her through her challenges. She missed one of the requirements for school. She has been incarcerated for over two months.
When we talk about the school to prison pipeline, this is it.
When we talk about systemic racism and implicit bias being harmful to BIPOC and students with disabilities, this is it.
However, this isn't just a Grace issue. We see ALL of this in Howard County. We see the data in our discipline reports. We see it in our achievement gaps. We see it in every story from our families and our students who absolutely feel the system they depend on is against them.
So what do we do?
First, we stop pitting the need of addressing equity against the need of students with disabilities. Being forced to do so is harmful and intentional. Two sets of advocates, who both have merit, are often pitted against each other for the crumbs of the budget pie. As a result, they tear each other down just enough so that no one really gets anything and those with privilege continue to get their piece. Think I'm wrong? Look at school choice. Look at the federal relief funds disproportionately funneled to private schools. Look at the millions of dollars of public funds supporting vouchers in Maryland. Imagine our public schools with these funds. These are schools that would often turn away students like Grace or have no accountability for her success if she was able to attend.
Next, we need to stop taking out our anger on those least able to affect the relief we need. There is so much energy spent attacking the Board of Education, Dr. Martirano, County Council and Dr. Ball. We get so caught up in proving a point or playing gotcha that we're not moving our advocacy forward. We are ripping each other apart over re-opening plans for our schools and before that it was over redistricting. Just think of our community if funding to offset the impacts of concentrated poverty really did allow us to maintain wholistic community schools or re-open for every child in a way that kept them safe. I worry about what the next issue will be and I hope we can work to prevent it.
Sometimes we have to let go of what someone's party is, the candidate they endorse and being afraid a victory for children is negative because of who achieved it. We disagree on enough. Education and our children should be something we can support universally. We're responsible for children like Grace and we have failed too many times already.
We get so caught up in proving a point or playing gotcha that we're not moving our advocacy forward.
That line has stayed with me. What can we do to move our advocacy forward? Right now it often feels that we are at an impasse. While we are stuck, embroiled in every successive wave of disputes, children are paying the price. I’d love to see this post start a wider discussion.
We are responsible. What are we going to do about it?