The election is over. In about 10 weeks, we will have a new President and Vice President – the first woman and woman of color in that role, a Black South Asian daughter of immigrants – who seem to be more aligned to The Leadership Academy’s work and organizational values. Rather than taking a colorblind approach to governing, their proposed policies suggest the importance of using critical race theory to identify and dismantle racist systems and structures that undergird our nation. They have said they believe in, support, and want to invest in public schools above private schools. We are hopeful that they will not threaten to defund school districts that adopt effective culturally responsive curriculum like the 1619 Project or to stand in the way of training employees to see bias and the impact it has on the communities they serve.
We are also heartened by some historic and significant local election wins: The first openly gay Black man and openly gay Afro-Latino person were elected to Congress from New York metro area districts; the first openly transgender state senator was elected in Delaware; New Mexico elected all women of color to the House of Representatives; and in Gwinnett County, GA, the school board elections resulted in creating a new racial composition more representative of the students the district now serves.
Still, this presidential election serves as yet another reminder of just how essential our work is, and how much more work there is to do. With Joe Biden taking such a slim margin of victory, we know we are a nation divided.
As we move forward, we are committed to tripling down on our commitment to support and develop culturally responsive education leaders who can ensure every single child is learning in a school intentionally built for them to thrive, and to push for local and federal policies and practices that will support that work. Education leaders in communities across the country hold the power to shape children’s lives.
Culturally responsive leaders
- center student learning and academic rigor across every school, classroom, and learning environment in their system;
- cultivate and deepen their own and their staff’s cultural competence so they are continuously affirming the cultures of students and adults through the learning opportunities they provide, the materials they use, and the environment they build;
- cultivate and support adults’ and students’ sociopolitical consciousness, their ability to question and critique social norms, values, practices, and systems that produce and maintain inequity.
On the federal level, our push focuses on four key areas:
Funding. We must close the resource disparity gap between schools serving primarily students of color and low-income students and those with mostly white and affluent families. Covid-19 will only intensify that gap as schools are forced to do a lot more with a lot less. President-elect Biden has pledged to triple Title I funding and increase special education funding. An education relief package should include a Maintenance of Equity requirement to ensure that students from low-income backgrounds, students of color, and educators of color are not forced to carry a disproportionate share of cuts in state and local education spending. We must hold Biden to this and push on Congress to make it happen.
Civil rights. Over the last four years, the President has taken a colorblind approach to our education system, choosing to ignore the disparities that have plagued our school systems for generations. We must call on the Biden administration to reinstate some version of the federal guidance that Trump rescinded on how K-12 schools can follow federal civil rights laws and administer student discipline without discriminating on the basis of race, color, or national origin, and to ensure the Civil Rights Data Collection process offers transparent data and analysis. Biden has said he believes in the importance of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, which has been severely cut under Trump. We must hold him to reinvigorating the important work of this office.
Professional learning for leaders. Our schools are nothing without great teachers and leaders, and those professionals cannot do their best for their students without continuous professional learning. We are hopeful that the Biden administration and Congress will renew a Higher Education Act that includes critical support for school leaders and teachers. We also call on the Biden administration to reinstate for federal workers professional learning that includes critical race theory. The leaders we work with are not afraid to do the hard work of reflecting on bias, of looking at all aspects of their schools with an equity lens, of looking for disparities within the data to determine how they can better serve Black, Latinx, Asian, Indigenous and other students of color.
Protect culturally responsive curriculum. The outgoing President said he would cut aid to any district that uses “un-American” curriculum like the 1619 Project. While technically the president cannot control what curriculum a district or state chooses to use, this threat still sets a tone, sends a message that learning about history from a diversity of perspectives and experiences is not important. We call on the Biden administration to put an immediate end to this kind of rhetoric and to embrace culturally responsive curriculum.
We are proud to be on this journey with you. The work ahead is challenging but necessary. We see a future of possibilities and will work side-by-side with you to get it done on behalf of our young people.