Sad Results Of A Peculiar Condition
According to a 2003 informational release by the US Justice Dept.
10.4% of the entire African American population aged 25 to 29 was incarcerated. By comparison 2.4% of Hispanic men and 1.2% of white men in the same age group suffered the same fate.
US prison population surpassed 2 million for the first time and since 1990 has doubled in size.
10,000 inmates under age 18 are held in adult prisons and jails in 2002
Women in federal prison reached 97,491
In 2000, 791,600 black men were in prison while only 463,700 were enrolled in college nationwide.
According to a 2008 report from the Justice Policy Institute
3,161 African-Americans per 100,000 were under the custody or care of federal or state penile system, this compares to 1,200 per 100,000 Hispanics and 487 per 100,000 whites. This means that black men in the United States are 6.5 times more likely to be in prison than white men and that Hispanics are 2.5 times more likely to be in prison than white men.
These numbers are astounding and only tell part of the story. One could question how education could be associated with these sort of results. Although these numbers don't tell a simple story, education, and lack of educational opportunities, even if that means squandered educational opportunities, have contributed to many of the current trends that we see in crime and the sheer incarceration numbers that we find within the black community in general. Although in many cases the table of justice has been slanted against the poor and minority, the inability to secure and experience a quality education cannot go without examination.
Access to education and a solid educational experience is a must in order to create and facilitate change within society. Across the nation, Black students tend to be suspended at much higher rates than students of other races or ethnicities (Hoffman, Llagas, & Snyder, 2003). Based on what we know and what we are currently experiencing we must hold Peoria District 150 accountable and we must hold the results of the educational experience of the black and minority community under greater scrutiny.
Peoria Dist. 150 Black Student Suspension Rate:
Here is why we are concerned:
For the school year 2008-2009 district 150 enrolled approximately 14,722 students.
Approximately 61.1% or about 8,995 of students were Black
In 2008-2009 school year there were approximately 7,189 out of school suspensions. This is a 48% overall suspension rate.
86% of all suspensions (6,206 suspensions) were incidents involving Black students.
A core of 2,567 Black students generated 6,206 suspensions mentioned above.
This means that the suspension rate of minority students (Black students) was 28.5%
These results can be contrasted to those within the public school system in Baltimore, MD. According to Lesli A. Maxwell of Education Week in an April 25, 2007 report, during the 2003-04 school year, Baltimore’s public school suspensions peaked at more than 14,200 students (not counting those who were suspended more than once), or 16.1 percent of the 88,000 children who were enrolled. According to the Maryland Department of Education, Baltimore’s rate was significantly higher than that of the state’s two largest districts, Montgomery County, which reported a 4.6 percent suspension rate that year in a district of 136,000 students, and Prince George’s County, which reported a 9.7 percent rate in its 134,000-student district. The report goes on to say that since that time, Baltimore’s suspension rates have begun to drop. In 2006, 9,266 children were suspended, or 11.3 percent of the students in the district.
Now, these numbers are for a district much larger than Peoria District 150, however on scale Peoria's District 150 is suspending children at a much more alarming rate.
A Positive Educational Experience Is Essential For The Community
One thing we know, a good education and educational experiences helps individuals, families and the community in general helping to create a better economic condition (more money), social condition and a more productive citizenry.
The questions must be asked:
Has Peoria District 150 failed the Black and minority community? By not fulfilling the educational opportunities of ALL children it would seem that District 150 has failed a significant segment of its students, families and ultimately the community in general.
By suspending nearly 30% of Black students, is District 150 serving the educational needs of the Peoria Black population? One would say that Black education is important, but that does not hold true to the numbers. Is it possible that 2,567 students are not bad enough to expel, but yet bad enough to suspend and in some cases allow the disruption of the education of willing students?
Since the problem can be so easily and readily identified, what steps is District 150 taking to solve this crisis and is there a sustainable plan or effort in place to correct the problem? If not, WHY NOT? This problem is systemic in nature and cannot be addressed with a fix addressed to either parents only, teachers only, administration only or any individual segment. That part that is baffling is that there is NO plan in place to address the issue as we write this article.
Stress Factor: Don't Cut Education First!
We are aware that public education is in distress in America and states all across the country. The previously proposed budget presented by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, places additional stress on public education by removing $1.3 billion from funding. Peoria School District 150 is in direct line of this stress. The financial shortfall not only effects teachers and their jobs, but also effects programs such as Early Childhood Education (ECEC) Special Education, Child Advocacy Centers, and Trio Programs all of which have a proven track record of educational success for all children including the poor and disadvantaged. We are of the mind of the Illinois Policy Institute that one should not look first to cut education as a means of balancing the state budget. A strategy that totally undermines what works is not only draconian, but is unconscionable.
As a product of Peoria's public school education, I am personally aware that the educational experience of Black children in this community does not have to be a negative one. I am also aware that the under-education of the Black community in Peoria occurred long before the current budget crisis in this State. We can no longer afford to sit silently and not address this issue. The Black community and community in general cannot afford to allow business to continue as usual.
As an Association of Pastors and concerned citizens, we plan to address what we feel is a public disservice to Peoria children and families in an non-enigmatic manner, setting forth ideas and a clear vision of success and change that will give all children the best chance at a positive educational opportunity within Peoria District 150.
By Supt. Harvey Burnett