Caving In

Caving In: Dead rodents, moldy curtains and black ooze. Inside Richmond's worst public school buildings.

Yet Another Reason to Love Elizabeth Warren

Tackling Student Debt and the Privatization of Education (via Moyers & Company)

Last week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) kicked off a new campaign called “Higher Ed, Not Debt” to tackle the nation’s staggering burden of student loan debt. The campaign will be fought by a broad coalition of unions and progressive groups including…

From The New York Times …

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Racial minorities are more likely than white students to be suspended from school, to have less access to rigorous math and science classes, and to be taught by lower-paid teachers with less experience, according to comprehensive data released Friday by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.
In the first analysis in nearly 15 years of information from all of the country’s 97,000 public schools, the Education Department found a pattern of inequality on a number of fronts, with race as the dividing factor.
Black students are suspended and expelled at three times the rate of white students. A quarter of high schools with the highest percentage of black and Latino students do not offer any Algebra II courses, while a third of those schools do not have any chemistry classes. Black students are more than four times as likely as white students — and Latino students are twice as likely — to attend schools where one out of every five teachers does not meet all state teaching requirements.
“Here we are, 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the data altogether still show a picture of gross inequity in educational opportunity,” said Daniel J. Losen, director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the University of California at Los Angeles’s Civil Rights Project.
In his budget request to Congress, President Obama has proposed a new phase of his administration’s Race to the Top competitive grant program, which would give $300 million in incentives to states and districts that put in place programs intended to close some of the educational gaps identified in the data.
“In all, it is clear that the United States has a great distance to go to meet our goal of providing opportunities for every student to succeed,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement.
One of the striking statistics to emerge from the data, based on information collected during the 2011-12 academic year, was that even as early as preschool, black students face harsher discipline than other students.
While black children make up 18 percent of preschool enrollment, close to half of all preschool children who are suspended more than once are African-American.
“To see that young African-American students — or babies, as I call them — are being suspended from pre-K programs at such horrendous rates is deeply troubling,” said Leticia Smith-Evans, interim director of education practice at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
“It’s incredible to think about or fathom what pre-K students could be doing to get suspended from schools,” she added.
In high school, the study found that while more than 70 percent of white students attend schools that offer a full range of math and science courses — including algebra, biology, calculus, chemistry, geometry and physics — just over half of all black students have access to those courses. Just over two-thirds of Latinos attend schools with the full range of math and science courses, and less than half of American Indian and Native Alaskan students are able to enroll in as many high-level math and science courses as their white peers.
“We want to have a situation in which students of color — and every student — has the opportunity and access that will get them into any kind of STEM career that takes their fancy,” said Claus von Zastrow, director of research for Change the Equation, a nonprofit that advocates improved science, technology, engineering and math education, or STEM, in the United States. “We’re finding that in fact a huge percentage of primarily students of color, but of all students, don’t even have the opportunity to take those courses. Those are gateways that are closed to them.”
The Education Department’s report found that black, Latino, American Indian and Native Alaskan students are three times as likely as white students to attend schools with higher concentrations of first-year teachers. And in nearly a quarter of school districts with at least two high schools, the teacher salary gap between high schools with the highest concentrations of black and Latino students and those with the lowest is more than $5,000 a year.
Timothy Daly, president of the New Teacher Project, a nonprofit that recruits teachers, said that while the data looked at educator experience and credentials, it was also important to look at quality, as measured by test scores, principal observations and student surveys.

“Folks who cannot teach effectively should not be working with low-income or African-American kids, period,” he said, adding that the problem was difficult to resolve because individual districts are allowed to make decisions on how to assign teachers to schools.

The Search for Hope

The Search for Hope

Check out School Board member Kimberly Gray's Back Page in this week's Style Weekly.  As usual, she nails it and eloquently helps everyone realize the reality that far too many of our city's children experience.

Follow the Money …. OOoops!

PAid Web Marketing Consultant
The good news is that after repeated inquiries for the last two weeks from this blog concerning the status and whereabouts of a $100,000 payment from Bon Secours -- that was due to Richmond Public Schools on January 2, 2014 -- City of Richmond Finance officials have finally figured out that they forgot to send the invoice requesting payment.

Wayne Lassiter, interim Financial director for the City explained:  "I have searched all possible places the payment could be and I can say with absolute certainty, it is not and has not been received by the City of Richmond."

After he determined that officials at the City's Economic Development Authority did not have the money, Lassiter said Friday that the invoice "would be sent before the close of business."

He apologized for the failure of the city to send the invoice in a timely manner and added that he did not think that Bon Secours would be assessed a late fee.

The bad news is that the City Finance Office, headed by Sharon Judkins, is still trying to figure out what other monies are owed to the school system as a result of the city's leasing of the Westhampton Building to Bon Secours as part of the deal brokered by the city to create a $10-million dollar-plus practice facility for the Washington Redskins Team.

Given that City Auditor Umesh Dalal's office and City Council members have been stonewalled by Judkins in their efforts to audit the new $18 million information technology system and that employees complain that they are not properly trained to use the "RAPIDS" system software, I suggest they follow this link from the Richmond City Government website: 


This document spells out in specific terms additional monies that are owed to Richmond Public Schools from the City of Richmond stemming from the city's use of an historic school in Richmond's West End to anchor the development deal. 

Both Judkins and Byron Marshall, Richmond Chief Administrative Officer, were well aware that the money was due on Jan. 2, 2014: 

-----Original Message----- From: Marshall, Byron C. - CAO Sent: Tuesday, October 08, 2013 6:02 PM To: Hilbert, Chris A. - Council Member Cc: Judkins, Sharon O. - Finance; Denslow, Suzette - Mayor's Office Subject: FW: Redskins/Bon Secours question CM Hilbert, In answer to your question regarding the status of a $133,000 payment from Bon Secours, please be advised that EDA has received $33,0000 to cover rent of the facility and maintenance of its grounds. The first of 10 $100,000 annual payments is due on January 2, 2014. Section viii, 2, the relevant portion of the Performance Agreement between Bon Secours and the EDA is quoted below in Sharon Judkins' email to me. Please let me know if you have additional questions. Best regatds, BCM -----Original Message----- From: Judkins, Sharon O. - Finance Sent: Tuesday, October 08, 2013 5:45 PM To: Marshall, Byron C. - CAO Subject: RE: Redskins/Bon Secours question Mr. Marshall, According to the Performance Agreement between the EDA and Bon Secours, section viii,2, "Payment to Support Public Schools", Bon Secours shall pay to the City the amount of $100,000, for (10) fiscal years commencing january 2,2014 and ending on January 2, 2023. As a result, no payment is due at this time and none has been received. Additionally, in the "Deed of Ground Lease" between EDA and Bon Secours, section 5 (Rent and Playing field Maintenance Amount), upon execution of the lease, the teneant shall pay to the landlord the amount of $33,000, which may be cash or in the form of a letter of credit and which will be credited to the first annual rent payment and the first playing field maintenance amount. Base on such lease, we do not interpret the $33,000 as payment ear-marked for schools. Please let me know if you have other questions or require additional information. Sharon O. Judkins Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Finance and Administration 900 East Broad Street, Suite 1003 Richmond, VA 23219 804-646-7920 (W) 804-646-6388 (Fax) 804-484-4064 (C)

Neither Marshall nor Judkins offered a comment.

School Board officials also had no comment.

Many thanks to Style Weekly for running this …

Kicking the Can 

Opinion: "The mayor has a love affair with the Redskins, world cycling and baseball in the Bottom. Now maybe it’s time to learn from Russell Wilson."

There are important lessons to be learned in the aftermath of the Super Bowl championship. You probably know by now that Russell Wilson, quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks — whose team crushed the Denver Broncos — grew up in Richmond, attended Collegiate School for 13 years and graduated in 2007.
Let's hope the members of the Richmond School Board and City Council, along with Mayor Dwight C. Jones and his staff, have their eyes on the ball.
Amidst the well-deserved post-victory celebration and adulation of a hometown kid making the big leagues, an article in Sporting News delivers the proverbial smack upside the head to Richmond officials. It quotes Charlie McFall, Wilson's coach at Collegiate, recalling what happened when the city public schools started angling for Russell to transfer from Collegiate as a ninth-grader.
The article recounts Wilson's father going to McFall's office and saying, "Let me tell you something: I didn't put Russell in Collegiate for sports, I put Russell in Collegiate to get the best education he could get."
What the elder Wilson, who died in 2010, didn't need to explicitly state — because there are plentiful facts that prove it — is that Richmond public schools provide neither the best education nor a decent sports program that could help train his son, or any other children, to become champions. 
Given Hizzoner's $10 million-plus love affair with the Redskins, the UCI Road World Championships coming to town in 2015, and his relentless quest to manipulate Richmond taxpayers into paying for an $80 million-plus baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom, some people might bet that Jones and his staff understand the importance of sports in our society and in the lives of young people.
That would be a losing bet, my friends.
Why is it that the city of Richmond neglects to invest in decent athletic programs for our students? After-school sports with the parks and rec department don't really cut it. Why is it that in the city that was Arthur Ashe's hometown, we have no competitive tennis for our young people? Why is it that we don't have students training a team to participate in the bicycling championships? Why is it that in our comprehensive high-school athletic facilities, our kids are forced to make do with old, worn-out equipment?
At one point, City Councilman Chris Hilbert and I, serving as a School Board member, had to find money to buy a washer and dryer for John Marshall High School. It turns out the machines were beyond repair and the coach's wife was taking uniforms home to wash.
Why is it that the $10 million-plus Redskins training facility, which our tax dollars purchased, sits unused 49 weeks of the year, and our high-school students aren't allowed to practice or play games there? Hilbert tells me that Economic Development Authority representatives claim Richmond's high-school coaches "can't get along," and that the authority decided it wasn't worth the trouble.
Really? Why would the Economic Development Authority be navigating the issue of relationships among high-school coaches instead of involving School Board members or the new Superintendent Dana Bedden?
The Washington Redskins, the second-richest NFL franchise team with a value of $1.7 billion, offered only $100,000 through their foundation to help John Marshall High School put in a synthetic turf football field. And then made that grant conditional upon the cash-strapped district raising $100,000 of its own.
Councilman Hilbert spent Christmas season 2012 at the Medical College of Virginia, alternating between his wife's hospital bed and the hallway, where the mayor's staff lobbied for his vote to support the great Redskins-Bon Secours giveaway of the Westhampton school building, arguably the schools' most valuable piece of real estate. Hilbert held out for concessions that promised some much-needed funding to improve the athletic programs and conditions of our sports facilities.
And, yet, School Board members say they haven't received any of that promised money.
Evidently, Hilbert got played. City Council got played. We all got played.  
Promises made. Promises forgotten.
If the mayor ever wants to have any bragging rights about one of Richmond Public Schools' students making it to the NFL and winning a Super Bowl championship, he must invest in our young — not grab school properties and use them as bargaining chips to anchor his latest development deal.
Unless — and until — School Board and City Council members are willing to push back and invest, as Russell Wilson's father did, in the academic and athletic excellence of our children, their only legacy will be that they talked about it, and then did nothing. S
Carol A.O. Wolf is a former newspaper reporter who served on the Richmond School Board from 2002 to 2008. She writes regularly about the Richmond Public Schools at

Crunching the Numbers with the Cranky Taxpayer …

[The following information should be of great assistance to the members of the City of Richmond School Board and RPS Superintendent Dana Bedden as they continue to work on the budget].

By John R. Butcher

The 2011-12 data on the Education Department Web report the total disbursements for each school division. 
[The most recent data available as of Feb. 5, 2014].

In terms of the total disbursements (corrected to remove payments to and from reserves, payments to upgrade or construct facilities, and debt service, the latter of which we are told Norfolk does not pay from the school budget) and the end-of-year ADM, we spent $3,903 per student more than the state division average and $3,726 more than Norfolk. 
$/ADMv. Statev. Norfolk
Norfolk $    11,365 $        177
Richmond $    15,090 $    3,903 $    3,726
Divisions $    11,187

Notwithstanding the down economy, these differences are up by about $1,000 from last year's:
$/ADMv. Statev. Norfolk
Norfolk $     11,130 $     234
Richmond $     13,853 $  2,957 $    2,723
Divisions $     10,896

 Notes: "ADM" is "average daily membership," which is educratese for the daily average enrollment.  This VDOE report uses the end of year number.  The disbursements in the table here are 2011-12 totals divided by the ADM.  The "Divisions" number is for all school divisions; it omits the Governor's schools and regional programs.

Multiplied by our ADM (21,363), the 2012 difference calculates to $83.4 million in disbursements above the state average (and $79.6 million more than Norfolk).

Explanations Please!

How shall we explain the very high cost of the Richmond system?  It turns out that, even if we correct for all major differences between Richmond and the State, about $45 million of excess Richmond school expense is just that: Excess.  The data (and a string of audits) suggest that Richmond is wasting that very large amount of money.

Follow the Money
Let's start by looking at the categories in the State report.  Here are the Richmond and Norfolk expenditures by category (with debt service, contingency, and facilities removed), expressed as percentages of the State division average disbursement.
Note: The total disbursements are the day school expenditures (administration, instruction, attendance & health, pupil transportation, and O&M) + food service + summer school + adult education + preK + other educational + facilities + debt service + contingency reserve, if any.  See the footnotes to the State's Table 13 for the details about these categories.  The numbers above omit facilities, debt service, and contingency reserve.
Richmond's costs are well above average for every category except administration and transportation; our costs are extraordinarily high for summer school, adult education, pre-K, and for "other" instructional programs.
If we recast the data in terms of dollars, we see attendance, food, summer school, and adult ed. to be relatively minor players, with the excess costs of instruction, O&M, pre-K, and "other" ed. predominating (and, even among those four, instruction and pre-K take the big bucks).

Most of that "pre-K" category is Head Start.  In the context of the current debate about funding public preschool education, it would be interesting to find out what, if anything, Richmond is getting for the extra 10.6 million dollars (plus the other $3.6 million for "other" education).  For sure, a major study suggests that Head Start doesn't do any good.

Salary Differences
One source of these excess costs might be instructional salaries.  Ours, however, are lower than the state average.
All Instructional PositionsDistrict Wide Instructional Positions
Richmond City $       51,982 $      47,565
Divisions $          53,397 $         45,672

Note: The State defines (fn 3) "all instructional positions" to include "classroom teachers, guidance counselors, librarians, principals, and assistant principals."

Versus the State, multiplication of the $1,415 difference by our 2,208 instructional positions shows a saving of $3.12 million from Richmond's lower salaries. 
All Instructional PositionsDistrict Wide Instructional Positions
Diff $          (1,415) $           1,893
XS cost, $ meg $            (3.12) $              0.33

Note the interesting anomaly in the salary data: The "District-Wide" salary is for "division-wide technology instructors and instructors in programs such as summer school and adult education."  Yet, although Richmond's regular teachers earn $1,415 per year less than the division average, our division-wide instructors earn $1,893 more than the average.  How many of Richmond's expensive bureaucrats do you suppose are masquerading as division-wide instructors?

Number of Teachers

As to the state average, another source of excess cost is number of teachers.  Here are the State's numbers per 1,000 kids (calculated from Table 19; the state's calculation in Table 17 is not yet posted as of Feb. 5, 2014):

All Instructional PositionsDistrict Wide Instructional Positions
Richmond City                103.4                   8.1
Divisions                70.90                 2.22

The division average dropped this year from 102.5 per thousand to 70.9.  Richmond, in contrast, dropped from 115.7 only to 103.4.
Compared to the division average, we have an extra 32.46 instructional personnel per thousand, i.e., 693 for the school division.  At our average salary of $51,982, that calculates to $36 million in extra cost per year. 
That's $36 million extra cost we can account for.  These numbers do not tell us whether the Richmond taxpayers are getting anything for that money.  The scores suggest we are not.
Notice that we have 3.6 times the state average number of district-wide instructors.  And, as we saw above, they are unusually expensive.  What do you think: Great teachers, or concealed bureaucrats?

Corrected for Salary Difference and Number of Teachers
Applying these corrections to the cost differences, we obtain:
CategoryXS v. State
Gross Excess83.4
Salary Diff.3.1
Net Excess50.5

That leaves $50.5 million in excess spending unaccounted for (presuming there is an explanation for all those extra teachers; for sure, they are not doing anything for theSOL scores).

Special Education, Poverty, and Geography
We often hear that special education and poverty are major contributors to Richmond's higher costs.  It is difficult to come by numbers to quantify that so I turn to SchoolDataDirect, the now defunct data service from Standard & Poors that was supported by the Gates Foundation.
S&P calculated adjustments to spending on core operating activities to account for poverty, special education, and geographic factors.  On the 2006 data, here are their numbers:

Core Spending, $/kidCore Spending AdjustedFactor, %v. State
Norfolk $       8,400 $        5,00060%0.7%
Richmond $     11,181 $        5,92753%-5.8%
State $       8,598 $        5,05959%

The difference in the adjustments is 5.8%, or 9.9% of the State correction.  In short, on core educational spending, SchoolDataDirect calculates that Richmond is 9.9% more expensive to run than the State average (and 11% more expensive than Norfolk).
What we are doing here is broad-brush approximations, so let's apply the 9.9% to the total expenditures, after correction for the differences in salary and number of teachers:
CategoryXS v. State
Gross Excess83.4
Salary Diff.3.1
Net XS50.5
Cost Adj.-5.0
Corr'd. XS45.5

After these adjustments we are left with an excess in our school budget of some 45 million compared to the state average (recall that this does not account for disbursements for facilities, debt, or contingency).  (If we were to apply the 9.9% to the gross excess, it would reduce the corrected excess to 42.2 million).  Until the RPS can explain where all that money is going and what we are getting for it, there is no reason at all to increase the school budget.  To the contrary, these data make a good case to cut the budget by at least $45 million.

Richmond often claims that its infrastructure is larger than Norfolk's, reflecting Richmond's "small school" policy.  Indeed, there are 47.5 principals in Richmond but only 52 in Norfolk, although Norfolk's ADM is almost 50% larger (30,593 v. 21,363).  Richmond has never demonstrated any educational benefit from this relatively larger number of schools, however.  And they've been right slow to do anything about the excess 4% of the capacity in elementary schools and 19% in middle and high schools

The empty seats in the Richmond system suggest that much of Richmond's extra infrastructure is wasted space.  Thus, much of Richmond's extra cost for infrastructure probably is wasted money.

In any event, Richmond's excess expenditure for O&M is $5.9 million.  Even if all that is justified, Richmond is spending an excess $39.6 million (plus the salaries of an excess of teachers who are not contributing anything toward educating our kids).

The Bottom Line:  $40+ Million Gone Missing
Most of the $45.5 (or $42.2) million extra spending relative to the state average must be in those categories where Richmond vastly outspends the state average: Instruction and pre-K (gross excess $67.6 million).  The 2012 budget (pdf, ~1 MB download) shows about $5.9 million in grant income for the Head Start program, which would fund two thirds of the excess in pre-K activities.  There is no information to show that we are getting any value for that money or for the remaining $8.3 million excess expense of "other" and pre-K instruction that apparently comes out of local and state taxes.  In any event, the largest pools of unexplained expenditures are in the instructional budgets and those should be the first places to look for savings. 

Without a zero based budget, it probably is impossible to find the waste in the instructional categories.  Doubtless that is the reason that the City Auditor's forays into the RPS budget have targeted the low-hanging fruit in the administrative operation: In June, 2007, the City Auditor released an audit that identified potential savings of $16.7 to $19.8 million.  About 20% of that ($3.4 to $5.3 million) was in non-teacher instructional staffing; most of the rest was non-instructional categories (notably custodial outsourcing and vehicle replacements).  

In April, 2008, the City Auditor released an audit that found a further $6.7 million of waste in the RPS' purchasing and accounts payable operation.  A December 2008 audit concluded that RPS fleet maintenance contract lacked provisions that would allow RPS to make necessary cost control and other operational decisions.  A February, 2009 audit contains a four-page list of deficiencies in the Schools' IT program, including an absence of monitoring procedures that would assure that RPS was receiving proper value for its IT budget.  An August, 2009 audit of RPS's grants administration found that the lack of proper monitoring of grants poses a "major risk."  

If the auditor would look at the incompetent (or worse) expenditures for ADA compliance (see the discussions here and here), he would find still more waste.  Even so, the (very rough) estimate here suggests there is lots more waste to be found and that the instruction budget is the place to find it.

Before Council gives any more money to the schools, don't you think they should demand to know exactly where all of that extra money is going and what we are getting back for it?

My own bang/buck analysis is here.

In the meantime, you can follow this link to read about the dysfunctional leadership that has served to prevent reform of Richmond's dysfunctional school system.  Or you can follow this link to read about incompetence, or worse, in the procurement operation.  Or you can follow this link to read about the disabled parking money fountain.

A Continuing Portrait of Inequality: The Black Child in Today’s America

By Marian Wright-Edelman

“The world does not want and will never have the heroes and heroines of the past. What this age needs is an enlightened youth not to undertake the tasks like theirs but to imbibe the spirit of these great men and answer the present call of duty…”   
-- Carter G. Woodson

Carter G. Woodson, son of former slaves, pioneering Harvard-trained historian, founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, and inspirer of Black History Month, sought to teach future generations of Black children about the great thinkers and role models who came before us. He was very clear that celebrating our rich Black history of struggle and courage was not the same as getting stuck in the past, but if we are going to understand the present and protect the future we must understand where we came from and what it took to get us here. Black History Month is not just for Black Americans. 

It is for all Americans as we are at the tipping point of a country where the majority of our children are non-White. 

Black history is American history. We can all be inspired by the progress made but clear about the progress that still remains to be made if we are going to move forward. We should use the extraordinary leaders from our history as examples to help us with the critical task of preparing this generation of children to be the new leaders our community and nation need right now.

The Children’s Defense Fund’s recent report on The State of America’s Children 2014 shows children of color are already a majority of all children under 2 and in five years children of color will be the majority of all children in America. All of our children—including all of our Black children—truly must be ready in critical mass to take their place among the workers, educators, members of the military, and political leaders of tomorrow. America is going to be left behind if our children are not enabled to get ahead and prepared, in Dr. Woodson’s words, to “answer the present call of duty.” Yet CDF found the state of Black children in America today is grim.

Black children are sliding backwards on our watch and the Black community needs to wake up and the country needs to wake up and do something about it with urgency and persistence. Black children are more than three times as likely to be poor as White children. A Black baby is born into poverty every two-and-a-half minutes. Over 4 million Black children (40 percent) were poor in 2012, compared to 5.2 million White children (14 percent). Twenty-five percent of poor children are Black although Black children are only 14 percent of the child population. In six states—Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Oregon, and Wisconsin—half or more Black children are poor, and nearly half the states have Black child poverty rates of 40 percent of more. 

Just under 40 percent of Black children live with two parents, compared to 65 percent of White children and 85 percent of Asian children. Each day, 1,153 Black babies are born to unmarried mothers and 199 to teen mothers. Although the percent of children born to unmarried mothers has increased for both Black and White children, nearly 3 in 4 Black babies are born to unmarried mothers compared to less than 1 in 4 White babies. Black children living with single mothers are three-and-a-half times as likely to be poor as Black children living with married parents.   

Black children suffer worse health outcomes. Black babies are more than twice as likely as White babies to die before their first birthdays and Black children are twice as likely to die before their 18th birthdays as White children. Black babies are more likely to die before their first birthdays than babies in 72 other countries, including Sri Lanka, Cuba, and Romania. Although 95 percent of all children are now eligible for health coverage, Black children are 40 percent more likely to be uninsured than White children and over 1 million Black children (9.5 percent) are uninsured. Access to health coverage is not actual coverage until we make every effort to enroll every child.

Children who cannot read or compute are being sentenced to social and economic death in our competitive globalizing economy and too many Black students fall behind in school early on and do not catch up. Black children begin kindergarten with lower levels of school readiness than White children and our country has been very slow in investing in high quality early childhood programs unlike many of our competitor nations. More than 80 percent of fourth and eighth grade Black public school students cannot read or compute at grade level and Black children are more than twice as likely to drop out as White children. 

Each school day, 763 Black high school students drop out. Black students scored the lowest of any racial/ethnic group on the ACT® college entrance exam. Only 5 percent of these Black high school students were college ready compared to 33 percent of White students and 43 percent of Asian students.

Black children are at great risk of being funneled into the prison pipeline. A Black boy born in 2001 has a 1 in 3 chance of going to prison in his lifetime. The schools are a major feeder system into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Black students made up only 18 percent of students in public schools in 2009-2010 but were 40 percent of students who received one or more out-of-school suspensions. A Black public school student is suspended every 4 seconds of the school day. A Black child is arrested every 68 seconds. Black children and youth make up 32 percent of children arrested and 40 percent of all children and youth in residential placement in the juvenile justice system. Black children are overrepresented in abuse and neglect cases and in foster care. 

Gun violence is the leading cause of death among Black children ages 1-19 although there is no hiding place for any of us from pervasive gun violence in America. Each day, three Black children or teens are killed by guns. Black children and teens are nearly five times more likely to die from gun violence than White children and teens. 

The number of Black children and teens killed by guns between 1963 and 2010 is 17 times greater than the recorded lynchings of Black people of all ages between 1882 and 1968. Where is our equivalent anti-lynching movement today to give our children a chance to grow up safely?

I hope this Black History Month is not just about our history but about our obligation to protect our children and move our nation forward in our multiracial world. I hope it is a call to action to the Black community and every community to build the long overdue movement to stop the backwards slide of children of color on our watch and end the disgrace of letting children be the poorest group in the world’s richest economy. If America does not begin to get it—that our future is entwined with our children’s futures—we’re going to miss the boat to the future.