First and foremost, my heart breaks for George Floyd and his family along with the other victims of police brutality and racism, including Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. My thoughts and prayers go out to these families and the ones who aren’t told in the news.
This past week has been a tough one for the African-American community and for America as a whole. I’ve been thinking long and hard about the systemic oppression that has consumed this country. The biggest question that everyone has is "what is the solution?" Obviously there is not one answer, yet I truly believe one of the many solutions we will have to attack is fair and equal education for low-income, black and brown communities.
What this country fails to realize is that systemic oppression is so deep that it is running within our school systems. The fact is, low-income communities are not getting the same amount of resources and opportunities that other schools are getting. This leads to a lack of representation in important fields of work in this country such as lawyers, doctors, and members of congress. The National Education Association (NEA) addresses these issues within the black community saying, "The Black community faces educational issues similar to other minority groups, including the need for adequate funding for schools serving minority and disadvantaged students, as well as other issues with a special impact on the community."
If you doubt what you are reading then here are some more facts: according to the 2019 American Bar Association Report only 13% percent of lawyers happen to be minorities. In another article written in 2019 called "‘For The Fifth Time In A Row’, the new Congress is the most racially and ethnically diverse ever." Research Assistant Kristen Bialik from Pew Research Center writes about, "how only 22% of the US house of representatives are minorities and 12% being African-American." By having diverse representation it ensures that different perspectives are considered which promotes more complex conversations that ultimately lead to more efficient solutions. To start, there needs to be a fair and equal opportunity for all children by supplying the same resources. Low-income communities are automatically at a disadvantage due to their lack of funding and resources in order to encourage their children to want to pursue important occupations for this country.
With the recent COVID-19 pandemic all schools across the country have switched to an online learning platform. Imagine the lack of resources to children in low-income communities now that schools are virtual. It is a fact that nonwhite school districts get $23 Billion less than white districts despite serving the same number of students.
COVID-19 also exposed the rampant PreK-to-12 educational gap along the lines of race and income phenomenally. Children from low-income areas cannot afford essential needs such as laptops, Wi-Fi and learning subscriptions in order to continue schooling at home. Specifically, nearly 12 million children nationwide continue to live at home without broadband connection.
Recently, the funding for education in the federally enacted CARES Act and the House passage of the HEROES legislation is an outstanding start to addressing these discrepancies. The House HEROES legislation, when passed by the Senate and enacted, will provide nearly $60 billion for elementary and secondary education support, as well as ensure an Emergency Benefit for Broadband Service, expand the E-Rate program funding for schools and libraries to purchase digital access equipment for students and teachers, and enhance the Lifeline program benefits and eligibility. These are important steps to prevent even greater learning loss and education disparities than we have seen to date. And, as importantly, passing the Act will allow for the families of those who are most vulnerable to maintain access to information, a crucial resource for American democracy.
I am writing today to challenge the Senate to continue fighting this fight for our marginalized communities and pass legislation with these crucial HEROES bill provisions. If not, the education inequalities are likely to be compounded in the coming months and beyond as state and local education budgets deteriorate due to systemic oppression of urban schools and COVID-19.
As a member of the Players Coalition and a nose tackle with the Los Angeles Rams, the importance of teamwork is foundational to who I am. And always pushing — even through bleak prospects — has been a central tenet of how I have succeeded as a team member. So, I urge the Senate and the Administration to team up with the House to pass the HEROES provisions to address education inequities and the digital divide.
Offering an equal opportunity to all of us, particularly families compromised because of economic status and race, is the right thing to do for our children, and for the future of our nation.
Sebastian Joseph-Day is a Stroudsburg High School alumni, the starting defensive lineman for the Los Angeles Rams and member of the Players Coalition. The Players Coalition is an independent 501(c)(3) (charity) and 501(c)(4) (advocacy) organization, working with professional athletes, coaches and owners across leagues to improve social justice and racial equality in our country.