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Who's Having the Conversation on Inequality and Poverty?

According to an article from The Washington Post, children can’t learn without food, adequate shelter, good health and quality schools. Simply put, children living in poverty have an extremely hard time learning compared to their more affluent peers. We are failing as a society to confront the barriers that when overcome, will close education gaps. Is it easier to blame poor people for their circumstances than to have hard conversations about inequality in our society?

Today, the hard conversations about how inequality and social injustices impact education are far overdue. To bring awareness to this problem, Communities In Schools of Atlanta hosted a panel discussion entitled: Poverty’s Effect on Public Education. Community and education leaders shared a wealth of impactful knowledge. Below are a few takeaways from the discussion:

While there have been a lot of accomplishments [in education], we also have to pay attention to some things today. There are barriers outside the realms of the school system which is why we have to have wrap around support systems in place. We have to be sensitive when we talk about homelessness, food deserts and students being raised by a person other than their parent. We have to be sensitive towards that and put systems and policies in place that make an impact on historical injustices. - Dr. Vasanne Tinsley, DeKalb County Schools Deputy Superintendent, Student Support & Intervention Superintendent

It’s all about perspective. Frederick Douglass said it’s so much easier to build strong children than to repair broken men. So, if we don’t invest early in our children, what are we doing except being repetitive in the cycle of poverty? We are in 2018 and we have people who don’t believe that every child can learn and can learn at high levels. They don’t understand that poverty is even an issue. They don’t even understand that it’s the number one barrier to education. So, you can talk about being in the classroom, but in the situation of poverty we have a problem. It’s 2018 and we have people who don’t have the WILL to see our children come out of poverty. That is the problem. – Beverly Ferguson, Georgia Pacific Senior Director, Community Affairs

Nobody in America runs for office promising a positive future for children. We don’t have a system on which we’ve decided in an intentional type of way that we are going to organize our efforts to ensure every individual can grow. Until we begin to do that, we’re always going to be on the back end. We have to be able to stand up in a public meeting and argue why equity is important. We have to be able to argue why you make decisions and stand firm on that. - Milton Little, President of United Way of Greater Atlanta

Disproportionality is the problem. How do we address the why behind the behavior? We talk about social and emotional learning, but I still think it’s talk. I know this because we still have kids killing themselves. This is a multi-dimensional problem that we expect the school system to fix alone. I’m just going to be honest. I think we’ll try to fix these problems, but I just don’t think we can do it alone. That’s why partnerships are critical for us. – Jeff Rose, Superintendent of Fulton County Schools

We can’t stop at high school. That’s a no brainer because two-thirds of jobs in the economy require post high school education. None of us would allow our kids to just have a high school diploma. So, for me it’s about supporting kids in college because that’s the silhouette needed to create full participants in the American Dream. - Frank Brown, CEO of Communities In Schools of Atlanta

Leverage where you are. If you’re a superintendent, a deputy, a partner or in business, leverage where you are. There are so many resources and all of us are in a position to make a difference when we come together collectively. Instead of working against us, work with us to address these issues. Remember that the school system is just a small piece of society at large. We don’t create these issues. We just have to deal with them and try to educate our children at the same time.Morcease Beasley, Superintendent of Clayton County Schools

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