“Racism hurts people of color in all aspects of their lives, including educational outcomes,” said OEA President Scott DiMauro. “Historic ‘redlining’ in many communities and systemic inequality put people of color at tremendous disadvantages. The deep-seated problems that have been exposed through a pandemic that adversely impacts communities of color and the recent incidents of police violence heighten the urgent need to address these issues.”
A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the effects of COVID-19 found a “disproportionate burden of illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups.”
OEA recognizes the important role educators can play in addressing racial and economic inequities. “We can and should be confronting these issues head-on in our classrooms to expand Ohioans’ understanding of how racism affects individuals in our communities,” DiMauro said.
“Our teachers and education support professionals see first-hand every day how their students’ lives have been shaped by racism in our society,” DiMauro said, noting that Ohio’s schools play a critical role in providing health and nutrition services. “Where you were born and what you look like should not determine whether you can get access to high-quality education and adequate educational resources.”
According to the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 32 percent of African-American children in the U.S. live in poverty. There is ample evidence that poorer children tend to enter school with a readiness gap due to fewer community and family resources. That gap can be exacerbated in under-resourced classrooms, resulting in higher dropout rates. In the 2016-2017 school year, the graduation rate for black students in Ohio was 69 percent, while it was 88 percent for white students, according to an NCES report. The Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies’ 2019 State of Poverty report found that Ohioans without a high school diploma or GED are more than twice as likely to live in poverty than those who have finished high school.
In addition to the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on communities of color, educational inequities have been further illuminated and exacerbated by distance learning in the face of the ongoing pandemic. There is a clear link between race, poverty, and health and OEA is committed to addressing these issues while promoting measures that set up all students for lifelong success.
“Our students deserve better,” said DiMauro, “and OEA believes recognizing racism as a public health crisis and creating a working group to address this issue are important first steps.”