Inequality is inherent in the education system

Schools in minority areas receive less funding, perpetuating inequality in education. Blatant acts of racism are rare in a city as diverse as Los Angeles. As kids, we learn about the Civil Rights Movement, Abraham Lincoln, and the Emancipation Proclamation, and we are taught several lessons in tolerance—in classrooms and on the playground.

When the United States elected an African American president, it was considered a big step forward in racial equality -- and yet we are even more racially unequal today.

One might ask how that’s possible -- how can we have a black president in office and still have racial inequality? Haven’t we progressed as nation?

“It’s hard to say we’ve progressed in the sense that racial inequality continues to exist and in fact, by many standards, we’ve become more racially unequal,” says Guido L. Davis Del Piccolo, professor of sociology at Santa Monica College.

What we were never taught in the classroom was why inner city schools received less funding than other schools. Why such schools never had a class set of textbooks and a separate set of textbooks to take home was never fully explained to us; it was simply attributed to there not being enough money for our schools. But, why did we not have enough funding?

Here is why: Schools receive their funding according to the wealth of the community it is situated in. The wealth of a community is determined by its property taxes, which are based on the value of the property and who owns the property.

The playing field for inner city schools is not level with schools in more affluent neighborhoods. Schools in “richer” neighborhoods receive better funding, better teachers, better facilities -- and better opportunities. For an urban school where the student body consists mainly of minorities whose families live pay check to pay check, those opportunities don’t exist.

My elementary school and middle school can be found in the affluent neighborhood of Hancock Park, where actors Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith, as well as boxer Manny Pacquiao, own homes. In these schools test scores were high, the PTA was heavily involved in everyday matters, and money wasn’t that hard to come.

Then I went to high school in the heart of Hollywood, an inner city school, and here the story was not the same. The classrooms were always short on standard materials , department budgets were always cut, and the term “pink slip” was heard often. I received a great education nonetheless, but it was through my efforts that I was able to overcome the inequalities my school was dealt, not the school itself.

The invisible racial inequality was here all along, following me year after year.

Del Piccolo says, “if we acknowledge that there is an unleveled playing field, then the only way to stop this is to make the playing field leveled, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to give everyone equal opportunity, because if we level the playing field you’re still going to have a certain category of people who have the background that enabled them to better succeed. So we really need to unlevel the playing field in the other direction, if our desire is a racially equal society.”

When it comes to funding our schools, we must begin by funding inner city schools more than suburban schools to make up for what the suburban schools already have. Of course, our country is going in the other direction what with acts like No Child Left Behind, which reward already good schools with more money and punish struggling schools with budget cuts.

In the case of Contract Education at SMC, Del Piccolo says, “it would inevitably perpetuate racial inequality.”

The Board of Trustees does have the student body in their best interest and they do want to provide classes for us, but implementing a two tier system, as Professor Del Piccolo says, “will perpetuate racial inequality because of the interlink between race and class in our society, so those that can afford it are more likely to be from an advantaged background.”

Have we really progressed? Electing an African-American president is an indicator that our country’s attitudes and ideas have changed, but it does not mean that all students are equal; not yet.