Equal School Facilities Should Be Part of "Infrastructure"Roundup
tags: schools, school segregation, Educational History
Erika M. Kitzmiller is a term assistant professor of education at Barnard College, Columbia University. She is the author of The Roots of Educational Inequality: Philadelphia’s Germantown High School, 1907-2014.
Akira Drake Rodriguez is an assistant professor of city and regional planning at the Weitzman School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a fellow at the climate + community project and the author of Diverging Space for Deviants: The Politics of Atlanta’s Public Housing.
Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) recently introduced legislation calling for $1.43 trillion in federal funding to support upgrades to school buildings and green infrastructure while making major investments in teaching and learning. As a former public school principal, counselor and teacher, Bowman understands firsthand the hardships that educators, families and youths have endured this year — and especially the underappreciated but powerful link between sustainable infrastructure and education.
Indeed, educational inequality has long been fueled by the inefficient physical structures of the school building, something the response to covid-19 exposed. While affluent parents donated resources and funding to guarantee that their schools could implement covid-19 mitigation practices — notably mandatory masking and physical distancing — public schools that serve less-affluent, non-White children faced antiquated HVAC systems and windowless classrooms, making it difficult, if not impossible, to implement the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s covid-19 mitigation policies and practices.
Yet, while covid-19 certainly shed new light on health risks associated with substandard school conditions, the roots of the problem are much deeper. The racially biased policies and practices that elected leaders and public school officials that were implemented more than 100 years ago set the stage for underinvestment in public education and the wide variance in school facilities that serve White and non-White youths today.