Despite Bloomington being one of the more liberal and diverse cities in Indiana, Monroe County schools still fail to adequately address inequities in student future livelihood.
In a report produced by the IU Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, it shows there are still “sharp disparities” within the distribution of low-income and Black and Hispanic students between the local elementary schools. The report determined the elementary schools to be the main area of concern, seeing a drop in their measure of disparity in middle and high schools.
The redrawing of school districts would be the quickest and most effective method to address the inequity levels in Monroe County schools. School districts determine which schools students attend. Much like how redistricting affects the representation and funding particular districts receive, this redrawing of district lines could have the potential to effectively redistribute the student population if done correctly.
The O’Neill report mentioned many of their sources and interviewees indicated Fairview and Templeton Elementary Schools specifically have less resources to provide to a larger, low-income population of students.
These disparities correlate with lower average test scores, worsened critical thinking and problem solving skills, lower-wage jobs and racial imbalances in school and later in life, among other factors.
What is the most likely cause of these disparities? Inequitable school districts.
The O’Neill report concluded redrawing the school districts in a selective, irregular manner would produce the most equitable outcome for students.
The report also suggested instituting monitoring programs to gauge the effectiveness of redrawing as well as equalizing services offered across schools, but these measures alone may not be enough.
Former MCCSC Board of Trustees Member Jacinda Townsend Gides resigned her seat in January. She was the only Black member of the board and believes robust systemic and structural changes are still needed in order to effectively address these inequities.
“Schools achieved peak integration in 1987 and have become increasingly resegregated in every year since: we are now, in the United States, at Brown vs. Board of Education-era levels,” Townsend Gides wrote in a Facebook post. “MCCSC is no exception.”
Townsend Gides said the disparities in disciplinary action towards Black and white students is also an issue which needs to be addressed. She said 1 in 8 Black students are disciplined per year whereas only 3% of white students see the same disciplinary measures.
So what did the Board of Trustees do with this information? Not much.
According to an Indiana Public Media article, the last time the board addressed redrawing school districts was in a 2019 fireside update and not much has happened since. The board hasn’t committed to redrawing school districts, and further discussion about the matter has yet to be seen.
This is the greatest threat to continued strife of equity and diversity: the cease in speech and debate.
As long as we keep the dialogue going there at the very least exists hope for a better outcome. But once the conversation dies, so does the possibility of real and good change.
And we cannot risk dropping the conversation about race and inequity in our schools at a time where our state representatives threaten to bar our teachers from teaching the truth about our history.
We must keep the conversation alive and include our board members and elected representatives in the discussion. At the end of the day, they are the body which can institute change. So we must hold them to the mark regarding student inequities and inform them what changes must be made to effectively address these long-standing injustices.
Sean Gilley (he/him) is a senior studying political science and economics with a certificate in informatics.