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Why Race and Relationships Matter in California Schools

Together we have made real progress in public education that is clear and worthy of celebration. We have boldly pushed for equity to hold and uplift all of California’s young people. But at this moment, we know something is missing. Despite the Ed Codes, content standards, test scores, and highly anticipated ‘next big education programs’ – California’s opportunity and achievement gaps still elude us. More importantly, behind the numbers that make up the education ‘gaps’ are California’s young people – bright, brilliant, and brimming with so much potential.

Our state’s true success and prosperity depends on our schools’ capacity to prepare every student to become the next generation of leaders and visionaries.

Yet Black, Brown, Southeast Asian, Pacific Islander and Native American students continue to find themselves separate and unequal, systematically shut out of opportunities for generational success and prosperity. Instead, generations of our students are funneled into the school-to-poverty or school-to-prison pipeline.

Despite knowing the historic and current reality of how race has shaped our country and schools, as a state, we shy away from addressing race and racial inequality head-on. Instead, we choose to use catchalls like “low-income” & “high-needs” to address the persistent inequities in today’s education system. We need to center race in our words, in our actions, and in our policies to truly address the inequities students of color face in today’s schools.

But there is hope because in this moment we are ready for a profound change. That change starts with relationships. The relationships we have with the students we serve. The relationships we have with each other, and most of all, the relationships we have with ourselves to be courageous enough to listen and learn about how deep racial inequality and injustice has fractured communities of color, and presently shapes the lives of students today – entire families, their growth, and aspirations.

Together, we have an opportunity to uplift the life-determining impact that race has on students. California students are counting on you, on us, to get this one right for the generations to come. To map out and lead a future where our schools are built on pillars of safety, belonging, and empowerment – becoming the foundation of a world that is as bright, brilliant, and brimming with potential as our young people.

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