Systems in this country are not equal. Full stop. It doesn't really matter which system we are talking about because there are inequities in every one. I will even pessimistically (but perhaps realistically) say there will always be inequities. Perfection will forever be an unrealistic goal. That should not stop us from trying. We should all do our solid best to forever reach for the best systems possible.
The system I want to dive into today is education.
I hold education to a high standard. I place immense value in education and by extension having a system by which everyone can be educated. Education can be a great equalizer. I was still a kid myself when Jonathan Kozol's book Savage Inequalities showed me that despite Brown vs. Board of Ed and Ruby Bridges, the system was not serving all students and was especially failing majority black and brown urban children. That awakening led me to a senior project focused on inequity in American systems, specifically education, which resulted in a white kid from rural Vermont spending a day in an urban Boston, MA school. My project did not go over well in small town Vermont and only my record of academic success preventing it from being a failure. It's hard to "show" the transformation that occurred inside me at the realization that the world was so broken and the adults around me did not like the reality that I was clumsily pointing out. I still point out the inequities in education in clumsy ways.
My passion for education seeps into my interest in a position on City Council not because city governments should interfere with K-12 education systems (they should not!) but because a piece of what K-12 education does (or should do) is prepare students to be adults and flourish within larger societal systems, including systems of government. When K-12 systems are not equitable, they are communicating to some children (in this example black and brown children) that the system is not meant for them. There are numerous examples of ways this happens, including local school discipline data. Children take an impression of systems with them when they graduate. If the school system has not served them well, they may not expect any system will serve them. Not expect they can be successful within systems. Not expect systems care about their voices or their struggles. Expect that they will have to work two or three times as hard as white peers to get half as much. If we want to have a big goal of creating equity in larger societal systems-policing, courts, housing, healthcare, job opportunity, community voice, we need to make sure the K-12 education systems are empowering all youth-not just white kids, not just upper and middle class kids, not just academically gifted kids. All kids.
There is hope. There is progress being made. At the local level Monroe County Community Schools (MCCSC) are working hard at first identifying areas of disparity and then working toward addressing those disparities. This work is not perfect, but it's progress. Bloomington government has to follow suit so that when these kids who have been nurtured to speak up, who believe they can be anything, graduate high school and enter larger society, they actually have opportunities.
A few specifics . . .
First, Bloomington City Council members need to be accessible, not just say they are accessible. Students taught that their voice matters, need to continue to raise those voices and be involved and elected officials need to listen. If elected I will seek to go to people where they are and not just expect they will come to me. This means having meetings in parks so parents don't have to find childcare, seeking out common rooms in apartment complexes, having avenues of feedback at varied times of day and days of the week so workers on all shifts have some options. This means making sure to respond to emails. This does not mean eliminating current feedback opportunities. It means adding more opportunities.
Second, when young people graduate from high school there need to be options available to them. Not all graduating seniors are headed for a 4-year college experience and as a community, Bloomington needs to make sure young adults have good options outside that choice. Right now, if you live on the east side of Bloomington (District 3) it would take over an hour to get to the Ivy Tech campus using public transit. It would take fewer than 20 minutes in a car. Google thinks it would take 40 minutes on a bicycle, but I bet an electric bike would cut that to 30. This is a problem. 60+ minutes on a bus is a barrier. A $1500 electric bicycle is a barrier. A $10,000+ car (then gas, insurance, etc.) is a barrier. I could list another 10 barriers. There are ways to address and overcome some of those barriers, to support young people (and others wishing to invest in higher education), but investments of time and money are necessary.
Third, Bloomington needs more affordable housing options. If we get buy in, kids are educated in schools, they believe in themselves, they believe in their value, they become young adults who add their voices to community, who work to create a place for themselves in Bloomington, who study and get good jobs, now we need to make sure they have somewhere to live. Not just some crummy apartment, but someplace of their own that they can invest in. I'm talking about home ownership. Not necessarily white picket fence suburban dreams of the 50's ownership, but a way to gain equity and invest in something that can become inherited wealth for the next generation. Bloomington needs creative ideas to solve a housing crunch of "now" and also expand those investment opportunities for the future. It is not going to be a one-size fits all solution, but it is not a problem that is going to disappear.
Thank you for the time you just invested in my campaign by reading this blog post. I hope something I said connected with you and your vision of what society should be. If you like what you hear, consider subscribing to my newsletter. If you have any questions, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to engage further or find an upcoming event. I hope I have earned your vote for Bloomington City Council District 3 Representative.