When thinking about college- and career-readiness as the desired outcome for all Hispanic public school students, then temptation can be to think that we need to entirely focus our time, energy, and resources on improving lesson plans, developing curriculum to meet market and university demands, or making sure we have quality and effective teachers. Though these are extremely important, schools also understand the need to make sure students are in an environment that is conducive to learning. This is especially true for students in marginalized communities where crime is higher and social support systems can be lacking.
Title IV-A block grants, created under the Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA), provide significant funding to states and schools and gives districts very broad parameters in deciding how to best use these funds. This was a wise choice of our Department of Education (ED) and Washington lawmakers because it allows decision-makers at the state and local level who know their schools best to focus those funds in areas that need it the most.
A recent survey revealed that if given the choice to use these funds on helping (a) students become more well-rounded, (b) education technology, or (c) school and student safety and well-being, 65% of school district leaders said it was “extremely important” for the money to go to student health and safety.
The fact that local leaders would use 65% of $1.2 billion dollars toward student safety and well-being is an indicator that needs and priorities of schools today go beyond what we might traditionally think are important to learning, such as new textbooks, flashy computers, or the best teachers.
As Christian leaders, we need to ask ourselves why our school administrators see student safety as a growing concern; why they would direct funds toward student health initiatives rather than technological advances in education.
Though we may not know the exact answer, this much is true: administrators obviously see school safety and student health as necessary in helping them to create a place where students can improve their learning outcomes and advance educational achievements. If we truly want to advance Hispanic student achievement, if we truly want our students to become college- and career-ready when they graduate high school, we need to continue to support policies and funding models that allow districts to respond to the unique needs of students and the communities in which they live.
What do you think?
Forward and higher in Christ,
Rev. Girien R. Salazar
Executive Director, FE Coalition