More than 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education, the education system in St. Louis is still separate and still unequal.
Still Separate, Still Unequal is a community accountability and advocacy tool from Forward Through Ferguson that examines these inequities and serves as a call to level the education playing field in St. Louis.
Explore this site to learn more about our current education landscape, and to understand why if we want to change our education outcomes, we have to go upstream.
Intro Letter from the FTF Co-Chairs
“Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments… In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms. . .”
Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote these words in the Supreme Court’s unanimous 1954 Brown v. Board ruling that school segregation was unconstitutional because separate education was inherently unequal. At the heart of that text is the recognition that education is integral to the foundation of democracy and the American Dream.
Nearly 65 years later, for Black students in the St. Louis region especially, that foundation is cracked; that dream is deferred. As the title of this tool suggests, our education system is still separate and still unequal. The pages that follow present evidence of this and next steps for creating equity-centered change.
We are releasing this tool as our city, state, country, and world are in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our education system is confronting unprecedented challenges that have emphasized its profound brokenness—despite the heroic efforts of educators. Every student and their family is being affected. And, for some, this systematic instability and ineffectiveness of the education system is nothing new. In this convergence of understanding—and in the magnitude of the pre-existing and new crises—we see a path forward for truly transformational systems change.
It won’t be easy. And, it’s a path we can choose together by recognizing the root causes that have held too many St. Louis families in a perpetual education crisis and held back our entire region in the process. Doing so will require acknowledging hard truths and letting go of bad habits. Daring to resist the allure and temptation to “fix” things back to the status quo. It will require us to lay down our scarcity mentality and fragmentation to make way for approaches that boldly lean into abundance—a radical belief that we can redesign our education system to center more kids in it’s promise and opportunity. That’s how we unlock transformation.
In the face of a global pandemic that is reminding us of the interconnectedness of our fates, now is the time to let go of insularity, short-sighted, and self-interested measures that benefit some kids but neglect or even condemn others. Instead we need egoless partnership that centers improving outcomes for Black and Brown children over territory and competitive individualism. We need approaches that prioritize direct engagement, relationship building, mutual capacity building, and followership of community members and leaders most directly proximate to the structural inequities in our education system.
In light of the crisis and opportunity of this moment, Forward Through Ferguson is deepening its commitment to education equity. The Still Unequal tool will be the foundation for our work in that space over the next three to five years. In addition to partnering and building capacity, we will be throwing our weight behind three of the next steps named in the pages that follow: 1. Continuing to grow understanding and tell the story of the structural inequities in the St. Louis regional education landscape, 2. Collaboratively redefining regional indicators of a quality education, and 3. Establishing the Education Design & Finance task force as recommended by the Ferguson Commission to create a transformative space to grow a community mandate for policy and system action on education in our region.
We hope you will join us in this work to become the designers and guarantors of a new 21st century promise to our children, current and future. A new, decidedly St Louis compact for all our kids: access to a quality education and the opportunity to thrive.