Wanted: Equitable education at Bolinas-Stinson School

06/16/2016

All children are equally capable of learning, shaping and expressing themselves, abilities that ultimately determine whether they are free to lead the kind of lives they want to live. Yet a disproportionate number of minorities and economically disadvantaged students in Marin County schools receive an inferior education compared to their more affluent white counterparts. 

In West Marin, minority, poor and learning-disabled students coming from Bolinas-Stinson School struggle to seek higher education. Yet the school administration, teachers and board will not acknowledge that exisiting unequal educational outcomes for immigrant, minority and economically disadvantaged students reinforce inequity and oppression in our communities. 

Since 2008, county officials, parents and activists have publicly agreed there are significant opportunity gaps at Marin schools with higher proportions of poor and minority students compared to schools in more affluent and white districts. So let’s ask ourselves, when our district spends $31,000 per student—a significant proportion of which is generated from local property tax revenues—why every student, regardless of who they are, does not meet minimum proficiency levels in math and English language. Or why all students in every grade are not measuring a minimum progress of 10 percent per year. 

Every student deserves the same quality education in order to have a chance at becoming part of the mainstream workforce rather than servants to the mainstream. 

We should ask our school district why it continues to ignore the fact that a core population of these students scores alarmingly low on state and federal testing compared to their white counterparts. There are no minority or bilingual homeroom teachers or administrators at the school; surely this contributes to the poor quality of education—and even the miseducation—of students. Latino parents at our school have stated that they do not consistently receive report card notes from teachers in Spanish, that translators are not consistently present at parent-teacher meetings, and that homework and bilingual tutoring have not been made available to students whose first language is not English. This is despite the fact that the school is financially capable of immediately hiring qualified bilingual tutors to teach math and English during summers and afterschool to assess and teach every student, in every grade. 

Our county supervisor, discussing educational disparities in Marin, said, “This is not an unknown problem. This is an unowned problem.” District leaders make excuses about decreasing student enrollment, attributing it to the “housing crisis” when the majority of parents who have removed their children from the school district or have chosen not to enroll there still live here or own homes in Bolinas and Stinson Beach. 

Let’s stop pretending our children are being equally educated in our communities. It is time to acknowledge the imbalance of resources and opportunities in every region of this county. It is unacceptable that our school board and administration continue to divide our district between those families that can “get out” and seek an education that promotes social and emotional competence and academic excellence, and those less able to do so. And let’s stop “celebrating diversity” through isolated cultural artifacts, holidays, festivals and food, and ask ourselves how Bolinas-Stinson School will pursue a fair and equitable education that sets up every student for success in high school. To celebrate all people means to educate and prepare every child equally. 

 

Tara Evans-Boyce is a mother and resident in Stinson Beach.