Millions of white and black pupils in poverty need city services for neighborhoods, not gentrification

The number of children in poverty from Kids Count show 4.082 million African American, 5.225 million non-Hispanic white, and 5.814 million Hispanic. Half of the Hispanic total (an ethnic measure of origin in Spain or South and Central America, including Mexico) is half white race and half black race.

Removing the ethnic division, the racial totals would be 6.989 million black and 8.132 million white. A common sense analysis says that students of all races always do better in well-funded schools, while living in good neighborhoods, and do poorly in low-funded schools, while living in bad neighborhoods.

For example, public school students in Philadelphia are served poorly by their school system, and even worse by their city government. After 18 years of publishing a newspaper there, it was apparent that city services were diverted from all neighborhoods to invest in civic centers, stadiums, center city revitalization and gentrification. Meanwhile, the neighborhoods were crushed with abandoned cars, few police and crumbling roads. School buildings rotted. Teachers were paid half of their suburban counterparts.

My newspaper served a primarily African-American community, and city services were just as good or bad as in the white neighborhoods. Many businesses, on the other hand, shunned locating in the community, and closed stores, citing the usual “demographics” claim. Facts, such as our 89% home ownership, did not sway marketing opinions.

After some years of effort by folks like Rep. Dwight Evans, business began to move in by the droves, but it required community pressure on downtown powers to make it happen. While much of that racial prejudice has subsided since that period of the 80s, the bitter prejudice against poverty continues.

Children need a good environment and good teachers. Most cities spend their tax money supporting sports teams and giving tax breaks to developers and campaign contributors. Real estate assessments are pushed way down for new bank buildings, but sales taxes nickle and dime poor residents.

Children need parents with decent jobs, employment that pays more than below poverty wages. Children need decent homes, not rat holes allowed by payoffs to city inspectors. Children need public transit, so they can visit museums and cultural centers at minimal cost. Children need after school clubs, school bands and orchestras, art classes, all items on the chopping block of politicians who think heroism is making someone else miserable.

Poverty feeds on itself. Companies don’t want to open in poor neighborhoods. Smart children grow up and move out of bad neighborhoods. So, the secret is not “fixing” schools, but fixing neighborhoods and cities and business investment. City leaders must begin to focus on fewer civic centers and more rec centers, fewer stadiums and more quality schools, fewer clubhouses and more boys and girls clubs.

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