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The St. Pete Catalyst: Education as a path to equity and opportunity

The St. Pete Catalyst: Education as a path to equity and opportunity

(Dec. 11, 2020) The gun violence that’s marred one of St. Petersburg’s Black neighborhoods recently is compelling community leaders to pursue solutions beyond the usual marches, scolding, pleading and prayers.

Questions are many, but here’s one: Why, in the midst of a pandemic that’s been disproportionately tragic for Black people, are there continuing to be large gatherings, some that can spawn deadly disputes?

In the search for answers, one already in play teaches young people to resolve disputes peacefully. Leaders also see the need for more opportunities to ease feelings of hopelessness.

But opportunity generally requires education.

A recent article in The Crisis, the official magazine of the national NAACP, addresses the education predicament facing the Black community as a problem made worse by the pandemic.

“African-American students’ low literacy levels – which inequitable access to online schooling will exacerbate – won’t just impact grades and graduation rates,” says author Colette Coleman, a former classroom teacher. “Low literacy levels can also hinder kids’ success in college, career and life.”

And the National School Boards Association, referring to the Condition of Education 2020, a report prepared by the National Center for Education Statistics, points to the document’s “very unsettling national picture of the state of education for Black students.”

Fortunately, not everyone is throwing up their hands in defeat. Here in Pinellas County, the Pinellas Education Foundation is intent on working to address learning, particularly literacy, at a young age. The nonprofit, a more than 30-year-advocate for Pinellas County public schools, is committed to equity, believing that all students deserve a high quality education. That’s reassuring in a district that continues to wrestle with issues of race.
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