For the 50 million kids who attend public schools in the US, the 2020 election is personal.
Watch more 2020 US election explainers at http://vox.com/ElectionVideos
When it comes to who gets punished and removed from American classrooms, the US doesn’t treat all students equally. Black students get suspended and expelled far more frequently than their white classmates, and often for the same or similar offenses. And the weeks of school that Black kids miss each year can kick off a chain reaction that changes a child’s future.
But the US education system gives the American president a tremendous amount of power over public schools. Whoever holds the Presidency decides how schools handle things like testing, class size, and discipline.
During the Obama administration, the US Department of Education started to take the country’s school discipline problem seriously. They investigated the schools with significant racial gaps in punishment rates, and issued guidance on how to replace outdated policies with more effective ones.
Then Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s education secretary, abandoned those efforts. Trump’s administration stopped releasing discipline data, changed the standard of what constitutes racist outcomes, and scaled back efforts to fix or even acknowledge racial disparities in how we punish kids. In this video we explain the origins of this crisis, and how the 2020 election could change things.
This was the fourth in our series of 2020 election explainers, all based on viewer suggestions. Watch the others, which cover the stakes of the election on:
1) Climate change: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfAXbGInwno
2) Voting rights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=al3qY8ZMHEc
3) Reproductive health: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bzuk13Ftxgo
4) Public schools: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFJ37ri-Saw
5) Police reform: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHePglP28CM
6) America’s role in the world: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5LrQv496Iw
7) Transportation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZDZtBRTyeI
8) LGBTQ rights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRnpUptf7E0
9) The eviction crisis: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F07yTI0J3Qk
If you want to learn more about racial disparities in school discipline, check out the UCLA Civil Rights Project. They’ve been studying this crisis for years: https://www.civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/research/k-12-education/school-discipline
Our colleagues at ProPublica, particularly Annie Waldman, have done extensive investigative work chronicling how the Trump administration has neglected to enforce students’ civil rights: https://www.propublica.org/article/devos-has-scuttled-more-than-1-200-civil-rights-probes-inherited-from-obama
The Texas schools study we mention in the video is publicly available through the Center for State Governments: https://knowledgecenter.csg.org/kc/system/files/Breaking_School_Rules.pdf
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