As an educator, there is nothing more upsetting or discouraging than seeing a once-promising former student who has fallen through the cracks of a social system that contains the ever-present reality of institutional racism. Educators see and feel the effects of childhood trauma in their classrooms every day; for children of color, that trauma is often rooted in being devalued or marginalized because of the color of their skin.
The 44,000 members of the Kentucky Education Association are committed to equity in every public-school classroom in our Commonwealth and we stand with those fighting for transparency, equality, and systemic change.
All students, regardless of their zip code or how much money their parents make should have great public schools. Today, too many students attend under-resourced schools where they face devastating equity and opportunity gaps.
Good people of all races and ethnicities understand that the foundation of everything we hope to accomplish in public education will depend on whether or not students in our poorest neighborhoods have the same opportunities to learn and succeed as the students in our richest neighborhoods.
As educators, we know what equity looks like. Parents do too. Walk into the most impressive, gorgeous public school you can find with a theater department, a chemistry lab with up-to-date equipment, and a library full of books. They are the best schools in the world. Equity means every school should look like those schools. And when someone says, “We can’t afford that,” we must be fearless in our fight for equity and say “Yes We Can! We can’t afford not to!” If we can afford well-resourced schools for some kids, we can afford it for all kids.
In the wake of the thousands of protests across our nation and the world, and the millions of people who have taken part, now is the time to face forward and face facts. We must create real change by addressing racism and providing real solutions that bring social, legal and educational equity to every American. That starts at home and at school. Educators of Kentucky are committed to playing an integral part in those solutions.
For decades KEA has led the way on creating equity in our profession and in our association. In 1959, the entity formerly known as the Kentucky Negro Education Association merged with KEA to create one united education association for every educator across the Commonwealth. Today, our association offers professional development courses to members and non-member educators alike and continues to work toward inclusiveness and diversity. Our “Equity Training” and “Creating Leaders for Just Schools” courses are designed to help educators understand the needs regarding diversity, social justice and equity as it relates to education and how to make plans to implement equitable practices in their classrooms, schools, districts and communities. Our ethnic minority scholarships, Diversity Committee and guaranteed ethnic minority seats on our board of directors are also designed to create and foster equity within our profession and association.
Moving forward, KEA will continue to lead in the professional development of educators in all aspects of the profession. As educators, our passion and commitment to training, teaching and advocating for equity in our schools and in our communities will continue to grow and flourish.
Eddie Campbell is a Knox County middle school and high school choir director and president of the Kentucky Education Association, representing 44,000 public school educators across the state.