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Students of Color

Free College Is Cool But When Will Presidential Candidates Start Talking About K-12

I was a first-generation college student who considered dropping out my freshman year because I couldn’t pass math. 

As an honor student who attended high performing schools my entire K-12 career, I was devastated when I got to college and found out I wasn’t ready. I thought I wasn’t smart enough. And I watched many of my high school classmates navigate those same doubts and insecurities. We felt duped.

So because the issue of a quality public education is personal and important to me, it kind of pisses me off when it comes off as a non-issue for elected officials—like in the Democratic candidate debate this week.  

https://twitter.com/PeeplesChoice85/status/1144053312800612352

No one really touched on K-12 education. I mean, they didn’t even breathe on it.

https://twitter.com/curtiseveryday/status/1144437945098805249

Instead, they stood on soapboxes yelling, “Give Americans free college and/or loan forgiveness.”

https://twitter.com/nprpolitics/status/1144333348271210496

Huh? How are they talking about free college when some kids are barely making it through high school? Because to me it sounds like they’re putting a shiny cart before a ragged horse.

https://twitter.com/citizenstewart/status/1144412054981435397

When it comes to literacy, only 37 percent of 12th graders are proficient or advanced in reading. So how are the 63 percent who are at or below basic proficiency supposed to get into college if they can’t even read the application?

https://twitter.com/ZACHARYSBOE5/status/1138867167947104256

Students attending schools in poorer districts are receiving $1,000 less in per pupil funding. How are they expected to be successful and go to college when they have less resources through the gate?

https://twitter.com/EdTrust/status/1022594411551711234

And why should Black and Latino kids have faith that they’ll be treated any different in college when they’re victims of unfair discipline policies and practices and constantly seen through a biased lens? As shameful as it is that we had to set policies to protect Black, Brown and special needs students in schools, having a conversation about restoring those Obama-era discipline guidelines would be nice.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZOyZN5sGoA

Then, considering some of these candidates’ past and current policy stances, there are a few things on a long list of concerns that I need them to address.

During the debate, Joe Biden got called out by Kamala Harris for being a self-proclaimed civil rights advocate who didn’t support school integration through busing. How are we supposed to trust him on the greater issues of equity and school access?

https://twitter.com/TheRoot/status/1144438239647940608

Bernie Sanders has been tweeting that all students, regardless of their race or socio-ecomic status, should be able to attend college. But how are they supposed to get there if he ignores and wants to limit the options that parents believe will get their kids to college?

https://twitter.com/JNR4thewin/status/1144072610621403136

And most of the time, I’m rooting for everybody Black. 

http://gph.is/2fsE2UW

But I need Kamala Harris to explain her reasoning behind earlier policies that imprisoned Black and Brown parents as a punishment for truancy.

https://twitter.com/meganslay27/status/1144427155188699137

Let me be clear, (*in my Bernie Sanders voice*) this pandering through offering free college and student loan forgiveness is cute. But me, and other activists, families in low-income and underserved communities and the students who are trapped in failing schools want to hear the plans for improving K-12 education. 

https://twitter.com/PeeplesChoice85/status/1144076711509843968

And it’s cool if all 20 of y’all have extensive plans listed on your websites. But if you want our vote, we shouldn’t have to go searching for your platforms, you should be talking about all of them.

Photo by LightFieldStudios, Canva-licensed.
Tanesha Peeples
Tanesha Peeples is driven by one question in her work—“If not me, then who?” As the former Deputy Director of Activist Development for brightbeam, Tanesha merges the worlds of communications and grassroots activism to push for change in the public education system. Her passion for community and relentless mission for justice and liberation drive her in uplifting and amplifying the voices and ...

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