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Students change classes at Summerville High School Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative published its fifth Regional Education Report in April on the state of education in the region, and it’s not about failing schools and districts or primarily for educators and school boards. This report is written for and to our community and its leaders, who have the obligation to right a wrong, if not for ourselves then for our children.

We know that the fundamental issue impeding the progress of so many of our children is the one we have the greatest difficulty talking about, let alone acting upon here: racial bias and racism. The data may point toward poverty, but they also irrefutably point through poverty to race. Confronting and resolving the racial bias of public education will resolve just about everything else in the system that isn’t working.

We also know how complex our public education system is, from its arcane and piecemeal funding methods to its delivery into classrooms of children far more diverse and too numerous than the system was designed to handle. We know how easy it has become to blame adults — parents and educators — for the system’s failure to secure results and to cast every potential solution or promising alternative into an us-versus-them framework created by adults for adults, as opposed to for children.

We believe that to get it right, public education must be everybody’s business.

This report is for the parents whose children don’t go to a failing school. It is easy to deny that your school isn’t serving yours and other children adequately. Only demographics mask the fact that disparate treatment and outcomes are present in every school in all three counties.

This report is for the voters who are determined to elect school board trustees and legislators who know something about education and are committed to equity.

We have, at the same time, grassroots experience and systems “experts,” who either aren’t listened to or don’t know how to navigate the politics of this region or state.

This report is for constituents who refuse to acquiesce to politicians who duck the hard work of education reform. Rather than deliver a substantive and integrated bill that addresses current inequities, the legislative leadership is likely to cherry pick the popular items and postpone more controversial issues, like education funding reform, to next year — an election year.

This report is for the taxpayer willing to shoulder his and her share of what is now required. Our pride in keeping taxes low has led to teachers being underpaid and districts underfunded. Taxpayers should expect a system in which the cost of educating our children is paid primarily by residential property owners — those who benefit the most from it — not small business, non-residents and consumers. They should be prepared to pay more, not for the system we have but for its transformation.

This report is for the business leaders who understand that public education and its challenges cannot be the object of philanthropy and volunteerism alone, but, instead, must be treated as a vital part of the infrastructure.

This Regional Education Report is for everyone who is part of this community, for we are the stewards of this entitlement that belongs to our children. Continuing to allow this system to fail, when we know that black and Hispanic children are disproportionately affected and when we know what it takes to fix it, is simply racism.

Read the Regional Education Report at www.TriCountyCradleToCareer.org.

John C. Read is the chief executive officer of Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative.

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