It is sometimes difficult not to privilege one objective over the other. Although our policies are for everyone, we must take into account the diversity of all the neighborhoods we represent. Some have very different needs from others. My philosophy is that all students are all our children. Until all students have the same chances of success, we, as an island, are not to succeed.
My neighbors and I grew up in an affluent neighborhood that had every good thing imaginable: great school buildings, great teachers, board members who put students first, and parents who were active in educating their children. children. We didn’t feel guilty about the advantage of living in a large community. But over time it became clear how much of an advantage we had over others.
As part of a family that helped develop Levittown in the 1950s (my dad built Long Island’s largest mall along Hempstead Turnpike), I had no idea that some returning soldiers were left out. because of their race education benefits. cheap GI bills and FHA loans. In Levittown, in particular, restrictive covenants prohibited blacks from buying into William Levitt’s suburban vision. These government policies deprived a generation of the capacity to create wealth.
When I was a business developer and chairman of the Long Island Regional Planning Board, I became more aware of institutional racism in zoning processes – which resulted in some of LI’s most needy neighborhoods being across the street from some of our richest – has contributed to educational disparities. This became clearer after being rebuffed by city supervisors and others when I presented to them what I thought were reasonable demands for affordable housing.
Having started as a regent 17 years ago, I joined a board that has not always considered the extent to which these land use policies have created some of the most segregated school districts in the country. Bad decisions made by others, even in good faith, cannot blame those who come later. But these governmental and societal decisions have created current educational inequalities. We don’t have to feel guilty today for feeling responsible for trying to remedy the factors that give some children great educational benefits while denying them to others.
We all need to understand that children who face the toughest challenges at home should have every possible benefit in school. These differences in resources are huge, including the number of AP courses and enrichment opportunities, as well as role models, mentors and guidance counselors per student.
When called upon to make political decisions, we have a responsibility to improve educational differences that negatively impact access to opportunities. Until all children are considered our children, we cannot claim to have achieved excellence or fairness.
The Regents’ new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Policy seeks to balance the needs for excellence and fairness. We are committed to fostering a culture of inclusion, diversity and mutual respect for all residents of Long Island, and expanding opportunities for people with disabilities. Students should be exposed to a story that is not necessarily comfortable. Standard history books often don’t reflect regrettable institutional decisions based on race, gender, and disability.
The education and lifelong experience fueled the responsibility to create the policy of diversity, equity and inclusion. Our local districts must implement what the regents suggest. All of our students should feel the same sense of individual responsibility. Hopefully educators, parents and students will respect these policies and encourage their implementation in their districts.
This guest essay reflects the views of Roger Tilles, Long Island’s representative on the state’s board of directors.