In February, we watched education leaders, politicians, and advocates host Black History Month events and laud the historical contributions of Black communities and Black Californians, as we do every year. 

But that had me thinking, do Black Minds Matter in California today?

If you look close enough and reflect honestly about the other eleven months of the year, you might see what I see: rampant anti-Black racism that harms not only Black communities but all Californians. You might also see, like I do, a near outright refusal to have sustained, solutions-focused conversations about centering Black students in educational policy and practice. 

As a result, educational systems in California fail Black students at nearly every turn. Ed Trust–West’s Black Minds Matter report and fact sheet confirm these failures:

  • Only 16% of Black four-year-olds are enrolled in transitional kindergarten classrooms. 
  • Black preschool educators are paid less than their peers; in a grossly underpaid profession, that means that too many of them experience poverty.
  • Over half of our schools don’t have a single Black teacher on staff.
  • Only 37% of Black students on the CA Healthy Kids survey report high levels of feeling happy, safe, connected, and supported at school.
  • Too few Black students are on grade level in math or reading, and fewer than half graduate high school eligible for entry into a UC or CSU.
  • Just 1 in 3 Black students completes a financial aid application before leaving high school.

These inequities are the result of historic policy choices and ongoing underinvestment in communities, schools, and colleges that primarily serve Black students. These gaps would be deemed a crisis if any other racial or ethnic group was experiencing them. 

California has the resources to guarantee more education funding across the board, to allocate it more equitably, to prepare and support more Black educators, ensure that every Black student has meaningful access to culturally relevant college preparatory coursework, and to hold our institutions accountable for Black student success. Yet we choose to look the other way. It may be easier to look at the egregious actions other states are taking to harm Black communities, but we must also look in the mirror.

For nearly 22 years, Ed Trust–West has been one of the leading education advocacy organizations in California focused on students of color, especially those experiencing poverty. I hope you will pick up Ed Trust–West’s recent Black Minds Matter fact sheet, which includes important data for advocates as you push for change, and our Black Minds Matter campaign, which includes bright spots that give me hope all year round. 

This work is ongoing at The Education Trust–West and a few weeks ago we analyzed the governor’s equity multiplier proposal to answer this key question: is it an effective mechanism for getting money where it needs to go—to Black students? Read: Equity Alert: Black Students Need More from California’s Equity Multiplier.


Onward, together,

Dr. Christopher J. Nellum