KUER and United Way of Salt Lake presented its second “It Starts With You” speaker series Aug. 29 at the Grand Theatre. The program aims to elicit conversations that educate and unite the community.
KUER education correspondent Lee Hale interviewed featured speaker, leading civil rights journalist and author Nikole Hannah-Jones. Hannah-Jones presented two major messages to the audience: first, Americans must educate themselves on the ongoing racial segregation in housing and public education; secondly, white Americans must acknowledge they still receive special privileges due to the color of their skin and take action to ensure minority students receive the same quality education students from more affluent white schools and school districts receive.
Hale then opened the discussion to Kathleen Christy, a former educator and civil rights equity specialist with the Utah State Office of Education and the Salt Lake City School District, and Jessica Cleeve Dwyer, an award-winning teacher and Academic Program Manager at the University of Utah Center for Science and Mathematics Education.
In the panelist discussion, Christy said that the Salt Lake City School District now has a majority of students who are from minority racial groups. She said it has taken a long time — over ten years — for many state legislators to acknowledge that the racial makeup was a primary factor in low-scoring schools in Salt Lake and Ogden counties.
Cleeve Dwyer said she can’t expect to recruit good quality college and university-educated graduates to teach in our public schools “when we don’t even offer them a livable wage,” adding later “so they can afford to buy a house on their salary.”
The panelists agreed there was at least natural racial segregation in the urban cities of Northern Utah, which leads to less public funds per student and lower quality of education for students in poorer schools and school districts.
An audience Q&A concluded the program. The next “It Starts With You” event will feature NPR correspondent Claudio Sanchez on Wednesday, Nov. 1. Visit the KUER website for more information.