Durham Public Schools recently issued a notice to families and the public to complete a survey on the district’s “equity policy,” which contains “five pillars of racial and educational equity.”
The notice was sent via email:
From: William Sudderth <William.Sudderth-III@dpsnc.net>
Date: April 26, 2021 at 7:42:38 PM EDT
Subject: Feedback on developing DPS Equity Policy (Eng/esp)
Reply-To: William Sudderth <William.Sudderth-III@dpsnc.net>
The Durham Public Schools Office of Equity Affairs convened an Equity Policy Task Force to develop an equity policy for the school district. The task force has now developed a drafted outline for the policy, which consists of five pillars of racial and educational equity. Here is where we need your help. We need your feedback to ensure the policy is reflective of the needs and desires of the Durham Public Schools community. Specifically, at this time we would like you to review the five pillars of the policy and provide feedback.
The survey has only three questions asking for feedback on the “five pillars.” The main question asks, “Do the pillars cover the main equity issues that need to be addressed?”
The website where the survey is hosted also contains the list of the “five pillars,” one of which is “disrupting systemic inequities,” a term Critical Race Theorists often use in tandem with “systemic racism.”
The “five pillars” are:
These “pillars” are apparently a priority of Durham Public Schools despite the majority of their students failing during the pandemic.
In February of this year, the Durham Herald reported that “55.5% of middle school and 42.8% of high school students got an “F” in one class or more during the first quarter.” That was a huge spike from “31.5% of middle school and 29.7% of high school students” failing during the same period in 2019.
Durham has also decided to give an “A” to all students on their end-of-year testing no matter what the actual score was.
The pandemic didn’t cause the problems in Durham Public Schools, it only shined a bigger spotlight on them.
As of 2019, there were 32,413 students enrolled in 54 schools in the Durham district. The majority of those schools (78%) had a C grade or lower. 11 were considered “low performing” by state standards.
2018 was worse, however.
Per the state report card website, in 2019, 53% of Durham students in grades 3-8 were rated not proficient at math versus 41% statewide. Similarly in reading, ranked on a scale of one to five with five being the highest rate of proficiency, 53% of Durham students in those same grades were ranked below level 3.
For Math 1, usually taken by high schoolers but sometimes by eighth-graders, 69% were not proficient versus 59% at the state level. Math 3 was not much better, with 63% of students not proficient.
That year, Durham’s per-pupil spending was around $11,728 – over $1,860 more than that state average level.
The lion’s share of Durham Public Schools’ spending was on benefits and salaries, totaling $307,237,652 or 80%. It also spent $718, 406 (.2% versus the state level .8%) on “instructional equity.”
Durham Public Schools asked its county board for more money in 2019 despite declining enrollment.
Durham added a new staff member to its Office of Equity Affairs in its 2021-22 budget, an office that received a budget of $376,774 – a 51% increase over the previous year’s budget (2019-20) of $249,419.
As with the district’s main budget, the 2021-22 salaries and benefits were the biggest categories – $216,142 for salaries and $80,240 for benefits. The remainder was spent on purchased services, supplies, and materials.