These posts are the opinions of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of A+ Colorado.


Does Race Matter for Colorado’s Influential Education Organization Boards?

By Van Schoales

 

As we enter another education policy season with hundreds of legislative bills designed to improve public education, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at who sits on some of the state’s most influential education organizations. Colorado is a diverse state with a growing number of non-white students (46%). Our largest non-white population student group is Latinx with most of these students having Mexican roots.  And multi-race students are the fastest growing population.

Most disturbing, Colorado has some of the largest achievement gaps by race and income in the US according to National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), a United States governmental agency that assesses what America’s students know and can do in various subject areas. The differences within school districts like Denver and Boulder are also massive.  Denver, for example, has a greater than 40 point gap for black and Latinx students versus white students for 4th grade literacy.

Schools and school districts across Colorado are rightly trying to better serve all of their students with many districts launching initiatives to hire a more racially diverse educator population. Race is an important indicator but obviously not the only measure of diversity. Gender, sexual orientation, income background, life experience, education and others are other important indicators that can also be helpful in having an educator force that is better able to connect and support our state’s diverse student population.

Colorado’s Education policy is set by our state legislators and Colorado State Board of Education members. These policy makers rightly look to their constituents and powerful education experts or interest groups to advise them on policy to support quality education in Colorado.

There are about a dozen state education groups that generate reports or commentary on education policy in Colorado or that have paid lobbyists. These groups track new and existing legislation and can sift through reams of information about Colorado’s education system to support policy makers as they defend or change existing policy. While I will save another blog post for the members and constituents of these organizations, I thought it would be useful to look more closely at the makeup of the boards of these influential education organizations.

Organization Board # Non-White Women % Non-White % Women
CO Association of School Executives 24 1 12 4% 50%
CO School Boards Association 22 1 15 5% 68%
Public Education and Business Assoc. 34 3 14 9% 41%
CO Education Association 36 4 20 11% 56%
Colorado Succeeds 16 2 5 13% 31%
CO State Board of Education 7 1 6 14% 86%
CO League of Charter Schools 13 3 4 23% 31%
CO Democrats for Education Reform 21 5 13 24% 62%
Colorado Children’s Campaign 14 4 8 29% 57%
A+ Colorado 14 6 6 43% 43%
Together Colorado 8 5 5 63% 63%
Urban League of Metro Denver 13 9 4 69% 31%
Padres Y Jóvenes Unidos 8 8 5 100% 63%

Boards are important for a few reasons: policy, power, and perception. Boards set policy for organizations.

  • Policy. They hire leaders, review strategic plans and organize the agenda for these groups.  Major decisions are run by every board for review and analysis.
  • Power. Boards represent whom the organization considers “powerful” in the community and ecosystem.  These are often funders, thinkers, and practitioners who wield power in other areas and therefore are regarded as helpful to the board and the group they guide.
  • Perception.  Boards are also critical as a reflection of the organization overall. The individuals who sit on a Board says a lot about the organization’s values.  If they are all high dollar funders, then the board is focused on fundraising.  If they are all thinkers or thought-leaders, then that says the board is attempting to steer towards agenda-setting.

Therefore, it is essential to look at the boards of Colorado education organizations to examine how they think about policy, power, and perception.

The diversity of racial representation of these organization’s boards by race is remarkable, from 0% to 57% non-white (and five of thirteen organizations have more than 20 board members). Only three out of thirteen of these entities match or have greater board representation than the percentage of students of color in Colorado. As far as we know, none of these Boards have any representation from Native Americans or indigenous Coloradans. Interestingly the unions that represent teachers, administrators, school boards and groups affiliated with business interests are the least reflective of the state’s student population. This is a problem.

Why does diversity and inclusion matter on Boards?

This chart makes me wonder if we could better support all of Colorado’s students if we had boards that better reflect the students our state is serving. In addition to race, income backgrounds, sexual orientation, gender, and life experiences, more must be considered so that we can better advocate for all students. When boards are not inclusive, critical perspectives and experiences are omitted from our board discussions that should inform our efforts to improve public education.

There is no question that having more women on these boards has resulted in our state doing a more effective job supporting our female students.

It’s time we did the same for our black, Latinx, Native American and all the other students that deserve a great education.