A report published in The Tampa Bay Times concerning racial disparity in Florida’s Pinellas County Schools found that the most segregated schools in the county are not only all located in South St. Petersburg, but are also in a six-mile radius from each other and are failing at rates far worse than any other school in the state.
The investigation, labeled “Failure Factories,” has received national attention since it was published. In response to the report, US Rep. Kathy Castor said the community should be “truly outraged.” She added that she intends to ask the US Department of Education to take a closer look at how federal dollars that should be going to help poor children are spent in the district.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman also said he was “deeply troubled” by the news, and that a new director of education would be voted on next month. He added that the new director would “give priority to those five schools” highlighted in the report.
The report claimed that any efforts to integrate students at the five schools were put to an end in 2007. At that point, new resources for the schools were lost, as the school population became increasingly made up of black and poor students.
Former St. Petersburg police Chief Goliath Davis said that issues concerning academic achievement have been raised by parents and black leaders within those communities for years, writes Cara Fitzpatrick for The Tampa Bay Times.
“Every point that you brought up in that article, none of them should have been news to them,” Davis said. “There’s nothing in that article that they don’t know about or haven’t heard anything about.”
Pinellas County Schools Superintendent Mike Grego noted the issue, saying the school board has made it their number one priority to fix the trroubled schools. At the same time, Grego announced a plan that will create magnet programs at three of the five failing schools that would make additional resources and facility upgrades available. The plan hopes to bring a racial balance, which as of last year held a population upwards of 86% black students.
Grego called it a “needed step” in order to shed light on the poor academic achievement at the schools. “We’re dealing with trying to undo and re-engineer some of the decisions that have been made,” he said.
The details of the program have yet to be decided upon. Grego said it could take as long as three years to launch.