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Julius Falk

In Mississippi: $57 for White Students
but $7 for Negroes

(24 February 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 8, 24 February 1947, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The unenviable position of America’s teachers is beginning to emerge from obscurity. Front page articles reporting teacher conditions and teacher demands are common today. Their problems have aroused nationwide interest in the status of American education. They have been awakened not merely to the new problems created by the teacher shortage but to the aggravated traditional problems of our school system: inadequate school budgets, lack of health programs, unequal educational facilities ... Taking cognizance of this public interest in education, a number of feature writers have been assigned series of articles on the social and economic status of the teaching profession and on education in general.

Insofar as many of these newspaper studies are objective and factual they are useful. But the objectivity of capitalist journalism obviously has its limits. The most shocking condition in our school system is permitted to pass without serious reporting or editorial comment. That condition is – discrimination of students because of color or creed.

Educational discrimination is still typical ot the South and is becoming more and more of a problem in the North. Religious and racial minorities above the Mason and Dixon line are finding discrimination, condoned by local and state authorities, an ever increasing obstacle in their path. The failure of the New York State legislature to provide a bias-free state university is just one of the many cases in point.

However, it is still in the South that unequal educational opportunities are most shocking. There young Negroes are forced by state segregation laws to attend separate schools which are for the most part broken down and unsafe, staffed with inferior teachers and without proper equipment.

In The New York Times of Feb. 18, Benjamin Fine, that paper’s education director, devotes his ninth in a series of ten articles to the differences between state expenditures for education. He correctly points out that Mississippi spends only $25 on an average for each child as compared with five times that sum spent in New York. All of which is true and important. But why doesn’t Mr. Fine point out that the $25 spent in Mississippi is only an average? Actually it is $57 spent for white pupil and only $7 for Negro pupil. Is the omission of this fact a mere accident, or is it the typical method which capitalist journalists use to cover up the rotten society.

This intra-state racial discrimination has even more significance than the inter-state school budget differential. The source material for Fine’s figures and those offered here were the same: a nationwide 1940 census. Yet the more innocuous figure is used by Fine and thereby the damning fact is evaded. Nor does he indicate that the same census concealed that only 32 per cent of the amount spent for the education of white pupils was allocated by the authorities for Negroes in nine southern states during 1939 and 1940. Nor does he show that racial discrimination among southern teachers parallels the fate suffered by Negro students in the South. In 17 southern states Negro teachers, working under infinitely more difficult conditions, received only half the pay of white teachers.

Is it any wonder that only two out of five Negroes, trapped between economic poverty and unequal state allowances for schools and teachers, have been able to pass the fourth grade in school? Another fact conveniently forgotten by Mr. Fine in an article which discusses the educational levels of the American people! The facts are there; but Mr. Fine is interested only in some of them. We intend to publicize all of them.

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