Even though students across the nation continue to face daily uncertainties in the wake of the pandemic, cafeteria workers from the largest school system in North Carolina staged a sickout by demanding better pay and improved working conditions.

The staged sickout highlights how essentials workers are no longer taking a back seat to the injustices Black boys as well as themselves endure in public schools.

With more than 40 Title 1 schools serving the Wake County community, who are committed to equitably preparing its students for productive citizenship, college, or careers, it seems that challenges with misguided promises and roadblocks outweighs any hopes of repairing a broken system.

School Choice is the only reasonable solution to remedy the educational divide created by a system that can barely support its current infrastructure. 

Wake County Public School System serves more than 159,000 students at nearly more than 180 schools across the triangle and last month leaders sent notice warning parents that the sickout would impact food services at surrounding schools, strongly encouraging families to send food with the students to school.

Vowing to make every effort to provide food, children were not guaranteed meal service during the strikeout. This message was followed by a subsequent apology for the mere inconvenience but no accountability for failing to provide meal service (flexibilities proposed to all students across the country last May by the U.S. Department of Agriculture). 

According to a 2019 report, 28 percent of students attending seven Wake County Public Schools, lived in low-income households, to add, more than 50,000 of those students qualified for the Free or Reduced Lunch Program (FRLP) equating to living at or below the poverty level.

School choice is a viable option for Black boys and families of color.

Of those seven Wake County Public School System schools, more than 70 percent of students in the 2020-21 school year qualified for FRLP, and all but one is located in the 27610 ZIP code. In each of the seven schools, nearly more than half of the student population is Black and more than 88 percent of those students are children of color.

Of the seven WCPSS schools where more than 70 percent of students in the 2020-21 school year qualify for FRLP, all but one is in the 27610 ZIP code. In each of the seven schools, more than half of the student population is Black and more than 88 percent of the students are children of color.

By contrast, there are six Wake County Public Schools where more than 75 percent of the students are white and are located in affluent Raleigh Suburban neighborhoods.

Stay tuned to more on this data to our Profound Gentlemen stories page.

The data and information is presented by Jamial Black, Elementary Site Coordinator for Avent West Children’s Mentoring. He is a 2022 AAEF Advocacy Fellow dedicated to closing the educational divide.