School district data from here shows the racial divide (from the last available data in 2017). WSSD and its’ neighboring districts combined are 69% white and 18% black. WSSD itself is 74% white and 8% black while the adjacent Chester-Upland district is less than 2% white and almost 89% black. Of the almost 24,000 students in the region, almost 2/3 of black students are in Chester-Upland even though its only 13% of the total student population. Spending per student in this region ranges from a high of $6,682 in Ridley (WSSD is $6,525) to $3,917 in Penn-DelCo. Chester-Upland spends $4,541 per student, but a much higher percentage of it is non-personnel expenses. Teacher ratios vary from 13 in WSSD and Rose Tree Media to 15 in Springfield, Penn-DelCo and Chester.
The demographic data for enrollments, gifted students and suspensions in WSSD and RTM from 2017 is also available. Both districts have few black students in their gifted programs (in RTM there isn’t even a wedge for it, its so small). While discipline in RTM is in line with enrollment numbers, in WSSD black students made up 40% of suspensions even though they were only 7.7% of the student population. The equity audit coming up soon will hopefully provide a new source of data for the district.
Taxation also remains an unfair burden. Millage (property tax) rates in Chester City were about 9.4 mills while Nether Providence was about 3.1 in 2021. The tax rate in Chester, which is in receivership, is triple Nether Providence’s and Chester residents pay a 3.75% income tax on top of that (Nether Providence has no income tax). Life expectancy in Swarthmore in 2018 was 81.6 (it was 81.5 in Nether Providence). In Chester, its 70.9 years, over ten years shorter. Using 2015 numbers, 52% of the population in Delaware County’s jails were black even though only 20% of the county’s population is.
These are only a few of the many numbers demonstrating that MLK’s legacy is not something resolved in the past, but a continuing call to action. Many of those quoting him today are unwilling to consider the radical actions MLK called for in his time. His memory has increasingly been made safe with quotes cherrypicked from speeches that remain as relevant and radical as they were in his time. Thanks to the internet, however, the full text of many of his speeches are readily available. This is among my favorites from his Letter From a Birmingham Jail,
More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.
Time itself has become a force of stagnation as opponents of progress grind any effort to improve America to a halt. Not only are we faced with a lack of progress in our institutions, but the threat of losing what progress we have managed to make toward a more perfect union. As the numbers demonstrate, we remain a long way from that more perfect union.