Our education system is only providing opportunities for success to a portion of our children. Healthcare is largely unaffordable and inaccessible. Corporations have more rights than the people employed there and getting fair pay and personal leave is a luxury afforded only to the most elite. And our financial systems reinforce the inequities of all these other systems, pushing low and middle-income individuals into debt and eviscerating their opportunity to build wealth across generations.
Despite all that, the system is not failing – there are a lot of Americans that have received a high-quality public education that prepared them for post-secondary opportunities and rewarding, sustainable careers. Over the decades, Schott Foundation has studied population level demographics and the local, state and federal systems impacting individuals, and we can point to a specific set of supports that when accessible make the difference between academic, health and economic success and barriers.
The Loving Cities Index is a tool we developed to measure how accessible these cross-sector supports are for children in a given city. If a city scores 100% on the Loving Cities Index, it means that all children in the city, regardless of race, have access to the 24 measurable supports that have a proven connection to success. We launched the tool with an initial ten cities, and the highest score was 52% -- meaning that only about half the children have access to the supports needed to have an opportunity to learn and thrive. Some of the cities measured only offered about a third of the level of supports needed.
So how can we expect to see graduation and post-secondary attainment rates go up when we aren't providing our children with the range of supports that we know are needed for them to succeed?
We can create a system where every city and town provides all children with the opportunity to learn. But it will require fundamental changes to our local, state and national systems, both private and public. To accomplish such broad system changes, we must shift the political powers and dynamics that prioritize profits over children. We can’t just say we love all children and their lives matter, we have to establish policies, practices and a shared culture of showing all children that we love them and want to see them succeed. We do this by providing care for all children, by creating stability, by making a commitment to each students’ individual success, and by investing in the resources and supports that they need to thrive.
Allison Brown leads the Loving Cities Index research, development and communications for the Schott Foundation. As a social sector strategy consultant, Allison has worked with dozens of nonprofit and foundation leaders to provide research, facilitation support and coaching to executive teams and boards. She has conducted extensive research on community systems to deliver healthcare, education, after-school programming, housing, and child advocacy, and helps leaders chart a path to sustainable, equitable impact.