Dr. K. Jurée Capers, an Associate Professor in the Department of Public Management and Policy at Georgia State University is investigating the connection between social and racial equity in the world of politics. Through approaching this overlap with the lens of racial equity Capers examines impact in historically marginalized populations with a focus on education.
“I come from a family of educators, and I also grew up in a rural area [of South Carolina] where the quality of education differs significantly from what you experience in a more urban and suburban areas,” she said.
When the education systems that are available to students are different in quality, this drastically alters the students’ competitiveness prior to setting foot in the wider world and job market. She became aware of how to impact the problem from living in it.
“I saw this issue in an early 2000’s court case where advocacy groups such as the NAACP sued South Carolina because it was providing such a low quality of education to schools along the I-95 corridor,” she said.
It was then that Dr. Capers realized that political actors, not local education staff or people directly involved in the education system at the local level, affected education quality and equity Political actors drive the education requirements in the states. The whole system was set up to fail on the macro level because of the political process and policies already in place, Dr. Capers explained.
“My research focuses on how to identify which policies are harmful and which policies are helpful, and how to change or reform policies when they are harmful.”
As Dr. Capers continued her research and scholarship in policy, she saw the importance of being able to see education in real-time being practiced. — not only in equitable funding, but also in resources and staff to reflect the demographics of the students, including in race, gender, orientation, disability, to serve students well.
“When you are a student, it makes a difference seeing someone who looks like you, and it makes students more comfortable with being vulnerable, engaging with authority, and they’re more likely to try harder and perform better. Same race teachers often serve as role models that inspire students,” she said.
These issues impact more than just education. They are also very present policy issues showing up in different areas such as health, criminal justice, social mobility and the social safety net. Enacting a change in policy requires evaluation research and scholarship to determine what would have the biggest impact, for education and in other aspects of society, Dr. Capers said. Some cities have begun this work, working with the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) to advance racial equity in all aspects of government from hiring to operational plans and legislative decision-making.
As Dr. Capers continues her research she plans to use these observed differences in disparities to support closer equity for underserved communities in education and beyond.
—Luke Lew, Graduate Administrative Assistant, Office of the Provost