Education inequality is focus of documentary "Teach Us All"

"Teach Us All" documentary

Sixty years ago today, nine black students entered an all-white high school in Little Rock, Arkansas. The new movie "Teach Us All" honors the "Little Rock Nine" and explores how the United States is still plagued by educational inequality six decades later.

The U.S., the film states, is one of the few countries in the world that "systematically and deliberately spends less money to educate poor children than affluent children."

The film is by Sonia Lowman, whose directorial debut caught the eye and production backing of Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Ava DuVernay.

Duvernay likens "Teach Us All" to her critically-acclaimed documentary "13th," which highlights the racial inequities of mass incarceration. "It's not true that education is equal in this country, because there's still very intense segregation happening in all kinds of forms all over this country," DuVernay told CBS News correspondent Bianna Golodryga.

"And so what I loved about her film and what she did is — I think it spoke to my film, '13th,' in a way — in that we're trying to deconstruct the truths that are supposed to be evident, are actually falsehoods, are actually kind of veils pulled over an ugliness that America hasn't dealt with."

"Teach Us All" explores hyper-segregated schools around the country where at least 75 percent of students are the same race.

The film shines a light on how children living in poverty continue to suffer.

"What you see in these segregated schools is they tend to get far fewer resources and, very importantly, less experienced teachers," Lowman said.

"Aside from parents, everyone knows that the teachers are the most influential people in the child's life, in their development," said Golodryga. "Why do you think this country isn't doing more to promote good teachers and give them better raises?"

"I think that if we were really serious about social progress in this country, teachers would be paid like lawyers and doctors," Lowman replied. "And we would be not just sort of paying lip service to teachers. We're really seeing a widespread disenfranchisement."

One teacher in the film recounts how a poor student could not afford to buy a book at a book fair: "You just want to cry. So you dig in your wallet and you give them $10 because you want them to have a book."

Is education disparity more of a racial issue or one of income inequality? Or both?

"Definitely they go hand in hand," DuVernay said. "Class in this country has been conflated with race. With Brown v. the Board of Education, race is protected. [But] it's a loophole. Race is protected but class was never protected. You know that black people and brown people are poor in this country — you say that race doesn't matter, but you know they're still poor so you don't have to serve that part of it.

"You think it's a given that a kid should go to school and get an education, wherever they live."

So, Golodryga asked, "what's the solution?"

Lawson suggested, "I think just sort of that idea that, you know, a lot of people said, 'Oh, we're not racist.' And now, we're at a point where it's not enough to say 'I'm not a racist'; you have to actually say 'I'm anti-racism.' And you need to take that stance.

"For me, it's always going to come back to the students, and that's the connection with the Little Rock Nine, who were teenagers when they took their stand, and they showed such unbelievable courage."

"Teach Us All" is now available on Netflix.