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Learning for Equity Network (LENS-NC) expands to 20 organizations across North Carolina


Organizations selected to address the intersection between race, educational equity, and learning differences

Learning for Equity: A Network for Solutions – North Carolina (LENS-NC) is an action and learning network of diverse organizations from across North Carolina facilitated by MDC and supported by Oak Foundation. Participating organizations receive grants to advance their work to reduce race and income disparities in educational outcomes among students with learning differences, and to create learning environments where marginalized students with learning differences thrive.

In 2020, Oak committed over $1.4 million to an 18-month initiative, starting with nine organizations. Members of the network began by sharing new and promising ways to ensure that children with learning differences receive the supports they need, and to address the unique challenges posed during the Covid-19 crisis.
With the success of the initiative, the network is continuing its work and has expanded to 20 organizations.

“Participation in LENS-NC has significantly improved our work”, shared Reighlah Collins, an attorney with Disability Rights North Carolina. “The network has expanded our capacity to focus not just on disability, but also the intersection of disability, race, poverty, and educational inequity.”

Network members are exploring ways to create positive changes in the outcomes for students with learning differences who are affected by educational inequities due to racism and/or poverty. The network provides opportunities for organizations to learn together, learn from one another, address common challenges, and explore opportunities to amplify effective strategies for change at the classroom, school, community, district, and state levels.

Children with learning differences are three times as likely to drop out of high school, twice as likely to be jobless, and twice as likely to receive out-of-school suspensions. These numbers are even worse when the students with learning differences are low-income students and/or students of color. Researchers and advocates argue that disability status for these students has become a tool to perpetuate racial segregation, especially in the South. Organizations in the LENS-NC network are looking to create strategies to divert these children from the school-to-prison-to-deportation pipeline and create spaces for them to find success.

Network activities include convenings and webinars, network mapping, creating and executing learning plans, engaging in peer learning activities, inter-organization collaboration, and community engagement.

“LENS-NC is creating broader educational equity and access for individuals regardless of where they are, where they live, and what they look like” said MDC President, John Simpkins.

The 20 members of LENS-NC are: Association of Mexicans in North Carolina (AMEXCAN), Boys and Girls Club of the Coastal Plain, Center for Racial Equity in Education (CREED), Education Justice Alliance (EJA), El Futuro, Empowered Parents in Community (EPiC), Exceptional Children’s Assistance Center (ECAC), Disability Rights North Carolina (DRNC), Family Support Network/HOPE, Hispanic Liaison of Chatham County, Immersion for Spanish Language Acquisition (ISLA), Men and Women United for Youth and Families, North Carolina Justice Center – Every Child NC Coalition, North Carolina State Board of Education, Operation Xcel, Profound Ladies, Public School Forum of North Carolina – Dudley Flood Center for Educational Equity and Opportunity, Rise and Shine, Rural Opportunity Institute (ROI), and Student U.