Teachers and Race: The Cultural Schemas Behind Resource Management

by: Ji Ho (Geo) Yang, PHD Candidate at the University of Washington

My doctoral journey began in the summer of 2020.  This journey includes saying goodbye to my fellow educators, families, and students (hoping to return after my journey) in Illinois and moving to Seattle.  The transition from teaching to research has been amazing and rewarding.  In many ways, this journey has helped me grow as an educator and advocate.  I am excited about returning to teaching and working in schools with what I have learned.  However, the journey has been an immense challenge and the most difficult endeavor I have been on.  For me, the challenge of my doctoral journey lies in working through such a singular and “creative” project via an institutional process, and the difficulty is in managing that project’s life.  In contrast, I experience teaching in schools as creative and institutional but less singular.  This means it isn’t a singular project through a single vision but rather iterative and community-orientated.  I hope my doctoral journey will help my pedagogy and future career to be more authentic and responsive to my school community.  

For this blog post, I would like to share my doctoral research, which focuses on the relationship between school resources and race.  My “research field” (my research interest is everywhere, frankly!) is founded in school finance, which is the expertise of my doctoral advisor.  Learning about school finance has been eye-opening, particularly because my training and teaching experiences have had little work in school finance.  Yet school finance policies have an immense impact on the day-to-day experiences of educators, students, and families.  School finance primarily focuses on quantifiable school resources, which can be monetarily valued or easily bought.  This includes staffing, curriculum, and infrastructural investments.  

What is rare in the field is the qualitative nature of school resources, meaning how educational stakeholders think about resources, how they manage them on a day-to-day basis, and how school resources affect how race and education intertwine.  Not having depth in qualitative understanding of school resources also relates to the critical/racial aspects.  A missing link within school finance is the local nature of school resources (rather than a macro or policy context).  Other academic fields have explored these questions, but those findings are in conversation with other fields like school finance.  

My dissertation focuses on how Black schools in an urban district manage resources by exploring teachers’ perspectives.  One goal of the research is to find out what outcomes teachers desire for their students, the cultural values they bring to their school, and the other values or schemas within their schools.  The research looks at “cultural schemas,” which are taken-for-granted cultural ideals or assumptions regarding race, how those schemas inform how school resources are managed, and how the management of school resources has racial impacts or significance.  Here, school resources are school practices (i.e., complex resources) and organizational structures of the school (i.e., abstract resources).  

One inspiration for the dissertation is how school districts talk a big game in engaging with local stakeholders to inform policy without actually doing so  This applies explicitly to teachers of color. Another inspiration is that school-level resources such as school practices (e.g., pedagogy, discipline) and organizational structures (e.g., leadership, courses) have immense impact and are largely formed and maintained within schools rather than through district policies. School finance has shown us the inequitable nature of resource allocation across states and districts, but addressing it requires sustained political alignment.  The fight for equitable resource allocation must continue and be achieved. However, there are also great inequities in resources happening within schools that can be and must be addressed at the school level (with support at the district/state level).  A better understanding of how teachers manage those complex and abstract resources, particularly with an eye for cultural schemas and the racial meanings or impact of the resources (via how they were managed), could help identify better supports for schools and educators in addressing school-level resource inequities.  The dissertation setting recognizes the ever-present nature of segregation in education, as it recognizes the ever-present nature of racism.  This dissertation aims to unpack how the management of school resources represents racialization (i.e., the process of having or being imparted racial meaning or impact) in schools, which recognizes that racialization (thus education) can be harmful or responsive/positive.  

I am grateful for the opportunity to be on this journey, which has included exploring new pathways within education, learning so much about the politics (i.e., power dynamics) of education, and meeting wonderful people. I hope to return this opportunity to my school community and family; it is a way to contribute and make the communities that I have been privileged to be a part of a bit better.   


Grubb, W. N. (2009). The money myth: School resources, outcomes, and equity. Russell Sage Foundation.

Ray, V. (2019). A theory of racialized organizations. American Sociological Review, 84(1), 26-53.

Knight, D. S. (2019). Are school districts allocating resources equitably? The Every Student Succeeds Act, teacher experience gaps, and equitable resource allocation. Educational Policy, 33(4), 615–649. https://doi.org/10.1177/0895904817719523