Education is often seen as an equalizer, providing opportunities for youth of all races to make the most of their talents. It’s therefore deeply concerning that the second-greatest area of disparity is the realm of education. Many small and mid-sized counties, especially those in the Central Valley, struggle with low-performance and highly disparate outcomes, reflecting the challenges these often under-resourced districts confront, including the difficulty of recruiting a sufficient number of qualified teachers and staff. Most mid-sized and larger counties have high levels of disparity in third-grade math achievement. School discipline and suspensions see high levels of disparity within this issue area, often driven by excessively high suspension rates for Black, Native American, and Pacific Islander students.
Since the beginning of our nation, education has been used as a tool to suppress Blacks from voting, achieving social mobility and access to basic human rights and resources. After Brown V. Board of Education, federal courts desegregated local school districts with hopes of ending racial discrimination in schools. Decades later, students of color attend de facto segregated schools that are under-resourced and over-policed.
Advocates throughout the state are pushing for access to high quality resources, curriculum, facilities and well-trained teachers for all students. Eliminating educational disparities will require progress on issues like school discipline via the implementation on restorative justice practices, for example, making schools safe and welcoming for all students. Another way to eliminate disparities in education is by providing school districts with adequate funding, and adopting equity-based funding approaches that direct extra support to the school sites with the greatest numbers of high-need students.
Individuals with high school degrees are more likely be employed, earn higher incomes, and avoid entering the criminal justice system.