Stark Inequality in Schools Demands Attention


In a piece for CNN, Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights at the Department of Education, responds to recent data showing that African-American and Latino students receive fewer school resources and are consistently overrepresented in cases of discipline, including expulsion and in-school arrests. When it comes to educational inequality, she says, it's time for some honest, and sometimes uncomfortable, self-reflection:

If a society based on the ideal of fundamental equality is to fulfill its promise, it cannot afford to look away when confronted with stark inequity. Last week, the Department of Education released a trove of data from Part II of the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), a self-reported survey of more than 72,000 schools that serve 85 percent of the nation’s students.

The findings demand our attention.          

This survey quantified how school resources are distributed in schools and districts; whether in teacher salaries, the assignment of experienced teachers, or access to college and career preparatory coursework like algebra, calculus or gifted and talented programs. And it showed that African-American and Latino students routinely receive less.


These disparities stand out even more when contrasted with the one area where African-American and Latino students are consistently overrepresented — discipline, including the rates of suspension, expulsion, and in-school arrests.

In particular, the CRDC data show:

—Teachers in elementary schools serving the most Hispanic and African-American students are paid, on average, $2250 less per year than their colleagues in the same district teaching at schools serving the fewest Hispanic and African-American students.

—African-American students represent 16 percent of sixth through eighth graders, but 42 percent of students in those grades held back a year.

—Across all districts surveyed, African American students are over three and a half times more likely to be suspended or expelled than their white peers.  And over 70 percent of students involved in school-related arrests or referred to law enforcement are Hispanic or African-American.


Read Russlynn Ali's entire piece at CNN.

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