Opportunity for All Kids Means Going Beyond McCleary
Part two in a series on our new policy brief, A Paramount Duty: Funding Education for McCleary and Beyond. Fully funding basic education, as prescribed by the State Supreme Court in the McCleary decision, is a good start but won’t be enough. Schools must ensure all kids can succeed by addressing inequalities experienced by children of color and those from low-income families.
As Washington state becomes increasingly diverse, it is crucial that we close this “opportunity gap” and ensure a better education for all children by investing in early learning, protecting programs that promote physical and mental health, and making sure that all kids have access to affordable higher education.
The impacts of the opportunity gap are troubling;
- The gap starts early. Disparities in cognitive, social and behavioral skills and overall health are evident before a child turns one, and grow larger by age two.
- The gap is pervasive. Children of color or from low income families lag behind their more economically secure peers on everything from education outcomes, neighborhood safety, and health issues, and are more likely to enter the child welfare system.
- The gap impacts educational attainment. Nearly eight of every 10 students (75 percent) graduate overall, but students of color and those from low- income families are less likely to graduate on-time (within four years of entering ninth grade) compared to their white and higher-income peers.
- The gap hurts our economy. Gaps in college enrollment by race and ethnicity, means lower aggregate earnings for our state economy and restricted economic growth. Eliminating the achievement gap for the current working population of Blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans would have given them an estimated $240 million in additional earnings in 2011 alone.
Children of color make up a growing part of Washington state’s population, representing nearly 40 percent of children (see graph below). Failure to provide them equal opportunity to succeed in school not only sets them back personally, but is a long-term threat to Washington state’s economy, since these children will go on to make up a major share of the workforce.
The McCleary decision presents an opportunity to start erasing the inequalities children of color and those from low-income families face. In order to expand prosperity and reduce our opportunity gap, lawmakers should make early learning part of the state’s requirement for basic education, invest in services such as family work supports and mental health that improve children’s lives, and reverse cuts in higher education.
To learn more about how we can expand opportunity through strengthening education, check out our policy brief, A Paramount Duty: Funding Education for McCleary and Beyond.
You can also listen to our community webinar: “I Can See McCleary Now,” or our latest podcast, which addresses the court decision, below.