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Some MO Children Face "Color Barriers" To Success

PHOTO: Missouri must work harder as a state to ensure equal opportunity for all children, says a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Education
PHOTO: Missouri must work harder as a state to ensure equal opportunity for all children, says a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Education
April 2, 2014

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - If all Missouri children deserve a chance to succeed, the state has some work ahead to ensure them equal opportunity. That's the finding of a new study from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which looks at how children are doing on key milestones based on their race or ethnic group.

While Missouri's American Indian, Latino, and Asian and Pacific Islander kids scored above the national average, the report finds that African-American children lag far behind. It's the result of other key decisions, said Laura Speer, an associate director with the Casey Foundation.

"There's an unfortunate legacy of discrimination in our country that plays itself out in investments happening in communities," she said, "and how those decisions are being made about where investments are targeted, and the amount of money that goes into schools in particular communities."

The report examines benchmarks such as reading development, high school graduation rates and neighborhood resources, and suggests that increasing investments in urban areas can help turn some of the lower scores around.

In just four years, Speer said, children of color will represent the majority of children in the United States - which creates urgency to address inequalities.

"We think it's a really critical time for the country to focus on improving outcomes for these kids," she said, "since they really are going to be the future success of the country."

The report points to a growing diversity in Missouri's population, and experts say it will be all the more critical in coming years for the state to develop comprehensive policies that benefit all racial and ethnic groups.

The report, "Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children," is available online at aecf.org.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MO