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Tackling Racial Inequities Head On in Michigan

Research shows racial disparities exist in Michigan in reading proficiency, school discipline, and graduation rates. (U.S. Dept. of Education)
Research shows racial disparities exist in Michigan in reading proficiency, school discipline, and graduation rates. (U.S. Dept. of Education)
October 11, 2016

LANSING, Mich. – As hundreds of Michiganders gathered at a forum Monday to discuss poverty and racial inequity, a new report examines persistent racial disparities in educational opportunities for Michigan kids.

The forum was sponsored by the Michigan League for Public Policy, which also released the report.

League President and CEO Gilda Jacobs said the research indicates racial disparities exist in nearly every area of public policy, including reading proficiency, school discipline, college attainment, student debt, incarceration rates, employment and income.

She said the forum allowed for an honest discussion among residents and experts about the need for statewide, systemic policy change.

"The kids who are being educated in our schools are the workers of tomorrow, they're the parents of tomorrow, and it's really important that we and address these disparities head on because we really need this not only for these people but also the economic state of Michigan," Jacobs said.

The report found that in Michigan, African-American students are twice as likely to be economically disadvantaged than white students; teachers in public schools are less diverse than the student body; and with the exception of Asian students, fewer children of color are completing high school on time compared with their white peers.

Jacobs said a child's future success hinges on access to a high-quality education from cradle to career. She said a two-generation approach is needed to strengthen families and create greater economic and educational opportunities.

"We want to be sure that at the same time that we're helping kids become literate and do better in school that we're also helping their parents as well," she added. "Having jobs that can help them support their families, having better access to health care - all those are related to how well kids are going to do in school."

The report also recommends the state's At-Risk School Aid program be fully funded, and calls for greater investments in high-poverty schools, high-quality child-care services, early intervention and programs to address young children's social and emotional growth and development.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI