NC Grants Focus on Easing Racial Disparities in Early Learning
Monday, August 9, 2021
RALEIGH, N.C. - In some North Carolina counties, high poverty levels mean kids and parents lack access to quality pre-K learning. Some groups are trying to change that by giving parents of color the opportunity to foster change directly in their kids' schools.
Director of the group Empowered Parents in Community, Jovonia Lewis, explained many Black and Brown kids' experiences from birth to age seven can lead to stark academic disparities.
She said even before the pandemic, the number of Black and Latino children in North Carolina who read at grade level fell far below that of white children.
"But with the onset of COVID, we really got to see how fragile our system is," said Lewis. "How underresourced our current education and childcare system is for those who need its services."
Lewis pointed out, that unlike the K-12 system, early childhood education across the nation is decentralized, deregulated, and can be vastly different, depending on location.
Her group has received $300,000 dollars in grant funding over three years from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, as part of an effort to support organizations led by and serving Black, Latino and American Indian communities.
Lewis added that disparities in discipline and "behavior labeling" begin as early as preschool for Black children. She said the funding will help address these types of inequities through policy and anti-racism trainings, and should equip more Black families with the tools to address gaps in the system.
"So, we help to empower parents," said Lewis. "Understand how to navigate the system, but also disrupt the system in places of inequities and disparities in racism, so that they can come together, build power in numbers, to advocate for what their families need."
A Princeton University study in 2019 concluded racial bias contributes to disparities in school discipline. It found Black students in grades K-12 were at least three times more likely to be arrested for incidents on school grounds, or expelled, than white students.
Disclosure: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Community Issues and Volunteering, Early Childhood Education, Health Issues, Hunger/Food/Nutrition. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
References:Grantees Announced: Grassroots Efforts to Promote Equitable Early Childhood Outcomes the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation 2021
E(race)ing Inequities: A New Report on Racial Equity in NC Public Schools the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation 8/12/19
Black Students 'Face Racial Bias' In School Discipline Forbes 5/5/2019
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