Originally published in Sincerely, Gen Z
As I stepped inside the classroom for the first time, I remembered the abundance of resources and opportunities that awaited me at the start of my education. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case for many students of color across America.
In middle school, I started to realize the drastic differences in opportunities that were affected by race, and even the rigor of the courses at each school. And that was only the tip of the iceberg. Educational inequity is a huge problem in America, where it continues to plague communities with disproportionate funding and resources.
Racial inequity in education has a lot to do with economic factors. Oftentimes, where you live determines the quality of education you receive. The opportunities and obstacles you face are drastically different from the top of the economic hierarchy to the bottom.
College is one of the main ways to move up the social class, especially from lower class to middle class. But having fewer opportunities and a low-quality education creates roadblocks to a more stable future.
A large portion of social mobility statistics are linked to race.
VOX journalist Dylan Matthews states, “Black Americans experience dramatically lower upward mobility than white Americans do.”
“School districts where the majority of students enrolled are students of color receive $23 billion less in education funding than predominantly white school districts,” reports Lauren Camera of U.S. News and World Report in a Feb. 26, 2019 article. This inequity in funding hinders the ability for people of color to have a quality education and therefore, becomes a huge barrier to escaping their social class. This is one of the many red flags on how our money is distributed in the field of education.
My county of Rockdale, for example, has schools that are a few miles apart, and by transferring schools more than five times throughout middle school and high school, I saw the differences in educational access, such as the lack of advanced courses and access to more educational, and even athletic opportunities. It’s blatantly seen where all the funding is distributed, with more troubled students being removed from the “regular” school system and put in alternative schools where they have a less chance to thrive. As a previous student at an alternative school, the lack of funding at these schools fosters the idea of more inequity. Not only does this create a culture where there is less motivation and outlets for teens to redirect their educational career, but it perpetuates the lack of academic success.
In my district, there is a clear divide between the rigor of the curriculum and the racial statistics between the schools. In impoverished areas, educational quality is drastically lower than their counterparts. As a result, many people of color from impoverished communities must work harder to escape the lower class of our capitalistic government.
And while wealth plays a role in educational outcomes, it’s hard to ignore the disparities in two Georgia counties:
- Forsyth County Racial Demographic - 85.4% white, 6.2% Asian, 2.6% black or African American, 0.3% American Indian, 3.8% from other races, and 1.6% from two or more races
- Educational Ranking - Forsyth Central High School is ranked #1,821 in the National Rankings
- Dougherty County Racial Demographic - 60.13% Black or African American, 37.80% White, 0.23% Native American, 0.57% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.49% from other races, and 0.74% from two or more races
- Educational Ranking - Dougherty Comprehensive High School is ranked #13,037 in the National Rankings
*According to the statistics shown above, the correlation between the educational rankings of a high school in each county and the racial demographic in each county is not just a coincidence. In Forsyth County, one of the largest white populated counties in Georgia, they have one of the highest high school rankings in the nation. On the other hand, Dougherty County, one of the largest black populated counties in Georgia, has one of the lowest high school rankings in the nation.
A college education is one of the most prominent ways to rise up in social mobility, breaking the cycle of poverty within your households, but many people of color in poverty-stricken areas find it difficult to pay the thousands of dollars of tuition.
Our capitalist economy has a huge role in why education is so expensive. With the public education system already plagued by inequity, college is no different. The cost of college makes it nearly impossible for lower-income people to receive higher education. In a capitalist economic system, it is fairly easy to price goods and services at whatever price the owners wish. But corporate greed allows for these prices to be inflated to the point where often only the wealthy can obtain. This serves to make essential services such as higher education less affordable for low-income families causing some students to take on massive student loan debt. On the other hand, because of financial aid and scholarships, higher education is obtainable for some low-income families.
Oftentimes, we view the inequity of education through a single lens that traces the cause of inequity to racism, but education is a far more complex issue. Education is affected by so many other variables, and we have to view the inequality of education from all angles. Education is a bigger issue for all of us as a country. For the majority, education is a fundamental pillar for a more successful future, and for everyone to have equal opportunities, we all have to do our part in understanding the disparities of education in this country and find solutions to educational justice. As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” In our country of unity, we share our knowledge, and when others don’t have the same opportunities as the more fortunate, it is our duty to bring those situations to light and fight for them.
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