New federal report: Racial disparities still exist in education – The Times

WASHINGTON — Sixty years after the Supreme Court declared that the right to a good education “must be made available to all on equal terms, the United States still has a long way to go toward achieving that mandate, says a new Department of Education report.

Even in pre-school, the new report Friday by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, says black students are much more likely to be suspended.

The report, issued Friday said black students represent 18 percent of preschool enrollment, but 42 percent of students suspended once, and 48 percent of students suspended more than once.

The report said 81 percent of Asian-American high school students and 71 percent of white high school students attend high school with a full range of math and science courses. But only 57 percent of black students and 67 percent of Latino students have access to such a variety of math and science courses.

This is the first time since 2000 that the Department has compiled data from all 97,000 of the nation’s public schools and its 16,500 school districts — representing 49 million students. And for the first time ever, state-, district- and school-level information is accessible to the public in a searchable online database at

“This data collection shines a clear, unbiased light on places that are delivering on the promise of an equal education for every child and places where the largest gaps remain. In all, it is clear that the United States has a great distance to go to meet our goal of providing opportunities for every student to succeed,”  Education Secretary Arne Duncan said. “As the President’s education budget reflects in every element–from preschool funds to Pell Grants to Title I to special education funds–this administration is committed to ensuring equity of opportunity for all.”

Daniel Losen, director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at UCLA, told the Associated Press that the pre-school suspension data is particularly disturbing because children under five are unlikely to pose the threat that a teen-ager with a gun would.

“Almost none of these kids are kids that wouldn’t be better of with some support from educators,” said Losen. “Just kicking them out of school is denying them access to educational opportunity at such a young age, then, as they come in for kindergarten, they are just that much less prepared.”

Still, some school groups maintain that it is unfair to students, whether young or old, if a few disruptive students make it harder for them to learn and teachers to teach.

At the very least, though, Attorney General Eric Holder said it’s important that education policy makes look carefully at the data and figure out a way to provide equal opportunities.

“This critical report shows that racial disparities in school discipline policies are not only well-documented among older students, but actually begin during preschool,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “Every data point represents a life impacted and a future potentially diverted or derailed. This Administration is moving aggressively to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline in order to ensure that all of our young people have equal educational opportunities.”

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