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Children of Color Falling Even Further Behind in Texas

by: Katie Singh

Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 02:00 PM CDT

Texas is home to nearly 7 million children, and the majority of those are children of color. A new report released this week by the Annie E. Casey foundation suggests that many of these children are still lacking opportunities to thrive.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation used a series of 12 indicators, such as school enrollment and graduation rates, "to compare how children are progressing across racial and ethnic groups at the national and state level". The report found that the more than 3 million Latino children and the over 800,000 African-American children who live in Texas are falling even further behind.

Disparities that begin in childhood often persist into adulthood, leading to a cycle of poverty. This new report is a reminder of the millions of children of color who are facing a difficult future unless the people of Texas come together to provide better opportunities for these children to have an equal chance in life.

Read about how bad the disparity has become after the jump.

One clear and troubling indicator in the report is the disparity between children of color and others when the study's 12 indicators were aggregated:

Using a scale of one to 1,000 (from worst to best), Texas' Latino children, who scored 376, and African-American, with a score of 386, are doing distressingly worse than other children, a pattern that holds true in nearly every state. Asian and Pacific Islander children in Texas have the highest index score at 824, followed by white children at 710 and American-Indian at 631.

The gap between children of color and others begins at birth. According to the report, more black babies are born with a low birth weight than white ones--92% of white babies are born at normal birth weight in Texas, while only 86% of black babies are.

These gaps continue as children grow. By fourth grade, the disparity is large and significant. When it comes to the number of Texas fourth-graders who score at or above proficient in reading, children of Asian and Pacific Islander descent ranked highest, at 66%. Next came white children, at 46%. African-American and Latino children ranked the lowest. Only 18% of African-American children and 17% of Latino children in the fourth grade are able to read at or above their grade level. The Texas public school system is failing these children, and something must be done about it.

In a press statement about the Casey Foundation's report, Ann Beeson, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities said, "This index is a wake-up call for Texas and our responsibility to the next generation...When a sizeable group of Texas kids, particularly kids of color, are facing serious barriers to success, there is a clear call for both public and private action to create equitable opportunities for all kids."

The report provided some important policy recommendations to help alleviate the disparity between children of different backgrounds and help all children get ahead:

- Gather and analyze child wellbeing data by race and ethnicity to inform polices and decision making;
- Utilize data and impact assessment tools to target investments to yield the greatest impact for children of color;
- Develop and implement promising and proven programs and practices focused on improving outcomes for children and youth of color; and
- Integrate strategies that explicitly connect vulnerable groups to new jobs and opportunities in economic and workforce development.

Investing in public education is not only the morally right choice, but also a fiscally sound one. For example, the Department of Health and Human Services has reported that "a public dollar spent on high quality early childhood education can return $7 through increased productivity and savings on public assistance and criminal justice programs."

For the sake of the future of Texas children and the state as a whole, it's vital that we work harder to create opportunities for those who most need it, so that all Texas children can have the chance to live up to their full potential.

Copyright Burnt Orange Report, all rights reserved.
Do not republish without express written permission.

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