Students of color are disproportionately impacted by what is known as the “school-to-prison pipeline.” Due to gross structural inequities in the U.S. public school system - including inadequate education resources, harsh disciplinary policies and policing of under-resourced schools - a high percentage of marginalized youth are put on a pathway out of the classroom and into the criminal justice system.
The pipeline is directly connected to the distinct from the “achievement gap” which is a common term in education that refers to the difference in achievement measures between two demographic student groups. Usually, this refers to the difference between white students and students of color. While the achievement gap tends to unfairly place fault on the student, the opportunity gap focuses on the gap in access to equitable education, or in the opportunity to succeed in American education. The opportunity gap exists because students from marginalized communities, including African American students, have only a 51% opportunity to learn in comparison with their white peers (Schott Foundation’s Opportunity to Learn Index).
Department of Education Reports
A study done by the Department of Education that analyzed racial inequity in schools during the 2011-12 school year produced the following findings:
- Black students accounted for 18 percent of the country’s pre-K enrollment, but made up 48 percent of preschoolers with multiple out-of-school suspensions.
- Black students were expelled at three times the rate of white students.
- American Indian and Native-Alaskan students represented less than 1 percent of students, but 3 percent of expulsions.
- Black girls were suspended at higher rates than all other girls and most boys.
- American Indian and Native-Alaskan girls were suspended at higher rates than white boys or girls.
- With the exception of Latino and Asian Pacific Islanders, nearly one in four boys of color, with disabilities received an out-of-school suspension.
- One in five girls of color with disabilities received an out-of-school suspension.
- A quarter of the schools with the highest percentage of black and Latino students did not offer Algebra II.
- A third of the same schools did not offer chemistry.
- Less than half of American Indian and Native-Alaskan high school students had access to the full range of math and science courses, which consists of Algebra I, Algebra II, geometry, calculus, biology, chemistry and physics.
- Black and Latino students accounted for 40 percent of enrollment at schools with gifted programs, but only represented 26 percent of students in such programs.
- Black, Latino and Native American students attended schools with higher concentrations of first-year teachers (3 to 4 percent) than white students (1 percent).
- Black students were more than three times as likely to attend schools where fewer than 60 percent of teachers meet all state certification and licensure requirements.
- Latino students were twice as likely to attend such schools.
Resulting Voting Patterns
Dropout rates are much higher with minority students than with white students, and much higher among low income families than middle to higher income families.
In 30 years of data, there is no year in which low-income voter turnout is higher than high-income voter turnout.
Furthermore, low-income and minority community members are often less likely to vote because they’ve been marginalized by the system from the beginning.