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On Brown Versus Board Anniversary, Providing Educational Equality for All Students Is an Economic Necessity for the Nation

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May 16, 2011 04:19 pm

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Nearly sixty years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown versus Board of Education that the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place in the field of public education, the promise of an equal education remains unmet for too many of the nation’s students of color and Native students, according to a new brief from the Alliance for Excellent Education. Meeting the promise of Brown by graduating more of these students from high school would lead to dramatic economic growth nationwide, the brief finds.

Brown versus Board of Education was about equity for every child; today’s report shows how Brown also pointed the way to economic success for the entire nation,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “It’s time for the nation to unlock the immense potential in every student and keep the promise that the Supreme Court made nearly sixty years ago. The nation’s students deserve it and our nation’s economy cannot prosper without it.”

Click on the video below to hear African American, Latino, business, and education policy leaders offer perspectives on the Brown versus Board of Education decision and explain how the hope and promise of an equal education remains unmet for far too many of the nation’s students.

The findings, contained in “Education and the Economy: Boosting the Nation’s Economy by Improving High School Graduation Rates Among Students of Color and Native Students,” demonstrate the economic benefits that the nation would likely see by improving the high school graduation rates of students of color and Native students. The brief also includes individualized findings at the state level for African American, Latino, Asian American, and Native American students.

Summary of Key Findings

Nationwide, an estimated 756,000 students of color and Native high school students dropped out from the Class of 2010. Cutting this number in half would yield 378,000 “new graduates,” who would likely have made additional contributions to the nation’s economy by

  • spending $11 billion more on home purchases than what they would likely have spent without a high school diploma;
    supporting 30,000 new jobs and increasing the gross domestic product by as much as $5.4 billion by the time they reached the midpoint of their careers;
  • earning $4.3 billion more in an average year, compared to what they would likely have earned without a high school diploma;
  • boosting state tax revenues by $412 million in an average year; and
  • spending $442 million more in an average year purchasing automobiles than what they would likely have spent without a high school diploma.

If these new graduates had earned a high school diploma, 38 percent of them would likely have continued on to some type of postsecondary education. However, only about 86,500 of them, or about 23 percent of all new graduates, would likely have been expected to complete their studies.

The dollar amounts included in the study’s findings represent the economic returns from cutting the dropout rate for only one high school class. Increasing the graduation rates for future classes would likely create exponentially greater cumulative benefits.

The publication, which was made possible through the generous support of State Farm®, builds on the Alliance’s previous work examining education and the economy and provides clear evidence that the best economic stimulus is a high school diploma.

The brief notes that students of color and Native students are often concentrated in the lowest-performing-high schools in the country. For example, students of color and Native students are six times more likely than their white peers to attend a “dropout factory,” one of the nearly 2,000 high schools that produce half the nation’s high school dropouts.

The need to provide access to the nation’s students of color and Native students is even more vital considering that these students are quickly moving from the minority of the student population to the majority. According to the brief, students of color and Native students already make up more than half the total number of students in twelve states. In ten additional states, students of color and Native students comprise between 40 and 50 percent of the student population.

The economic model used to generate this report was developed by the Alliance for Excellent Education in partnership with Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc.

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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.