Pennsylvania gives students of color some of the worst educational opportunities in the United States. Pennsylvania is ranked the 47th worst state when it comes to the opportunity gap between black and white students, ranking similarly between Hispanic and white students, according to a finding by Research for Action.
Educational equality for students of color has always been an upwards battle and has more ground to cover. WHYY, a Philadelphia based radio station, states that, “Students of color in Pennsylvania are far less likely than their white peers to have access to small classes, certified teachers and advanced coursework.”
The American Psychological Association also reports that black students are 54% less likely to be recommended for gifted programs than white students. This is not an observation of the intelligence of black students, but instead an observation of the lack of resources provided for them.
Similar trends can be found in the treatment of Hispanic students in a K-12 environment.
This gap in opportunity also coincides with students living in poverty, who are often non-white. A study revealed that Pennsylvania has six of the 50 most segregated community borders in the country; this means that white, middle-class students receive a better education than a non-white impoverished district just miles away.
Philadelphia and its surrounding border counties are one example of educational inequity. 36% of children in Philadelphia experience poverty, the majority of which are non-white. In the 13 bordering counties, childhood poverty rates are on average 30% less than in the city. This, disappointingly, is not the most extreme case of segregated communities in Pennsylvania.
Advocacy groups are naming this phenomenon an example of systematic racism. Northern states like Pennsylvania, and cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, were flooded by runaway and newly-freed slaves in the 1800s, creating impoverished black communities. Racism and systematic bias has fought to maintain these communities, and it shows in the way that children are educated.
Solutions to this issue require state funding. In 2013, the state spent $45 million on guidance counselors for Philadelphia schools. However, funding increases need to be consistent and given without limited purpose to continue to fix this disparity. Eerie school districts experience similar financial segregation to that of Philadelphia, and Eerie superintendent Jay Badams has seen the way it affects students.
“If people who are actually making policy don’t want to listen to it, I guess that’s certainly their prerogative . . . But I think people in the public, they’ll take note. And then, it’s up to them — and those of us who are aware of this, and realize that it needs to be corrected — to do something about it,” said Badams.
A subpar high school education creates children who may struggle in the workforce and in higher education. West Chester University is a living example of this. Though WCU is in close proximity to Philadelphia and communities with high populations of non-white students, demographics show that an overwhelming 78% of WCU students are white.
Pennsylvania is failing its children. Educational inequality affects everyone, but most frequently it targets impoverished students of color. Children are a symbol of the future and Pennsylvania’s seems to be riddled with racism and classism. The angry voices of an old and disenfranchised education system cannot be silenced forever; all students will be equal.
Caroline Helms is a first-year student majoring in English. CH923621@wcupa.edu