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Study: Over 30% of black and Hispanic students in high-poverty schools 

By Melissa B. Taboada – American-Statesman Staff

Posted: 12:02 a.m. Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Hispanic students in Texas are seven times more likely than white students to be enrolled in high-poverty schools, which often have fewer tenured and effective teachers, according to a new report being released Wednesday that examines the well-being of the state’s children.

Black students are over 5 times more likely than whites to be enrolled in those same schools, says the State of Texas Children annual report based on data for the 2014-15 school year. The report is being issued by the Austin-based Center for Public Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank that lobbies for low- to moderate-income Texans.

Studies have long showed that teacher tenure and effectiveness are strong indicators of the quality of education offered in public schools. The report also found that higher percentages of black and Hispanic students attend schools with more rookie teachers than their white peers.

“Looking deep into the data, we found that too many children in Texas today continue to face tremendous barriers to opportunity because of the color of their skin,” said Ann Beeson, executive director for the public policy group.

The study gives a nod to improved high school graduation rates, including among black and Hispanic students, but those students continue to lag behind white students. The report also points to the underrepresentation of black and Hispanic students in rigorous classes, including Advanced Placement courses, and math, science and technology sections.

The Center for Public Policy Priorities called upon Texas lawmakers to expand educational opportunities for students by designating more of the state’s budget for education and increasing funding equity for school districts. Other recommendations include creating partnerships between schools, businesses and workforce development programs and making racial equity a priority so that all students have access to the same courses, particularly in science, technology, engineering and math.

Such calls for improvement also have been made recently in local school districts.

The Texas Civil Rights Project in January 2015 publicly charged that the Austin school district hasn’t addressed the disparity between the resources and opportunities given to affluent students and their low-income peers. The group threatened legal action, including possibly filing a complaint with the U.S. Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights.

The Austin district has taken some initial steps to address the concerns, including agreeing to perform a comprehensive assessment to determine whether the district offers the same quality of education to all its students.

The school board also created last year a standing oversight committee on equity, diversity and inclusion and has moved forward with a self-assessment of school disparities.

New Texas report spotlights racial gaps in child well-being
By Tobi Jackson
Special to the Star-Telegram
April 22, 2016

Those of us who work in education know that poverty is one of the greatest challenges Texas kids of all races face. One in 4 Texas children lives in poverty.

This year’s annual State of Texas Children report from the Center for Public Policy Priorities looks deeper into the data, exploring racial and ethnic gaps in the health, education and financial security of Texas children.

The authors provide recommendations for smart policy choices that can help raise the bar and close gaps in well-being for all kids.

Policymakers can use this report to become more informed about the conditions from which children arrive at school and identify how programs and services could better target the needs presented by each student.

When we look at child poverty through the lens of race and ethnicity, and particularly how each of these interacts with location, we can see that race and place have a pervasive impact on our children.

In Tarrant County, the poverty rate of black and Hispanic children is nearly three times that of Anglo children.

As affluent suburbs have proliferated “outside of the loop,” aging inner-city neighborhoods with abandoned infrastructure have become areas where poverty is concentrated. These are areas where black and Latino children are more likely to live.

Here lie the biggest opportunities to address acute deficits so our children have equitable access to services, thus lessening the classic “opportunity gap.”

As we consider the gaps in food security, access to healthcare, educational attainment and economic security for children of color, we also must remember that policies truly matter.

Historical policies created very real barriers for families, and these are perpetuated by many of our current policies.

We must use the knowledge gained from assessing these profound and unacceptable trends of decline.

One important finding is that many of these damaging trends are accelerated because of the “urban nomad” phenomenon, where many families move every three to four months because of financial and housing instability.

These nomadic children alter the schools they attend, producing exceptionally high “mobility rates” of 35 percent and higher in Fort Worth schools.

This has real effects on our children, who forfeit four to six months of gained knowledge with each move. It results in over-age and under-credited student designations in school.

Too many children in Texas today continue to face tremendous barriers to opportunity because of their ZIP code — an uncomfortable truth we must face in order to create the best Texas for all children.

Still, informed public policies can make Texas kids healthier, better educated and more financially secure, regardless of their gender, address, income, race or ethnicity.

Consistently, Fort Worth children arrive in kindergarten only 50 percent prepared, even though 80 percent have been enrolled in some form of pre-K.

For the coming school year, FWISD has invested in full day pre-K, even though the reimbursement from the state is only 50 cents on the dollar. This upfront investment will improve our students’ opportunities to start school on equitable footing and enjoy success.

There are countless other opportunities for Texas lawmakers to improve the lives of our kids, from creating high-opportunity neighborhoods where all children have a chance to grow and thrive, to considering the potential racial impact of all policy proposals.

It’s not always easy to think about the role race should play in the creation of sound public policy. But with thoughtful approaches, Fort Worth and Tarrant County can pave the way for sustainable economic growth and prosperity.

By improving the lives of all of our children, Texas can capitalize on its greatest strengths: an enterprising spirit, capacity for growth and — perhaps most important — vibrant diversity.

Tobi Jackson, a trustee on the Fort Worth school board, is executive director of Fort Worth SPARC, which advocates for exceptional after-school programs for youth.

Far more Dallas children have health insurance since Obamacare passed, study says

April 13, 2016 Dallas Morning News 

Naomi Martin

The number of children with health insurance has spiked in Dallas County and in much of Texas since 2009, even as child poverty continues to be a major problem, according to a study released Wednesday.

About 1 in 3 children in Dallas County and the state lives in poverty, the Center for Public Policy Priorities has concluded. But about 87 percent of children in Dallas County have some form of health insurance, vs. 78 percent in 2009.

Despite that, Dallas County’s rate of uninsured children is among the highest in the state. And Texas has the worst uninsured rate in the country, according to the study.

The improvements came through efforts to enroll people in health insurance through President Barack Obama’s health care law, said Anne Dunkelberg, a health policy analyst at the center. The law was signed in 2010 and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012.

Dunkelberg added that the state also fixed staffing problems and computer system delays at its welfare offices in recent years. For a long time, that lowered the number of people receiving health benefits.

Dallas County government has worked hard to get families signed up for health insurance, said County Judge Clay Jenkins. His office has partnered with cities, community groups, insurance companies and churches to boost insurance enrollment, he said.

But there’s only so much the county can do as long as the state Legislature refuses to accept the Medicaid expansion offered under Obamacare, Jenkins said. That would provide coverage to an estimated 200,000 uninsured Dallas County residents, he said. The county would go from having 19 percent of all residents, including children, without insurance to 11 percent, he estimates. County taxpayers would get a much better deal because federal taxes would cover more public health costs, he said.

“The Dallas-Fort Worth area, despite our best efforts, still has one of the highest uninsured rates in the country because of the decisions being made down in Austin,” said Jenkins, a Democrat and supporter of Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

Parkland Memorial Hospital’s CEO, Dr. Fred Cerise, has also urged the Legislature to accept Medicaid expansion dollars. Parkland, the county’s public hospital, hasn’t seen any substantial change in the proportion of uninsured children who seek care there, said spokesman Michael Malaise.

Gov. Greg Abbott has opposed expanding Medicaid benefits in the state, saying the system is “already broken and bloated.”

“What Obamacare does do is oversubsidize more people to use more insurance to consume more health care, bankrupting our federal and state budgets along the way,” Abbott wrote in National Review last year.

Ethnic disparities

Hispanic children are much more likely than white, black or Asian kids to lack health insurance in the county, state and nation, the study showed. That may be because their parents aren’t aware that the kids are eligible for benefits, even if the parents aren’t. Or they may fear participating in the the system for immigration reasons, said the study’s author, Jennifer Lee.

In 2009, 33 percent of Hispanic children in Dallas County were uninsured. By 2014, that number had fallen to 19 percent.

Jenkins said Hispanic women are among the hardest hit by wage disparities affecting women and people of color, which is “creating a crisis.”

Nearly half of single Hispanic mothers are poor, compared with a quarter of single white mothers.

“Texas’ high employment relies heavily on low-paying, part-time or part-year jobs that cannot support families,” said the study.

The study from the center-left think tank was funded by numerous groups, including the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Boone Family Foundation, Austin Community Foundation, Methodist Healthcare Ministries, the Embrey Family Foundation, the North Texas Community Foundation and the Early Learning Alliance.

Many of the conclusions in the study were drawn from census data.

Income segregation in major cities

The study showed that Dallas and Houston are the most segregated of Texas’ big cities when it comes to income. In Dallas, 37 percent of children live in neighborhoods where at least 30 percent of residents live in poverty. In 2014, the federal government defined poverty as a yearly income of $24,000 or less for a family of four, or $12 per hour at most.

Low-income white kids are less likely to live in these high-poverty areas than low-income black or Hispanic children, the report says.

Regardless of their family’s income, children are worse off living in high-poverty neighborhoods because they tend to lack resources, opportunities and services of more mixed areas, Lee said. She said these housing disparities are a legacy of racial segregation and discriminatory practices.

“You can look at families with the same exact income but the neighborhoods they live in are very different,” Lee said.

The report recommends that cities partner with businesses and nonprofits to boost investment in neighborhoods. The report also says the state should change rules that lead to affordable housing in racially segregated, high-poverty areas and lift its ban on local ordinances prohibiting housing discrimination.