Black America’s Education Crisis

... and what you can do about it

This education crisis is at the root of many of America’s problems and puts the country at an extreme economic disadvantage globally. An education that doesn’t prepare a child to succeed in college or a career doesn’t just stunt that child’s future—it handicaps our economy. The total annual economic burden to taxpayers because of educational inequity is $59.2 billion, according to the Schott Foundation. Closing the achievement gap between American students and their peers in higher performing nations could have increased 2008 annual gross domestic product by $1.3 trillion to $2.3 trillion, or 9% to 16%, according to a report from McKinsey & Co., the global management consulting firm.

Yet, increasing our ability to compete is not just a global issue. Locally, education plays a role in black business growth. Black-owned businesses generate less than 1% of all receipts generated by U.S. businesses. Educational inequities reduce the likelihood that our schools will produce students who start companies that will create more jobs and revenues for the black community. According to the results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the Nation’s Report Card, black eighth graders scored lower in math and reading than any other racial group in 2009. It’s hard to imagine black businesses generating, say, even 10% of receipts, when only 14% of African American eighth graders read at grade level.

That’s why Black Enterprise is examining the education crisis in a three-part special report. This month we’re examining what government at every level is doing to improve K-12 education through federal initiatives such as Race to the Top; new state standards governing the development of more rigorous curricula, and mayors taking over school systems in some of the nation’s largest cities. In the next issue we’ll be exploring what parents and teachers can do to improve schools, and in the third installment we’ll delve into what business and community leaders are doing to impact our children’s education.

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