Report: Race builds barriers for children in Texas

State of Texas Children 2016: Race and Equity in Fort Worth

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Too many Texas children face tremendous barriers to opportunity because of the color of their skin, a new report from the Center for Public Policy Priorities shows.

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And, too many adults continue to insist, “It’s not race, It’s poverty,” Jennifer Lee, a CPPP research associate and author of the study, said in Fort Worth Wednesday.

“It is uncomfortable for many people to talk about race, so we focus on poverty,” Lee said. “People are afraid of the data… but it is important to look at both race and poverty, gender and zip codes… It is important to not be afraid to use that data when it is available.”

Data by race and ethnicity is absolutely necessary to make good public policy decisions that will result in every child being healthy, well-educated and financially secure, Lee said.

She presented the “State of Texas Children 2016” report and a break-out study, “Race and Equity in Fort Worth” at a meeting hosted by the CPPP, the North Texas Community Foundation, Early Learning Alliance and the Bone Family Foundation. The reports are part of the larger project, “Kids Count.”

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Mayor Betsy Price, Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Kent Scribner, School Board President Jacinto Ramos and Paul Gravely, the Parenting Center’s executive director, were among officials discussing the data.

Almost 117,000 children live in poverty in Tarrant County with a disproportionate 33 percent of Latino and black children living in high-poverty neighborhoods – nearly three times the rate for white or Asian children. Both the overall numbers and the disparity are growing, data shows.

Twenty-six percent of children in Fort Worth now live in high-poverty neighborhoods – up nine percentage points in just five years, and 19 percent of children in Arlington live in poverty – up 12 percent over the same time period.

A history of segregating places where children live, play and learn have created and maintained unequal opportunities and large disparities in child poverty across race, ethnicity and gender, the report says. This history has had a cumulative effect that is passed from generation to generation, and has a profound effect on the present.

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“Current policies and practices do not undo past injustices, and barriers in housing, employment and education,” contribute to far too many children living in poverty,” the study says.

Among the most surprising data presented Wednesday was the fact that while taxable property in the three poorest ISD in Tarrant County totals $189,268 per student, the three wealthiest ISDs’ property wealth is $652,700 per student. Among other problems, this disparity results in a higher turnover rate and larger share of first-year teachers in the less affluent districts, and first-year teachers tend to be less effective in increasing student achievement in math and reading, according to the study.

In order to raise the bar in child well-being for all Fort Worth area kids, “we have to close the gaps by intentionally breaking down obstacles and creating equitable opportunities for good health, an excellent education and economic security for every child,” the study says. “This is the only way to ensure Fort Worth’s economic future is strong.”

“There is a lot of information out there not being used,” Price noted. “These children are our future workforce…for this city to continue to prosper _ so your taxes do not have to go up _ we need to use this data.

“A lot of us just kinda lost our focus on education,” Price said. “Fort Worth’s got a golden opportunity to move the needle now…No child’s zip code should determine where he’s going to be in the future. “Every child should be healthy, well-educated and financially secure.

“We’re talking about our precious children and the future of Fort Worth