A report from the Southern Education Foundation found that more than half of the public-school students in the South are poor and more than half are minorities. In North Carolina, 43.2 percent of students are minorities and half are low-income, which the report defines as being eligible for free or reduce-priced lunch. This demographic shift is due to the number of African Americans moving south and an increase in the number of students who are Hispanic or from other ethnic groups.
Low-income, African-American and Hispanic students are struggling in North Carolina schools. They are more likely to fail their end-of-grade tests and more likely to drop out of high school.
What does this demographic shift mean for education policy in North Carolina? It means that as long as we don’t prioritize the needs of our schools—don’t give them the funding they need to keep class sizes small and provide additional help to students who need it—we are shooting ourselves in the foot. As long as we continue to suspend African-American students in alarmingly high numbers and deny access to higher education to many immigrant students, we are robbing North Carolina of an educated and productive workforce. The decisions we make today will resonate for generations.