For civil rights leaders, the importance of a good education for all children could not be understated.
At the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, marchers demanded the desegregation of all school districts by the end of the year.
Although a significant amount of progress has been made towards the 1963 goal of equal education for all, African-American and Latino students still do not have the same access to quality schools as other students.
In 1963, entire states, like Alabama, still maintained separate schools for black and white students, though Brown v. Board of Education had officially struck down segregation in schools nine years before,
Today, although segregated schools are illegal, many students still attend primary and secondary schools that are functionally segregated.
80 percent of Latino students and 74 percent of black students attend schools where over half of the students are a minority. Fifteen percent of black students and 14 percent of Latino students attend schools where white students are less than one percent of the population.
The average white student goes to a school that is over three-quarters white.
Minority students also are more likely to attend schools with high levels of poverty.
On average, black and Latino students go to schools with almost twice as many low-income students in their schools as the typical Asian or white student. In the 1990’s, black and Latino students could expect a third of their classmates to be low-income. Today, that number has doubled.
Not only are students at low-income schools less likely to perform well academically, but funding per student is often less than at wealthier schools, since schools are funded by property taxes from local communities.
Even funds that are intended to make up the shortfall are often misused to the point that the Department of Education admits that over 40 percent of low-income schools are shortchanged.
A lack of funding further hurts students. 52 percent of African-American males may have graduated high school on time in 2010, but 58 percent of Latino males and 78 percent of non-Latino white males earned their diplomas that same year.
In the 2011-12 school year, 12 white students graduated for every dropout. Among African-American students, the ratio was 4 graduates per dropout.
With 63 percent of black high school graduates enrolling in 2012, African-Americans are still the least likely to head straight to college over Latino graduates (at 69 percent), white graduates (at 67 percent) and Asian students (at 84 percent).
Even college choice is somewhat segregated. A study from Stanford University's Center for Education Policy Analysis says that:
Researchers found that as recently as 2004, white students were five times as likely as black students to enroll in a highly selective college, and two to three times as likely to gain admission -- even after accounting for income differences between black and white families. White students were also three times as likely as Hispanic students to enroll in a selective college.Black and Latino students are significantly more likely to go to local community colleges than their white counterparts. Although the public two-year colleges are more affordable, they have significantly lower graduation rates than their 4 year counterparts and, due to budget cuts, are increasingly expensive to attend.
Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in 1960 that “the United States Supreme Court decision of l954 (…) brought hope to millions of disinherited Negroes.... But the implementation of the decision was not to be realized without a sharp and difficult struggle.” Over 50 years later, students are still struggling for equal access.