By Stephanie Carroll Carson, Florida News Connection
In just four years, children of color are expected to outpace the number of white children in the United States, according to the Census Bureau. A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation asks if those children will be prepared to succeed in their classrooms and beyond.
The report indicates Florida’s Latino children are doing better than their peers in other states, with an overall ranking of sixth nationwide.
Susan Weitzel, director of Florida’s KIDS COUNT, says it’s important that children of all backgrounds have an equal chance to thrive.
“What we want to do is make sure that the youth today get the supports that they need, focusing on the fact that their ethnicity, their economic level, utilizes everything we know about their culture,” says Weitzel.
The report ranks Florida’s African American children in 28th place in the nation for their progress on a dozen indicators of future success, from reading proficiency to family poverty. On the same indicators, white children in Florida rank 29th.
Laura Speer, an associate director at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, says improving access to early childhood education and parent resources is an economic issue, for the state and the country.
“They’re going to be the future workforce of the United States,” Speer explains. “So, there’s a really critical imperative to look at this now and to see what we can do to improve it.”
Weitzel also notes that the lines between cultures are blurring – or as she puts it, “In Florida, simply recognizing that this changing demography is not as straightforward. We have growing [numbers of] multicultural children.”
The report recommends using the data to help close the racial achievement gap with policies and programs that create the greatest impact for children of color. It also notes that if the U.S. had closed the racial achievement gap in 1998, the gross domestic product 10 years later would have been $525 billion higher.