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Report: State must address systemic racism affecting kids in K-12 schools

School desks
Flickr user Frank Juarez/Flickr

Michigan faces a looming education and economic crisis if it does not address systemic racism affecting children of color in K-12 schools. That’s according to a new reportfrom the Michigan League for Public Policy.

The report says kids of color are being left behind in school because of policies that focus on testing, but ignore the root of challenges in learning. That includes poverty, access to mental health care, and other major systemic issues that disproportionately affect communities of color.

Gilda Jacobs is CEO of the League.

“We need to address these issues if we want to have success for these kids and for their parents. Because it really is a two-generational approach that we have to take a look at,” she says. “When parents are under high stress without them having access to mental health supports or economic supports, there is a direct relationship to how their kids are going to be developing in those households.”

Jacobs says it’s also problematic that a third of students in Michigan are kids of color, and yet about 90% of teachers are white. She says the state must do a better job attracting teachers of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.

The Michigan Department of Education says the state and local school districts are already addressing many of the issues outlined in the report, including early childhood development, and aid for at-risk students.