Inequality Within the K-12 System Keeps Young People Stuck in Poverty

Education is one of the few ways that people use to pull themselves from poverty. Education provides people with more specific skill sets that allow them to get higher-paying jobs. Education also provides an abundance of resources that are easily accessible. Even a primary K-12 education can open doors for people facing poverty that would otherwise be shut without the proper skills needed to navigate the workforce and day-to-day life. But what happens when there are inequalities within a system meant to support and propel young people into a better quality of life? 

Education starts in preschool; we begin learning at 2-3 years old. We start learning about shapes, colors, letters, and even how to interact with the world around us. This education continues into the K-12 system, and with enough support, hopefully on into technical school or university to continue developing life-long skills. The current problem is that the education system is not equal; there is a massive difference in impoverished communities’ education versus their middle-class counterparts. Unequal opportunities and poor quality education lead many young people to feel lost, unmotivated, and less likely to continue into higher education. This weaker education only perpetuates the cycles of poverty they were born into. 

According to the Brookings Institution, the U.S. educational system is one of the most unequal in the industrialized world. Students routinely receive dramatically different learning opportunities based on their social status. Segregation still exists in America, and one of its most glaring effects is the educational system within low-income communities and communities of color. This can be seen as a tactic to keep these communities not only separate but unequal to their white middle-class counterparts. Education is a stepping stone to higher income, social status, and better overall quality of life. Still, if it’s dismantled right at the start (K-12), these communities lose yet another solution to end the cycles of poverty that their communities face. 

One of the most significant issues that are facing K-12 education in lower-income areas is funding. The two most essential factors dependant on funding are quality teachers and a diverse curriculum. When schools cannot afford well-qualified teachers to teach a wide range of subjects, students miss out on the opportunity of a well-rounded base education. In addition, the lack of courses offered and the poor instruction received in the available courses leave students grasping at straws when it comes to their education, feeling uninspired and disinterested in the material taught.  

Another critical aspect of the inequalities in education faced within these communities is educational resources and access to opportunities. The students in these schools are often thought not to be receptive or able to grasp concepts, and allegedly that’s why they do worse than children in other areas (suburban). But that’s just not true. There are a few things at play that cause children within these systems to have lower test scores, drop out, or fail to attend higher education. When children within these schools are failing or struggling, there are not enough resources to support them. There are also fewer opportunities placed before them to achieve at higher levels or to further their education. The lack of college counselors or workshops in low-income/P.O.C communities’ schools puts them at an extreme disadvantage regarding education after K-12. The inequalities in resources and opportunities stunt young students educationally and frequently causes poor adjustment to life after leaving school.

Inequalities in the educational system hold communities of color and low-income communities back and prevent prosperity, propelling young people back into the cycles of poverty they grew up in and obstructing them from achieving their full potential. There is a way to solve these issues; funding is number one. Unfortunately, these communities receive the least amount of financial assistance in the educational sector (and in general). Where our money goes is so essential, and to end poverty, we need to focus on the communities that are struggling the most.


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