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GAO Finds Racial Discrimination in K-12 Public Education

Whether by choice or necessity, students in U.S. public schools with mostly poor, Black or Hispanic students are more likely to suffer educational discrimination than in other schools, according to a federal government watchdog.

In April 2016, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that from 2000 to 2014, the percentage of K-12 U.S. public schools with high percentages of poor and Black or Hispanic students increased from 9% to 16%, according to data from the Department of Education.

In these schools, from 75% to 100% of the students were Black or Hispanic and qualified for free or reduced-price school lunches available to students living in households with incomes below the federal poverty level.

The data also showed these schools offered students a disproportionately smaller number of math, science, and college preparatory courses compared to other schools. In addition, the schools had far more students failing to graduate on time due to being held back in 9th grade, suspended, or expelled.

According to the report, Hispanic students at these schools are often “triply segregated” by income, race, and language.

However, the GAO also found that that schools with mostly poor, Black or Hispanic students are more likely to be unable to afford the resources necessary to address these issues.

Homeless and Foster Children are Also Victims

Even if students from predominantly poor black and Hispanic schools graduate from high school, they are often less likely to get into college if they are also homeless or in foster care.

“Homeless and foster youth experience challenges, such as weak academic foundations, limited family support, and lack of awareness of available financial resources, making it harder for them to pursue college,” according to GAO’s report.

For example, homeless students are often discouraged by being asked to “justify why they are homeless” when applying for federal financial aid, noted the GAO.

“Asking personal and intrusive questions often causes unaccompanied homeless students to walk