2021 Equity Challenge Day 11: Inequity in the Education System

Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible.

Maya Angelou

Poet, memoirist and civil rights activist

Racial and socioeconomic inequities plague the American educational system. From unequal funding and modern-day segregation, to increased policing and surveillance of minority students, disparities in schooling reach far and wide, from preschool through college. Many of these injustices can be traced back to legacies of systemic racism, segregation, and harmful local and state policies. Consider these statistics:

  • Black students only represent 18 percent of total preschool enrollment, yet 42 percent of preschool students suspended once and 48 percent of students suspended more than once are Black. (U.S. Department of Education, 2014)
  • Sixty-seven years after the Supreme Court outlawed “separate but equal,” schools attended predominately by students of color remain chronically underfunded. (The Atlantic, 2015)
  • Black students typically take on more educational loans than their white peers, but Black graduates are twice as likely to be unemployed when compared to white graduates. (The Atlantic, 2015)

Researchers have found that “the persistence of the educational achievement gap imposes on the United States the economic equivalent of a permanent national recession.” Today’s challenge will help us begin to understand the root causes of these disparities in public education and how we can advocate for racial and socioeconomic equity in our schools.



Consider racial disparity in Michigan schools by browsing this chart that shows the teacher-to-student racial gap in every school district in our state (Scroll down to “Racial disparity in Michigan schools.” 9 minutes)

Read this 2017 report, which shows that African-American children in Michigan fare worse in education than their peers in any other state. (2 minutes)

Read about these six myths of educational inequity. (8 minutes)


Watch this TED Talk that explains how America’s public schools keep kids in poverty. (14 minutes)

Watch this news report on how systemic racism persists in early childhood education. (2 minutes)

Reflect And Share:

  1. Think about your own educational experience, or the education of a child in your life. What are some inequities or effects of inequity you can identify?
  2. What might educational equity look like in Southeastern Michigan? What effects would quality education for all students have on our society?
  3. What questions do you have about educational inequity? How can you find answers to those questions and expand your understanding?


If you or someone you know is experiencing a need, United Way and our partners are here to help. Call United Way’s 2-1-1 helpline at any time. 

Additionally, visit  UnitedWaySEM.org/resources to find early childhood and K-12 education resources, including the Ages and Stages Questionnaire, Ready4K text messaging parent engagement service, and more education services. Parents looking for child care can use United Way’s Connect4Care Kids resource to find care in Detroit, or search for care options in out-Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties through the Great Start to Quality resource center.


Start the conversation. Send the tweet. Share your story. Make the Facebook post. Sharing what you learn and experience with your family, friends, and co-workers is the first step toward allyship.

Join thousands in conversation by using hastag #EquityChallenge or #TakeTheEC21