Equal Opportunities for Children: TN Takes Steps to Eliminate Racial Disparities

The gap between opportunities in education, health and the economy is smaller when compared with most other states, according to a new Annie E. Casey report, but there is more work to be done. (Eli Duke/flickr)

Tennessee is moving in the right direction when it comes to eliminating racial disparities for children and their families. That’s according to an index included in a report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the “2017 Race for Results.”
White children still have better outcomes in education and family income than children of color, and Linda O’Neal with the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth says specific solutions exist to continue closing that gap.
“We know in Tennessee we can improve outcomes over the long term, if we provide evidence-based programs like home visiting, such as quality early childhood and pre-kindergarten programs that help children get off to a great start,” she says.
Using the report’s index, with a scale of one to 1,000, the state scored 346 for African-Americans in the state and slightly higher for Hispanics. It scored 625 for whites. Tennessee’s data has smaller gaps among demographic groups, compared with most states.
Nationally, the report data shows improvement in the majority of indicators compared with a similar report released in 2014.
Laura Speer, the associate director of policy reform and advocacy at the Casey Foundation, says kids are the future parents, future workers and future leaders of our country.
“As they get older, these kids are going to drive local and state economies,” she notes. “They’re going to contribute to their communities and they’re really going be the driving force in ensuring that we’re all better off in the long run.”
Another bright note highlighted in the report is the state has a higher percentage of children graduating from high school compared with national averages. O’Neal says it’s all part of a larger investment in the state.
“We know all children are the economic engine for the future, and what we do for them today really will determine the kind of workers they will be tomorrow and will be so important for economic development,” she explains.
The report recommends keeping families together and in their communities, helping children in immigrant families access early-childhood education and increasing opportunities for parents.