When the American Community Survey released its updated numbers last month Colorado's largest minority groups learned that they had made some progress in the broad disparities in education between themselves and their white counterparts. Colorado no longer has the largest gaps in the nation in college graduation rates between black and white residents, and both Latino and black adults saw high school graduation gaps narrow to their lowest levels in decades.
The new numbers for 2012 show that the percent of black adults 25 years of age and older with college degrees rose from about 20 percent to 24 percent since last measured in 2010. That narrowed the gap with the state's white counterparts to less than 20 percentage points, compared to 23 percentage points in 2010. It boosted Colorado's gap status from worst to third worst, behind Connecticut and Massachusetts, according to an I-News analysis of the survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Both Latino and black adults continued to narrow the gaps in high school graduation rates. Black rates rose from 86 percent to 89 percent and Latino rates rose from 65 percent to 68 percent between 2010 and 2012, while white rates stayed at about 96 percent. Both gaps are the smallest since 1960.
Experts cite many reasons for the inequities, including poverty, social and language barriers and the intergenerational nature of academic achievement - meaning that having a family background that emphasizes education makes a difference in succeeding generations. And vice versa.
Colorado has an ambitious ballot measure next month that seeks to address its educational shortcomings head-on. Amendment 66 would increase income taxes by almost $1 billion annually to improve funding of public schools.
The initiative would fund a revamped school finance formula that would give more money to districts with higher proportions of at-risk and non-English speaking students, as well as increased funding for preschool and kindergarten students.
"I'd argue it allows us to go out and say it's the most comprehensive education-reform initiative in the history of the United States," Gov. John Hickenlooper told The Denver Post. "And if it passes, it will make us a national model for public education."
I-News Network at Rocky Mountain PBS and Maplight are teaming up on VotersEdge.org/Colorado, a website offering details about the proposal’s pros and cons, its funding and daily updates on news stories.