Achieve Escambia is out with its 2020 community report, titled: Achieving Equity. The 40-page report examines a set of 45 indicators impacting education, health, and a career-ready workforce, with a specific focus on racial disparities in Escambia County.
“The disparities are everywhere and they fundamentally shape how children grow up in our community, how families survive,” said Kimberly Krupa, executive director of Achieve Escambia.
“We see the disparities touching every facet of life, from infant mortality to life expectancy. We see the disparities across schools, jobs, housing, transportation, criminal justice, and healthcare. They show up everywhere.”
Krupa says Achieve Escambia decided to focus on equity for their 2020 report after highlighting racial disparities in the community during their recent campaign for the Escambia Children’s Trust. Additionally, this year’s COVID-19 pandemic underscored several disparities.
“Those who are affected by economic layoffs resulting from the pandemic are disproportionately affecting our lower-income workers, women, and communities of color. So, we felt like the time was now to really center our work on reducing these disparities we see across education, health and the workforce,” she noted.
Some of the primary findings of the research reflect data from sources that include the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, Florida Department of Education, Florida Health Charts, and Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.
“It really stands out (among) in children in poverty, where white children in poverty is about 13%, compared to black children in poverty at 39%. That’s one of the biggest gaps in our state,” stated Krupa.
The findings also show income and homeownership disparities in Escambia County. For example, there is a $20,000 gap in median household income, which is about $55,000 for whites, compared to $34,500 for Black households.
Additionally, about 65% of whites own their own homes, compared to 46% for Blacks, a gap of 19 percentage-points.
According to Krupa, those data points and others are all inter-connected.
“If we start from the beginning, which is how moms access infant care, prenatal care,” she started. “If we look at children born prematurely, children born to single mothers, children born with low birth weight; it really starts in the womb. And, you know, womb to tomb is a real pipeline.”
In school, a new data point looks at teacher equity, which tracks the assignment of uncertified or inexperienced teachers. In the 2018-19 school year, 54% of inexperienced teachers worked in “high minority schools” in Escambia County, compared to 31% on inexperienced teachers in “low minority schools.”
Additionally, the report reviews the treatment of children in schools, including who gets suspended.
“We have in our report the gap, the white-black gap in student suspension; who’s held back and not promoted from one year to the next, because that is significantly correlated to increased risk of dropping out of school,” Krupa said. “So, retention, suspension, expulsion, all work together to produce juvenile incarceration disparities. And, we are worse than we’ve ever been in how many of our youth are incarcerated.”
It’s a critical situation for black youth, ages 10-17, who make up more than 70% of all juvenile arrests in Escambia County, while blacks only comprise about 23% of the population.
Moving forward, Achieve Escambia’s annual report, has spelled out some recommended paths and resources for fulfilling their pledges for equity and opportunity.
“This year, we actually have a solution that matches the might of the problem, and that is the newly approved Escambia Children’s Trust,” Krupa declared. “And, because the Children’s Services Council model can fund interventions in birth to 18-years-old, we can use this dedicated fund to close many of the equity gaps that were noted in our 2020 report.”
Achieve Healthy EscaRosa is another initiative, which launched earlier this year in conjunction with the University of West Florida. Due to coronavirus, the focus has shifted to address the immediate challenge of COVID-19 among minority populations, as well as the longer-term root causes of racial disparities related to health. Krupa says the partnership with the UWF Haas Center involves the creation of an equity dashboard.
“This dashboard will put all of our partners on the same page about what exactly we’re measuring,” she said. For example, “What is the importance of public health and wellness? What is the goal? How healthy can Escambia County be? What are some reasonable benchmarks to set, and what is the path toward achieving a healthier EscaRosa? And, how can we align our efforts toward those goals with this coordinated effort?”
Additionally, the Inclusive Development Network involves a partnership with Career Source EscaRosa that is developing a “prosperity plan” for employment of young adults by educating workers in new skills and technologies, re-skilling displaced workers, as well as assisting those coming out of the criminal justice system and those commonly called “opportunity youth,” 16-24-year-olds who are not in school and not working.
Krupa says a bright spot in Escambia is “The 32505 Project,” a concerted effort, started three years ago, to reduce disparities in the county’s west side 32505 ZIP code.
“We’re seeing several outcomes improving at the population level. We see income at an all-time high in 32505 and poverty is significantly up,” she stated proudly. “At the same time, our five elementary schools are mostly improving in 3rd-grade reading scores.”
After detailing some of the strategies for addressing what she calls some of the worst racial equity issues in the state and nation, right here in Escambia, Krupa says there is now unprecedented hope for the future.
“Now we have for the first time solutions to dig us out of the historic and systemic issues that are creating these disparities and we’ve never had that before,” she proclaimed.
In the coming months, Krupa says Achieve Escambia will focus their efforts on starting the Escambia Children’s Trust, while also forging ahead with its bold goals of improving kindergarten readiness to from 47% to 75% by 2025 and boosting career-readiness to 60% in the next five years.