Insights & News

Close California’s income gap with a clearer path from kindergarten to college degree

 

By Monica Lozano, Special to The Sacramento Bee

California’s booming economy is the fifth-largest in the world—but residents experience some of the highest and fastest-growing income inequality in the nation, and our poverty rate tops all other states when cost of living is factored in.

It’s no surprise that generating economic opportunity and upward mobility are top concerns right now for California leaders and families across the state. If we want to close these wide and increasing gaps, we must clear the path for students to succeed.

Education is a critical factor in significantly improving socioeconomic status. With a bachelor’s degree, one can expect to earn nearly $1 million more over a lifetime than someone with only a high school diploma—and that wage gap is widening. Over 95 percent of jobs created during the recovery have gone to college-educated workers, while those with a high school diploma or less are being left behind.

Right now in California, high school students are graduating in large numbers, college-ambitious and college-ready—due in large part to strides in K-12 in the past decade. Yet not all hardworking young people with dreams are getting a fair shot at a better life.

The vast majority of our state’s K-12 students are of color and low-income, yet these students make up a minority of graduates from our public universities. Moreover, at every step, they face wide and ever widening gaps in opportunity and outcomes due to race, economic status, and ZIP code.

Policies and practices that clear pathways and accelerate progress to degree need to be adopted and amplified.

Read the full op-ed at The Sacramento Bee.