missing out . . .

Here in Iowa City the discussion on affordable education tends to center on rising tuition and plunging state appropriations for the three regents’ universities. And rightly so—we’re in the thick of Hawkeye country, and higher education is fast ascending to prices unattainable for lower or middle class students.

But a recent report by ProPublica (a nonprofit, investigative news source) shows some school districts in Iowa are not providing equal access among students to advanced courses, programs, and opportunities that prepare them for higher education. The disparity leaves students in low-income areas (schools and districts with a large percentage of free/reduced lunch) without access to Advanced Placement (AP) classes, advanced math or science, or Gifted/Talented programs—“programs that researchers say will help them later in life.”

The Marshalltown Community School District, for example, at 60 percent Free/Reduced lunch (22 percent higher than the state’s average) has a whopping 0 percent of students taking advanced math, and less than average amount of students taking AP courses (only 11 percent compared to a 17 percent average). Whereas a district like Waukee Community School District, with only 9 percent of students receiving Free/Reduced lunch has 28 percent of its students taking advanced math courses.

And the disparities extend throughout the entire state, meaning that many low-income students who already lack financial opportunities to affordable higher education are missing educational opportunities as well.

This is depressing, frankly, and it completely disputes claims that it’s by choice or lack of motivation, as those who voice the “bootstraps” mantra might have you believe. It exemplifies our still-prevalent class boundaries that keep those at the bottom relegated to a life of inequality.

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