The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights released today the findings of the first survey in 15 years taking pulse of whether all students have equal educational opportunity in public schools and the results were concerning.


The data shows that young men and boys of color are disproportionately affected by suspensions and zero-tolerance policies in schools and black and Latino students are significantly more likely to have teachers with less experience who aren’t paid as much as their colleagues in other schools. In addition, the survey found that access to preschool programs is very limited for much of the country.


“This data collection shines a clear, unbiased light on places that are delivering on the promise of an equal education for every child and places where the largest gaps remain. In all, it is clear that the United States has a great distance to go to meet our goal of providing opportunities for every student to succeed,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “As the President’s education budget reflects in every element—from preschool funds to Pell Grants to Title I to special education funds—this administration is committed to ensuring equity of opportunity for all.”


The disciplinary disparities are of particular concern because students who are suspended once are more likely to be suspended again and are also more likely to repeat a grade, drop out, and become involved in the juvenile justice system. Attorney General Eric Holder also released a statement.


“This critical report shows that racial disparities in school discipline policies are not only well-documented among older students, but actually begin during preschool,” said Holder. “Every data point represents a life impacted and a future potentially diverted or derailed. This Administration is moving aggressively to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline in order to ensure that all of our young people have equal educational opportunities.”


This is the first time since 2000 that the Department has compiled data from all 97,000 of the nation’s public schools and its 16,500 school districts—representing 49 million students.