Education & Workforce Development

The Education Subcommittee of the West Palm Beach Mayor’s Task Force on Racial & Ethnic Equality is in the process of identifying racial and ethnic disparities related to education and workforce development in West Palm Beach.

Committee members are identifying best practices, knowledge and research needed to eliminate the disparities before making recommendations for change.

We recognize that YOU have knowledge to share about education and workforce development in West Palm Beach. Members of this committee are listening.


We want to hear from parents and educators!

The Education & Workforce Development subcommittee has created TWO surveys to assess local needs related to our schools.

Parents: help us understand how the City of West Palm Beach can support you better when it comes to our local schools. Fill out our survey here.

Educators: How can the city support teachers and schools better? Fill out our survey here.


Based on feedback from the December 5th, 2020 and the June 12th, 2021 Racial & Ethnic Equality Action Summits held by the Task Force, West Palm Beach residents shared two top priorities regarding Education and Workforce Development. The subcommittee is currently discussing these priorities:

  1. Improving offerings of career development, workforce training, and education opportunities for youth and adults.
    • Understand the needs and provide career development and vocational training.
    • Develop strategies to address barriers in marginalized communities.
  2. Elevating quality of resources for under-resourced schools by attracting and retaining qualified teachers and improving school supports.
    • Assess the current landscape of WPB schools and understand the needs regarding resources, programs, and supports.
    • Explore options such as wrap-around support services, free after-school programming, and cultural enrichment.

Policy Recommendations

Under these two priorities, the Education and Workforce Development Subcommittee submitted a list of policy ideas based on feedback from the Action Summits and the subcommittee meetings. The Task Force then reviewed and approved the proposed ideas into policy recommendations for Mayor Keith James and the City Commission’s consideration. Below you will find the education & workforce development policy recommendations that will be presented to the Mayor and City Commission for approval.

We update this page regularly. Last updated 9/27/2021.


To learn more about the efforts of the Education & Workforce Development Subcommittee, please visit the Education & Workforce Development Project Library here to read the agenda and meeting notes from previous meetings. To stay up-to-date on the next steps, attend the Task Force meetings. The date of the next meeting (and Zoom link) is listed on our Calendar of Events.

Sign up for updates about the subcommittee meetings (and Zoom links) and/or for our monthly Task Force email newsletter. Share comments about these priorities on our Facebook page.

We update this page regularly. Last updated 9/1/2021.

Did You Know?

In West Palm Beach, black students are 4.2 times as likely to be suspended as White students.

In West Palm Beach, black students are, on average, academically 2.6 grades behind White students.

In West Palm Beach, those who have a B.A. or higher include:

  • 65% of whites (and 66% of white immigrants);
  • 37% of U.S.-born Latinos
  • 23% of immigrant Latinos
  • 13% of African Americans
  • 11% of black immigrants.

In West Palm Beach, more than 42% of Hispanics and 20% of African Americans lack a high school diploma, compared to just 6% of whites.

A Palm Beach Post analysis of state reading test scores from 2014, the latest for which detailed results are available, shows that:

  • While Palm Beach County’s white 3rd-graders outperformed whites statewide by a wide margin, the county’s blacks and Hispanics trailed their counterparts across Florida.
  • The gap between Palm Beach County’s white and black 10th-graders was the widest among Florida’s seven most populous counties.
  • The gap between Palm Beach County’s white and Hispanic 3rd-graders was the widest among Florida’s seven most populous counties.
  • Palm Beach County’s black and Hispanic students trailed their counterparts in Broward and Dade counties at both the 3rd- and 10th-grade levels, even though the county’s white students outperformed Broward’s and were on par with Dade’s.

Why Does Racial Equity Matter?

Healthy and equitable neighborhoods offer the educational opportunities to build a strong workforce. Today, jobs require ever-higher levels of skills and education. How well is West Palm Beach’s education system preparing young people to succeed in a knowledge-driven economy?

To strengthen a local workforce well prepared to perform–and create–the jobs of the future, it is critical to close persistent racial gaps in educational attainment and reduce student debt.

Moreover, studies show that NOT accessing education and job experience early in life can have long-lasting negative impacts. For youth, this can include lower future earnings, worse health, higher unemployment, and a greater risk of contact with the criminal justice system. For communities, these impacts can include higher public expenditures and lower tax revenues.

Moreover, African American and Hispanic/Latino communities are especially hard-hit by scammers who profit off of lack of education and access to resources related to credit, health, housing, and so forth.

The Prison Policy Institute’s 2019 study, Arrest, Release, Repeat, found that people who go to county and city jails are far more likely to lack a high school diploma, have a substance use disorder, suffer from a serious mental illness, and lack health insurance. They’re far more likely to be unemployed or have incomes under $10,000. Racial disparities in education, housing and health contribute to racial inequity found in the justice system—and the cycle continues.

What’s behind the disparities?

1. Students of color tend to have significantly less access to advanced coursework

Black and Latino students across the country experience inequitable access to advanced coursework opportunities. They are locked out of these opportunities early when they are denied access to gifted and talented programs in elementary school, and later in middle and high school, when they are not enrolled in eighth grade algebra and not given the chance to participate in Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), and dual enrollment programs. As a result, these students are missing out on critical opportunities that can set them up for success in college and careers.

Research shows that when students are given access to advanced coursework opportunities, they work harder and engage more in school, leading to fewer absences and suspensions and higher graduation rates.

Rigorous high school courses contribute to postsecondary success because students can graduate from high school with college credits, giving them a head start. Students who enter college with six or more credits are more likely to earn a degree. When advanced opportunities are extended to students of color, and when teachers receive training and resources, these students thrive alongside their peers. Not surprisingly, opportunities to take advanced courses open the door for Black and Latino students to have even more opportunities for advanced work in the future.

In Florida, schools serving the most black students have only 63 students enrolled in gifted and talented programs for every 100 students who would need to be enrolled to achieve fair representation. Only 4 states rank lower than Florida.

Florida would need to more than double the number of black students in gifted and talented programs in order for black students to be fairly represented.

In the Palm Beach County School District specifically, white students are 3.6 times as likely to be enrolled in at least one AP class as black students.

2. School poverty limits access to resources

The gap in educational attainment between White students and students of color is largely driven by disparities in school poverty rates. Students of color are more likely to attend high-poverty schools because of ongoing racial segregation forged through historical practices such as racially exclusive housing covenants and zoning laws as well as ongoing ones such as discriminatory hiring and mortgage lending.

Students at high-poverty schools often have less access to quality resources and score lower on standardized testing than their wealthier counterparts. At the same time, the rising cost of college combined with decreased financial aid prevents many students of color, who are disproportionately low income, from attending college.

Despite the 1954 Supreme Court ruling Brown v Board of Education of Topeka that banned racial segregation, students of color remain far more likely to attend high-poverty schools than White students. Racial segregation in the United States was forged through historical practices such as racially exclusive housing covenants and zoning laws as well as ongoing ones such as discriminatory hiring and mortgage lending. These practices dispossessed communities of color and excluded them from economic prosperity while White communities have accumulated wealth. The resulting geographic concentrations of wealth and poverty cause students of color to attend high-poverty schools at much higher rates than White students.

3. Teachers and trainers may be influenced by racial bias.

One need not be white to have implicit racial bias: unintentional and unconscious racial biases that affect decisions and behaviors. It is possible for someone to be of African descent, or to be Latino, for instance, and to assume that certain groups (e.g., low-income African Americans, Nicaraguans, etc.) have a less desirable “culture” than others. Racial bias is linked to the stereotypes and “single stories” pervasive in news media and popular culture.

Most Americans deny that they are racist. They may claim not to see color at all. Nonetheless, they may hold onto negative racial stereotypes of blacks, Latinos, immigrants and other racialized groups. These stereotypes tend to associate blackness—and brownness—with a propensity to commit crime and acts of violence. At the same time, they help maintain associations of whiteness with safety, law and order.

Studies show that black students are more likely, on average, to be disciplined, suspended and expelled. Research also shows that black teachers tend to suspend black students less often, set higher academic expectations for minority students, leading to higher educational outcomes for students of color. Nationally, however, minority teachers are leaving the profession at higher rates than other teachers. Minority teachers cite the lack of a collective voice and professional autonomy as reasons for leaving.

A 2016 study of racial and gender disparities in Palm Beach County public schools found “a pattern of harsher punishments for students of color” in cases not involving drugs, alcohol or weapons. Schools also suspended black and Hispanic students for longer periods of time. The study was conducted by New York University.

In the Palm Beach County School District, black students are 4.2 times as likely to be suspended as white students.

4. Language factors can serve as a barrier to full engagement in education

Nationwide, the number of Latino adults has grown by 72% since 2000.

When the primary language and culture of English Language Learners are not supported by educators and those who shape the culture of education reform, students face the shaming of their identity, impacts their self-esteem, and threats to their ability to successfully intermingle with their English-only peers. For instance, leaders have used language barriers as an excuse for separating Latino students from their white counterparts in gifted and talented classes.

Even in districts that offer dual-language programs, schools don’t always divide instruction evenly between the two languages. Rarely do schools offer a 50-50 balance of English language learners and native English speakers in the same classroom.

What Do Experts Recommend To “Close The Gap”?

1. Put racial equity first.

Taking a candid focus on race, allowing for honest discussion and assessment of the problem.

In North Carolina, a Committee on Racial Equity employed rigorous analysis of research and data on racial equity, using the best available evidence to guide its observations and recommendations. The complexities of race–in both its social construction and its legal codification–mandated the use of a multifaceted approach to developing common understanding and generating responsive policies and programs. The committee approached its task by learning from experts in education, law, and sociology, who helped committee members piece together a complex puzzle built from pieces including the following: (a) A North Carolina-specific historical narrative on race; (b) A systems-level analysis of the racial gaps that exist across various institutions; (c) Insights from members of a small collective seeking racial equity in a local district; (d) Statewide racial data from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction; (e) An analysis of the structural underpinnings of racialized outcomes by a renowned sociologist. Committee members then processed these learnings together in intensive work sessions, with stakeholders from across the state working collaboratively to qualify definitions, share case studies, and contemplate solutions. Read the full report.

2. Identify and remove barriers that hinder students of color and English Language Learners from access to advanced coursework.

Ensure entrepreneurs of color can access the know-how to launch and expand their businesses.

3. Educate aspiring entrepreneurs

  • Reduce employment barriers for people with records by “banning the box” asking about conviction history on job applications (for private as well as public employers).
  • Connect unemployed and underemployed workers to the jobs created by new development through targeted local hiring, community workforce agreements, and community benefits agreements.
  • Invest a portion of infrastructure investments in job training.
  • Include entrepreneurship as a part of career and technical education and include age-appropriate entrepreneurial skill-building in K–12 education.
  • Connect aspiring entrepreneurs to business mentoring programs through government agencies and organizations such as the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship.

4. Reform policies and practices within schools

  • Reform harsh, “zero tolerance” school discipline policies to keep youth in school and on track to graduate.
  • Remove law enforcement officers from K-12 schools and hire more counselors and support staff.
  • Provide ELLs (English Language Learners) with quality instructional practices and resources, including fair assessments, free use of dictionaries and thesauruses, extra time, and the option of multiple media.

5. Invest in education and workforce development.

  • Expand access to high-quality public education, including universal preschool.
  • Implement sector-focused workforce training and placement programs and apprenticeships that connect workers to good jobs.
  • Ensure access to higher education for immigrant students by providing in-state tuition rates regardless of their immigrant status and by increasing access to financial aid and scholarships.
  • Invest a portion of infrastructure investments in job training.
  • Target workforce efforts to grow high-opportunity sectors that provide pathways for people without four-year degrees and remove barriers to employment and services.

6. Take a big-picture, process- and systems-focused approach

  • Create cradle-to-career pipelines for vulnerable youth and invest in invest in early childhood education.
  • Connect youth to career paths through career academies, apprenticeships, workforce training programs, and internships.
  • Develop comprehensive youth employment systems and policies to promote summer youth employment across the education, juvenile justice, and child welfare systems and support policies to address youth disconnection
  • In Maryland, during fall of 2017 and spring of 2018, ABC partnered with Elizabeth Kennedy, Associate Professor of Law & Social Responsibility at Loyola University Maryland, to conduct a qualitative research study designed to measure the impact of ABC’s work advancing racial equity throughout Baltimore’s workforce development ecosystem. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews with practitioners, employers, policymakers and philanthropic foundations. Questions were designed to measure how stakeholders are currently (if at all) applying a racial equity lens to the development and implementation of their training programs, funding processes, and internal policies and culture. The study was also designed to identify gaps in the current understanding and application of a racial equity lens, as well as to uncover emerging best practices and opportunities for leveraging strategic partnerships. Read the full report.
  • The Children’s Services Council of Broward County (CSC) brought the Kirwan Institute on the Study of Race and Ethnicity to Florida to train 900 government and nonprofit staff and community partners, including law enforcement officers, in an intensive two-day workshops about the history and dynamics of racism and white supremacy in the nation. Included in this training is the research from them on how bias shows up in education, health care, criminal justice and employment practices and decision making. The Council has begun implementing strategies to decrease racism and increase racial equity. They have implemented a diverse array of approaches to change themselves, their programs and their communities due to our commitment that all children grow up to become responsible, productive adults.

7. Create a pathway to jobs.

8. Recruit and retain teachers of color.

  • According to numerous studies, black students who have black teachers have better academic outcomes, are suspended less often, and face higher expectations from their teachers. Teachers of color also serve as positive role models.
  • All students benefit from diversity among faculty. Having teachers from racially diverse backgrounds can help reduce stereotypes and prevent unconscious bias. Students with diverse role models are also better prepared to succeed in a diverse society.

Major Support Organizations

Leading organizations that strive to advance new state and local policies.

The Education Trust
The Education Trust is a national nonprofit that works to close opportunity gaps that disproportionately affect students of color and students from low-income families. Through our research and advocacy, Ed Trust supports efforts that expand excellence and equity in education from preschool through college, increase college access and completion particularly for historically underserved students, engage diverse communities dedicated to education equity, and increase political and public will to act on equity issues.

Research Resources

Online resources focused on new state and local policies.

89 Racial Equity Resources for Healthcare, Education and Communities
Extensive list of resources.

Equity Measures-Pathway to Educational Equity (Voices for Racial Justice)
Concise list of measures, organized by topic.

The State of Higher Education Equity (Report – The Education Trust)
The State Equity Report Card assesses states’ commitment to equitable college opportunity and success for Black and Latino Americans. This tool contains state-level data on who has a college degree, who enrolls in college, and who graduates.

Articles and Publications

Articles, reports, and papers focused on new state and local policies.

6 Ways District Leaders Can Build Racial Equity (Education Week, 2020)
Education Week asked six district leaders to share specific practices and processes they use in their school systems to promote equity. A common thread? All of them require deep, sometimes difficult reflection on district and school practices and assumptions that might otherwise go unexamined.

Black Teachers Matter, for Students and Communities
This article outlines some of the reasons for retaining and hiring black teachers. It is supported by recent studies and numerous examples.

Civil Rights Rollback: U.S. Government Actions to Reduce Civil Rights in Public Education (report – ERASE Racism/Education Equity Initiative, 2019)
The report provides an analysis of the federal government’s latest efforts to roll back civil rights in the areas of housing and education. It includes spotlights that highlight implications for New York’s Long Island, because that is where ERASE Racism is based and because the spotlights illustrate how federal changes affect specific communities.

Equity for English Language Learners
This article recommends strategies for improving educational access for ELLs (English Language Learners), such as offering quality instructional practices and resources, including fair assessments, free use of dictionaries and thesauruses, extra time, and the option of multiple media.

Five Strategies for Advancing Racial Equity in Public Education (blog post, 2018)
I have reshaped these strategies to focus on racial equity in public school districts and identified four school districts that have done at least one of these strategies in furthering their equity work (two of the four districts are EP Partners). I chose these districts because they are pioneers of racial equity work in public education and, in trying to create something in Memphis, I wanted to see if there were any models to replicate. (author of post is Senior Director for Equity & Partnerships at SchoolSeed Foundation in Memphis).

Five Things Public Workforce Systems Should Do Right Now to Advance Racial Equity (article)
As states and localities begin to address the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are steps the public workforce system can take now to center and advance racial equity. Doing so will help ensure that this system benefits the people who have been hardest hit by the pandemic and historically denied access to opportunity: people of color.

How 5 School Districts Are Breaking Down Language Barriers in Education
This article describes how schools are increasing access to education by offering dual-language programs, summer courses and after-school activities for ELLs (English Language Learners) and native English speakers.

In Pursuit of an Equitable Start: Leveraging and expanding public funding to support a more equitable recovery for young children, families and child care workers (report – PolicyLink)
The majority of young children living in the United States today are children of color, cared for by parents and caregivers across a spectrum of identities. These children face increased economic insecurity as their parents navigate the high cost of leaving work to care for them or assume crippling child care costs, all while earning stagnantly low wages. Their families may also experience considerably unequal challenges to living in safe and secure housing, enrolling in affordable and high-quality early learning experiences, and accessing healthy food. Additionally, the emergency triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, with its significant impact on families’ health and economic well-being, threatens to widen these gaps, especially for families of color who are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and its economic fallout. This brief looks at how to leverage and expanding public funding to support a more equitable recovery for young children, families, and child care workers.

New Report Calls for National System to Measure Equity in Education, Identify Disparities in Outcomes and Opportunity (2019)
Summarizes a 2019 consensus report by the National Research Council (NRC) called “Monitoring Educational Equity” (this report costs money to access). That report recommended our states and country create a national system for measuring educational disparities so that our systems are held accountable not only for improving performance, but also for ensuring equitable opportunities for all students to achieve and thrive.

Nice White Parents (podcast – The New York Times)
Years ago, producer Chana Joffe-Walt started reporting on one school in New York. She thought the story was about segregation and inequality in public schools. But the more she looked into it, the more she realized she was witnessing something else. She was seeing the inordinate power of white parents at this school.

Now is the Right Time to Measure Educational Disparities (article, 2020)

Policies to Eliminate Racial Disparities in Education: A Literature Review
This review of academic journal articles aims to provide a knowledge base of what is working in other jurisdictions to improve racial equity in education. It focuses on promising practices that have been documented in research studies.

Race in the Workplace: The Black Experience in the US Private Sector (report, McKinsey & Company)
This report highlights statistical points and personal experiences of black workers in the private sector. It is divided into three parts: their participation, their representation/advancement, and challenges to address/actions that can be taken to create a more inclusive, diverse, and equitable work environment.

Race, Risk, and Workforce Equity in the Coronavirus Economy (report, PolicyLink)
Based on data on changes in job openings between March 2 and April 13 from Burning Glass Technologies layered with data on worker demographics and wages from the Census, this report offers the most comprehensive analysis of the economic impacts of the crisis on workers by race, gender, nativity, and occupation to date for the United States as a whole and 10 metropolitan regions: Boston, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, San Francisco, and Seattle. We examine the labor market impacts for three broad and mutually exclusive occupational groups: health-care jobs; frontline non-healthcare jobs deemed “essential” in the midst of the pandemic; and “non-essential” jobs most likely to be subject to the economic shutdowns that followed declarations of emergency at the federal, state, or local level.

Racial Justice in Education (resource guide)
This resource helps educators and others understand what racial justice is, why it’s important and why it’s relevant. It also provides guidance on how to create spaces to talk about race and other related issues. There are several tools available in the guide to help facilitate these conversations.

The Roadmap for Racial Equity: An Imperative for Workforce Development Advocates (report – National Skills Coalition)
In its latest report on racial equity and workforce development, the National Skills Coalition describes some of the disparities that challenge both equity and economic competitiveness in the United States and calls for inclusive workforce policies to help advance racial equity. The report highlights trends on educational and economic disparities for people of color and shortages of workers that have access to training for middle-skills jobs. These jobs account for 53 percent of the labor market, but only 43 percent of workers have access to training at the middle-skill level.

States Struggle to Close Degree-Attainment Gaps
But many states will not achieve degree-attainment goals if they don’t close gaps between black and white and Latino and white adult students, according to a set of reports released in 2018 by the Education Trust.

Taking Action on Racial Equity: How Grantmakers are Becoming Change-Makers (Grantmakers for Education, 2018)
This paper reflects on learnings from three Grantmakers for Education summits on racial equity held the summer of 2018. The purpose of the program report is to fuel ongoing conversations among grantmakers about racial equity and, more importantly, inspire transformation within education grantmaking organizations and beyond.

Using Data to Advance Racial Equity (article – edutopia, 2020)
Schools that strive for equity can collect, interpret, and use data about students in purposeful and self-reflective ways.


Practical resources and interactive tools designed to help both on-the-ground practitioners and citizens.

The Educational Opportunity Project (Stanford University)
he Educational Opportunity Project at Stanford University has built the first national database of academic performance. Use our Explorer to view three measures of educational opportunity in your school or community. Learn about average test scores, learning rates, and trends in test scores, with breakdowns based on race, socioeconomics, gender, etc., as well as information on gaps (e.g., black-white, Hispanic-white), etc.

MisEducation: Palm Beach County School District (ProPublica)
ProPublica has found that in school districts across the country, Black and Hispanic students are, on average, less likely to be selected for gifted programs and take AP courses than their white peers. They are also more likely, on average, to be suspended and expelled. Another measure of disparities is how segregated schools are in a district. Use this interactive tool to explore if disparities exist at a school across all racial groups. You can also find statistics for Palm Beach County as a whole.

Ready for Equity in Workforce Development: Racial Equity Readiness Assessment Tool
Taking decades of racial justice research, training and consulting experience into account, Race Forward and its Research team developed workforce readiness assessment criteria to provide a landscape of possible solutions for organizations to lean further into their racial equity practice.

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