In a recent op-ed published in the Topeka Capital-Journal, CFES CEO and President Rick Dalton teams up with his son Erick Dalton, director of advance scouting for the Washington Nationals MLB team, to discuss how to address the widening gap between low-income and high-income students.
The following op-ed by CFES President and CEO Rick Dalton and Erick Dalton, director of advance scouting for the Washington Nationals MLB team, appeared in the Topeka Capital-Journal on April 21.
Last month’s ruling from the Kansas Supreme Court requiring the state to fix its school finance system casts light on a nationwide educational conundrum: Every state must provide adequate funding for public education while ensuring that students, especially those from low-income households, receive critical human support to help them move along the college-career pathway.
The biggest educational problem America faces is a widening gap—as measured by high school graduation, college diplomas and even standardized test scores — between America’s low-income youth and their high-income peers. This gap has widened nearly every year since 1980. Today 82 percent of the young people from the highest economic quartile graduate from college, compared to only 8 percent of those from the bottom quartile.
That is, quite simply, an enormous waste of talent. As a matter of course, too many young people from low-income households are denied the opportunity to make valuable contributions to 21st-century workplaces and their communities. Considering that college has become the new finish line—the equivalent of a high school diploma a generation ago—our society needs to do better.
I lead a nonprofit that helps low-income students become college ready, and I’m concerned that there’s been too little attention from our new education leaders in Washington, D.C. regarding how to support underserved K-12 students.
Recently, I talked with my son Erick — a former teacher and mentor who now works in scouting for a Major League Baseball team — about education and its place amidst the divide and conflict in D.C. Despite our generational gap, we came to the same conclusion: Each person throughout the nation’s 50 states who cares about the future of our young people must move beyond the discourse and find ways to help students, especially the underserved, succeed.
Across our country, we need volunteers who can raise student aspirations and help students navigate the complexities of going to college. We need professionals of all sorts — salespeople, engineers, computer programmers and other community members — who will share their life and work experiences and serve as mentors to young people in their pursuit of college and careers.
In his job, Erick identifies players who embrace challenges and thrive during adversity. While most of us can’t hit a 95-mph fastball, we can help youth develop grit, resiliency and other qualities that great athletes possess and that can be fostered in every student.
Businesses can provide volunteers. CFES, the nonprofit I lead, enlists mentors and partners who provide support, encouragement and access to critical college-career information. Employees of one of our partners, Ernst & Young, mentor students at high schools in 30 cities across the country, including Washington High School in Kansas City, Kan. Because of these and other interactions, our students are far more likely than their peers to attend and graduate from college.
A March 2 Topeka Capital-Journal article cited the Kansas Supreme Court’s reasoning, which recognizes that the state’s funding to schools does not adequately support all students: “‘Under the facts of this case, the state’s public education financing system provided by the Legislature for grades K-12, through its structure and implementation, is not reasonably calculated to have all Kansas public education students meet or exceed’ educational standards, the court ruled.”
While well-spent dollars are important, higher performance also requires the investment of human capital. Education still remains the best ticket out of poverty. A major league education for all, one that includes students from low-income households, will transform lives and shape a positive future for our nation.