Southern Progress is National Progress

The South, like the nation, is a more diverse, vibrant and complex place than it was just fifty years ago. We continue to grapple with the push and pull of history, moving forward while simultaneously falling back on the promises of our nation’s founding documents and the gains made by civil rights leaders two centuries later.

The South accounts for more than half of the nation’s overall population growth.1

No region bears more scars of our nation’s troubled racial history than the American South. The South’s shameful history of the enslavement and subjugation of Black people and government-sanctioned racial discrimination and segregation in housing, job opportunities, and education explain much of the vast disparities coloring the South today. Additionally, racism, xenophobia, and bias remain harmful roadblocks to fairer resources and outcomes for many communities.

More than 1 out of 3 public school children attend a school in the South2

And instead of working to right these wrongs, policymakers across Southern states are increasingly passing laws that drain money from public schools to fund private education and prohibit educators from teaching students about the diverse histories of people of color and their contributions to our nation’s success.

Nearly 60% of Black students go to public schools in the South3

States in the South continue to lag behind in state funding of public education, relegating its students to some of the most underfunded and inequitably funded schools in the nation.4 The consequences of these funding patterns are distressing: Southern states spend the least amount of money per-student than states in any other region, average teacher salaries are the lowest, and college attendance and graduation rates are lower, contributing to fewer students obtaining a well-paying job that leads to economic mobility and security.

5 out of 10 Southern states have the fastest growing English learner population.5

Alarmingly, the South boasts the highest child poverty rates, the lowest high school graduation rates, the highest incarceration rates, and lowest household incomes in the nation.6,7 Concentrated poverty often exists side-by-side with concentrated affluence, and educational and economic opportunity often reflect those disparities in their resource allocation and quality. These and other disparities undermine the South’s future as a thriving epicenter of diverse cultures and people and economic activity.

The South contributes more to the overall U.S. economy than any other region

These are current, urgent problems that require a prepared and educated populace to solve them. While the past has considerable influence on where we are today, we have the power to change our future. The time for that change is now. Together we can transform how well schools are funded, and how equitably resources are allocated. The results could have profound and positive effects for generations of students and communities across the South.