Minority Children & Their Over-Representation in Special Education

By Agbenyega, Stephen; Jiggetts, Joseph | Education, Summer 1999 | Go to article overview

Minority Children & Their Over-Representation in Special Education


Agbenyega, Stephen, Jiggetts, Joseph, Education


Introduction

A nationwide statistical analysis of placement into special education done by Kilalea Associates in 1980 (News Digest, 1987), based upon data from the US. Office for Civil Rights, has observed that "a minority student was found to be 2.3 times more likely than a white student to be classified EMR ... [Educable Mentally Retarded] ... 1.7 times as likely to be classified as TMR ... [Trainable Mentally Retarded] ... " (US News & World Report, 13 December 1993, p. 9).

The corresponding national statistics for placement by retardation are:

The distribution, of minority children in Special Education, is as follows:

National Enrollment Indices

It is projected by the US Bureau of Census that, by the year 2000, minority enrollments, in the United States, will be between 40% and 60% of the population of all children in our public schools. The enrollment projections would be between 57% and 60% for the states of New York and California. However, the projected minority population, nationally, would be about 33% by 2000 (Education Week, 1986). The greatest increases, for African-American children in public school, are in New York State through the Atlantic corridor including Washington, DC., through Georgia, Mississippi, South and North Carolina, Alabama and westwards to California. For Latino children, the largest increases are in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California (Education Week, 1986).

In California, by 1986, African-American children were the majority of children in elementary schools. In Texas, in 1986, African-American and Latino children were 46% of students at all levels in the public school system. As of 1986, minority children made up majorities in the twenty-five largest school systems in the nation (Education Week, 1986).

Relative California percentile ratios, in 1992, show that there is a 50.8% minority student distribution in a general student population of about 4.6 million.

In New York City, in 1988, ethnic distributions and composition of public school children are: 34.1% Latino, 38.4% African-American, 6.9% Asian, and 20% Caucasian for an aggregate school population of 939,933 (The New York City Board of Education Report, Fiscal Year 1988; Cf., The Advocate, Winter 1993-Spring 1994).

The comparative ethnic composition of instructional staff was for the early 1990s: 8.9% Latino, 17.6% African-American, 1.3% Asian, 73.2% Caucasian (The New York City Board of Education Report, Fiscal Year 1988; Cf., The Advocate, Winter 1993-Spring 1994). In Special Education, the aggregate percentile distribution of minority school children relative to others is 90% to 10%.

The comparative percentile sub-ethnic composition of minority school children in New York City by aggregate public school statistics is: African-American 50%, Latino%, Asian 12%, Others were at 11%.

Special Education Over-Enrollment & Comparative Cost Indices

Nationally, US data statistics show a 20% increase in Special Education enrollment "from 4.3 million in 1984 to 5.3 million in 1994" (Portner, p. 4). Comparatively, the US population has increased by only 9.8% between 1984 and 1994 (Johnston, p. 2).

In New York State, the Special Education student population has increased from 262,482 (1989), at 10.3% of the public school student population, to 347,126 (December 1995), in 1997 to 12.4% since 1.989 (The New York Teacher, 7 April 1997). Total public school student enrollment (for General Education), from 1989 to 1995, went from 2,548,710 to 2,777,876, an 8.9% increase (The New York Teacher, 7 April 1997).

   The 1995-1996 per capita cost of educating a Special Education student in a
   self-contained classroom in an out-of-district placement averaged
   $21,000.00 and ranged as high as $50,000.00 ... [compared with the] ...
   average per-pupil cost for a General Education classroom" which has been
   $8,900. 

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