LAND O’ LAKES — The 2020 Regional Equity Report, released in August by Tampa Bay Partnership, was designed to determine the state of equality among races in a large, eight-county area of West Central Florida.
As a whole, the results were not flattering. The report analyzed 21 indicators related to economic vitality, talent, infrastructure, civic quality, poverty and employment showed. It showed “dramatic inequities” for the region’s Black residents, who are “far more likely to be paid less, living in poverty and achieving less in school when compared to the region’s white residents,” according to the report.
Included in the study were the counties of Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sarasota. While there is room for improvement, Pasco is reported to be outperforming its surrounding counties in just about every metric studied.
“Pasco County has the smallest or second-smallest equity gap in each of the indicators we measured for this analysis,” the report states.
Included in that study was the category of Educational Attainment. This is the population age 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree or higher. In the eight-county region, 30.3% of white residents within that age group have earned at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to 20% of Black residents. That statistic is flipped in Pasco, however, where 30% of Black residents and 22.4% of white residents have reached that level of academic achievement.
In an effort to continue promote further educational equality, Pasco County Schools is launching its Equity Advisory Council. The formation of the council happened over the summer and its mission is to “identify areas where the school district could make progress toward a more equitable school experience and workplace, and to offer solutions and strategies for accelerating that progress,” according to the district website.
“Over the summer I announced the plan to convene a district equity team to guide and accelerate our efforts to eliminate barriers and provide greater opportunities for each of our students,” Pasco Schools Superintendent Kurt Browning said in a video posted Nov. 3 to announce the EAC’s launch. “The initiative was inspired by recent events at the national level and by conversations regarding equity. And it was inspired by a recognition that while we as a school district have an impressive record at providing opportunities, we still have a great deal of work to do.”
According to Browning, the EAC is charged with a number of tasks. Members will be devising strategies and solutions for ensuring consistent, fair and respectful practices at all levels; setting clear and measurable goals for achieving improved outcomes within the district’s success plan to address unbiased challenges; providing recommendations for professional learning for all stakeholders; and focusing on deepening trust, developing diverse leaders and building capacity for change.
As for who can get involved with the EAC, Browning said it’s open to all.
“We’re looking for teachers, administrators, parents, community members, and yes, we’re looking for students who can bring their unique and important perspectives,” Browning said.
Individuals interested in being party of the EAC can go to the school district website, www.pasco.k12.fl.us, and click on the Equity Advisory Council link. This is where another link to fill out an application for EAC membership can be found. The form asks applicants questions such as individual experiences and training related to the structures of opportunity and social justice and writing a summary of why they would be a productive member of the team.
Assistant Superintendent Kim Moore is leading the EAC team, Browning said, along with other assistant superintendents, the district’s chief academic officer and other staff members. “They have devised a road map for launching the Equity Advisory Council and the next step is assembling the dynamic and diverse group to do the work,” Browning said.
“I’m excited about the potential for the Equity Advisory Council to help our district advance every opportunity that will benefit all our students, employees, and ultimately our entire community,” the superintendent said.