Read about the September meeting of the Commission on Race and Opportunity here

The Commission on Race and Access to Opportunity held an October meeting featuring presentations from the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and the Prichard Committee. These groups presented on topics ranging from the workforce and economic opportunity to education and discipline. 

The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s presentation walked through the Chamber’s racial equity report that was released earlier this year, Achieving Equity to Build a Stronger Kentucky. This report explores the data surrounding race and education, discipline, criminal justice, and economic security, as well as provides recommendations to close gaps in opportunities for Kentuckians of color.

In terms of data, the Chamber found that there are significant gaps in subject matter proficiency between white and black Kentucky students. These gaps start early, with only 25.5% of Kentucky’s Black elementary school students being proficient in math, compared to 52.8% of White students. These gaps continue throughout a child’s time in school. In the 2018-19 school year, there were 32,450 White students who completed an Advanced Placement course, compared to 2,724 Black students. 

These disparities are worsened by school discipline measures, which disproportionately impact Black Kentucky students. Discipline that removes students from the classroom is connected to higher dropout rates and involvement in the juvenile justice system. In 2017, 33% of juveniles were involved in the criminal justice system, despite Black Kentuckians making up only 8.5% of the population. 

These early disparities in education and involvement in the criminal justice system have drastic effects on long-term economic opportunities. Black Kentuckians are more likely to live in poverty than White Kentuckians, with 24.4% living in poverty vs 15.1% respectively.

In Achieving Equity to Build a Stronger Kentucky, the Chamber came to the following policy recommendations:

  • Increase the amount of data collected on race, which would allow policymakers and advocates to quickly identify where gaps exist in various systems. 
  • Direct state agencies to create state plans specifically focused on addressing racial disparities. 
  • Expand the number of public-private partnerships available. These partnerships could tackle issues such as internet access, ID availability after incarceration, etc..
  • Invest in outreach and scholarships for dual credits and advanced placement classes, especially in low-income and minority communities.
  • Require racial impact statements prior to the implementation of criminal justice policies. 
  • Expand opportunities to invest in minority-owned businesses and assist entrepreneurs of color.
  • Increase access to high-quality and affordable child care centers, especially in low-income and minority communities. 
  • Ensure educators, employers, and resource officers have training in implicit bias and cultural competency. 

In the 2020 Legislative Session, legislators took great strides to address the racial disparities for Kentuckians of color. However, as the Commission on Race and Opportunity continues to meet, it’s been made clear that there is still more work to do to create an equitable Kentucky. 

For more data disaggregated by race/ethnicity, check out the recently released Kentucky KIDS COUNT County Data Book. Access county data profiles, the Data Dashboard featuring state data from the report disaggregated by race/ethnicity, and the Race Equity webpage for additional data by race at

Photo by Agung Pandit Wiguna from Pexels