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Prosperity Perspectives

Championing diversity, equity, and inclusion first requires an understanding of the data. There is plenty of political flare around equality, but few use the facts to inform their actions.

I am often asked the question, “how does the Florida Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Project fit into the
Florida Chamber Foundation’s efforts in the Florida Equality of Opportunity Initiative?” On the surface,
the answer seems simple, our movement is working to ensure every Floridian has an equal opportunity
at earned success. By working with Florida’s top DEI leaders to develop a DEI business toolkit, tailored to
the needs of small to mid-size organizations, we can ensure the best practices around DEI in Florida’s
top performing businesses, become the standard practices throughout the sunshine state. However,
that is just one output from the efforts within the initiative, a deeper look at the data shows just how
intertwined our efforts to support diversity, equity, and inclusion are within our Florida Prosperity
Project, and Florida Business Alliance for Early Learning Project.

If you have had the opportunity to hear our President and CEO, Mark Wilson, present over the past few
years, you have likely heard the following statistic – more than half of all children in poverty, reside in
just 15 percent of Florida’s 983 zip codes. While this startling point highlights the challenges we have
around the concentration of poverty, there is another key point that helps tell the story of racial
achievement gaps.

More than half of all Black Floridians and more than 40 percent of all Hispanic / Latino Floridians
throughout the entire state, reside within these 15 percent of zip codes that half of all children living in
poverty call home. This is compared to 17.5 percent of all White Floridians. This incredible analysis
underscores the fact that high clusters of poverty disproportionately impact minorities in Florida.

 

 

 

 

When it comes to reading at grade level, the story remains the same. In 2021, 54 percent of Florida
students in third grade were reading at grade level. However, when you break this down by
demographics, we once again uncover racial achievement gaps. In fact, while 67 percent of all white
students in grade three reading at grade level, only 37 and 51 percent of Black and Hispanic / Latino
students in grade three were reading at grade level, respectively.

 

 

 

 

Now, this data doesn’t tell a story that there is a disposition amongst races that would lead to minorities
being impoverished or falling behind in school, instead it speaks to opportunity, or, more accurately, the
lack of previous opportunities. And that, right there, is the heart, purpose, and focus of the Florida
Equality of Opportunity Initiative. We are working to map out the areas of greatest need in Florida,
uncover the challenges impacting each community, and uniting partners to address those problems
head on, at the neighborhood level.

By using the Florida Scorecard and Florida Gap Map, first of their kind tools that the Florida Chamber
Foundation has made publicly available, every Floridan can look at the challenges facing their
community, and direct efforts and resources to the areas experiencing the greatest need. In addition to
the data and analysis, we are working with business and community leaders from every corner of Florida
to collect promising practices that are working to address these exact challenges around Florida. Each
promising practice listed has been identified not only for its track record of success, but also because
primed to be scaled and replicated across Florida, and America.

As we work to accomplish the Florida Blueprint 2030 goals of cutting childhood poverty in half and
building a path to prosperity for all, and fostering the educational development of children to ensure all
third graders are reading at grade level, the Florida Equality of Opportunity Initiative is working to
holistically bring about radical change in communities of need, it just so happens that these
communities are predominately minority.

To learn how your organization can join America’s first comprehensive, business-led effort to ensure
every child has an equal opportunity at earned success, email Kyle Baltuch, SVP, Equality of Opportunity
at kbaltuch@flfoundation.org, or visit our website https://www.flchamber.com/equalityfl/.

 

1- American Community Survey. U.S. Census Bureau.
2- Florida Standards Assessment. The Florida Department of Education

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