Investing in the Future of Black Boys Means Investing in the Present
Feb 18, 2011
President Obama's proposed 2012 budget includes several areas of investment that could provide education opportunities for black boys and young men, but it also cuts critical community programs that provide jobs, help reduce poverty and revitalize low-income communities.
As one of the pillars of the president's budget, education receives significant funding in ways that have great potential for meeting the academic needs of black boys and young men who, too often, fall through the cracks in our current educational system. The president proposes a new Race to the Top program for school districts funded at $900 million. The original Race to the Top grant program provided grant opportunities to focus on college and workplace standards, build data systems that measure student growth and effective teachers and principals, and turn around lowest-achieving schools. A $150 million Fund of Improvement of Postsecondary Education would increase college access and completion and improve educational productivity. These two programs would present an opportunity for districts and postsecondary institutions to create effective dropout recovery approaches to reengage disconnected youth, many of whom are black males. In addition, the president proposes $750 million for two programs that invest in strengthening the impact of school professionals, as well as effective teacher and leader preparation. There is a tremendous need for black male teachers and administrators, and these resources could be used to strengthen the education workforce in this critical way.
In addition to these competitive grant programs, the president's budget maintains a commitment to postsecondary completion for disadvantaged populations. It continues funding support for federal TRIO programs and Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP). Both of these programs have a track record of providing educational services to low-income black males, as well as black males who are first-generation college students. The budget also includes ongoing funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Predominantly Black Institutions, and establishes a new $40 million competitive grant program to improve and expand teacher education programs at minority-serving institutions.
All of these investments signal that President Obama understands it is critical to invest in educational infrastructure to secure the nation's future. We are, however, concerned about the leaning toward mostly competitive grant making instead of formula funds to states and districts. We are encouraged by the president's language around attempting to achieve geographic balance in competitive grant making and urge the administration to provide targeted assistance to ensure high-poverty and high-minority schools and districts, can equally participate in competitive grant processes.
While investing heavily in education, the president's budget includes significant cuts for community programs. The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and the Community Service Block Grant (CSBG) are two important programs that provide funding to cities and local municipalities to provide critical services such as job creation for youth and adults, poverty reduction, and community revitalization. The combined decrease of these two programs is $650 million, which would undoubtedly be felt most in high-poverty and high-minority communities. Communities would have fewer resources at a time when they are facing drastic budget shortfalls, and when more families are struggling and more individuals are out of work.
Funding for the Choice Neighborhoods and Promise Neighborhoods has been built into the budget. These are promising programs, but the streams are competitive funds that will reach only a small number of communities across the nation.
It is clear that investments in education will contribute greatly to the nation's short- and long-term economic success. However, the effectiveness of educational investments depends on strong communities. Youth cannot fully thrive in school if their communities are languishing. In addition, the ability of communities to get disconnected youth on track depends on creatively blending multiple resources that support community-wide partnerships. Reducing investments in communities will eventually diminish the return on the educational investments that are being proposed.