Black education is a priority in the White House once again, as President Joe Biden signs an executive order to help address the obstacles faced particularly by black students in the United States.
The executive order, which was signed October 19, 2021, creates two commissions inside the federal Department of Education. One of them is assigned to identify and raise awareness of challenges that face black students. So far, a major project for this commission will be to increase black children’s access to high-quality early childhood education, a well-known major disparity between black and white students.
Early childhood education is one of the most impactful places we can support long-term economic stability. A three-decade study in New York City showed that not only did children with access to free preschool programs do better in school, graduate at a higher rate, and go on to earn more as adult, but so do their children. Early childhood education is a key facet in building generational wealth.
The second commission formed by the executive order is a panel tasked with making recommendations to this and future presidents about measures towards educational equity and improving the economic footing of black communities.
Opponents have been quick to call racism with regards to this executive order, as there are no commissions specifically dedicated to improving opportunities for white students. But that is because the Department of Education itself has always fulfilled that role. School districts which are majority-black are much more likely to be underfunded than majority-white school districts, with an average funding gap of over $5,000 per student, according to the White House. This funding gap means black school districts can’t attract or keep quality educators, offer scholarships or additional support for students, and have inadequate facilities. It is a major factor in why black college graduation rates are only two-thirds the national average. Education for all is obviously vital, but black education clearly requires specific attention.
Black education and educational equality were a broad plank in President Biden’s campaign platform, and he and his administration have worked hard to meet the goals they set. There have been shortcomings, but this is an important step forward.