We know this about Republican lawmakers: Educating African -American students is not high on their list of priorities.
Providing quality education for African-American and public school students of color is one of the Obama administration’s top objectives for the next two years. But if congressional Republicans have their way, massive cuts in education spending would have a devastating impact on Black students all across the country.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Education released new data detailing the impact of potential cuts to school districts serving high concentrations of Black and Hispanic students as a result of proposed legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
The data, according to the Department of Education, shows that the House Republicans’ proposal would provide the largest 33 school districts with high concentrations of Black and Hispanic students over $3 billion less in federal funding than President Barack Obama’s budget over six years.
The cuts in education spending would allow states to divert money from schools serving vulnerable student populations to wealthier districts.
“The partisan proposal in the House flies in the face of what ESEA was created to do—give every child an equal opportunity to be successful,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement. “The bill is bad for children and would turn back the clock on progress. At exactly the time we should be expanding opportunity for America’s students and helping schools recover from the recession, this bill would allow unconscionable funding cuts. Our teachers and students deserve better,”
Of the 100 largest school districts in the country, Duncan said the following, which serve high concentrations of Black students, could lose a total of more than $1.3 billion in federal funding for already strapped districts: Baltimore City Public Schools (MD), Detroit City School District (MI), Prince George’s County Public Schools (MD), Shelby County School District (TN), Atlanta City School District (GA), Clayton County School District (GA), DeKalb County School District (GA), Cleveland Municipal School District (OH), Columbus City School District (OH), Milwaukee School District (WI) and Philadelphia City School District (PA). For example:
- Philadelphia City School District – which is 55 percent Black, could lose $412 million.
- Shelby County schools in Tennessee – which is 81 percent Black, could lose $114 million.
So why did congressional Republicans target these particular districts for budget cuts? Why don’t they want our children to learn? We can only guess that since many of their kids are enrolled in prestigious private schools why should they care about some disadvantaged Black public school students?
It reminds me, eerily, of slave owners refusing to allow enslaved Blacks to read. They didn’t want Black people to have knowledge. I’m not suggesting that all Republican lawmakers are racist, I’m only saying that far too many Republicans have a callous disregard for the concerns of poor African-Americans and people of color and it’s played out all too often through GOP policies.
According to the Department of Education, the House Republican proposal would deny resources to students and teachers in the following respects:
- Capping federal education spending through 2021, it would never reverse the $800 million in sequestration cuts made since 2012 or keep up with inflation or enrollment growth. In Title I alone, a program that provides support to schools that need it most, the bill would provide over $7 billion less to schools than the President’s budget over six years.
- Allowing even greater cuts to schools that need help most by permitting states to redirect federal resources to wealthier communities. Students attending schools in districts with a concentration of poverty above 25 percent could lose $700 million in funding, while districts with low concentrations of poverty gain $470 million. Some high-poverty school districts could see cuts as large as 74 percent.
- Failing to close a loophole in the current law that allows inequity in state and local school funding, resulting in wealthier schools receiving more funding than their less affluent counterparts.
- Eliminating guarantees that education funding reaches the classroom. As a result, it opens the door for state and local funds to be diverted from education investments to sports stadiums and other unrelated pet projects.
- Failing to stand up for taxpayers by allowing tens of billions of dollars to flow to states, districts and schools without ensuring that it will improve student learning.
The proposed coldhearted budget cuts come at a time, arguably, when Black and poor public school students need resources now more than ever. In Detroit, for example, more than 30 public schools have been closed over the past few years as a result of budget concerns. This is a time for congressional Republicans to provide resources to open more schools and hire more teachers, not scale back on resources for education.
But I’m not holding my breath.
What do you think?