President Obama today [July 26] signed an executive order to establish the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans that aims to close the education achievement gap for African-American students and ensure that they have greater access "to a complete and competitive education from the time they're born all through the time they get a career."
The program will operate within the U.S. Department of Education and work with the president's office and other federal agencies "to identify evidence-based best practices to improve African-American students' achievement in school and college, and to develop a national network of individuals, organizations and communities that will share and implement these practices," a senior administration official told BET.com.
A cynic might note that Obama’s renewed commitment to the African-American community comes on the heels of a National Urban League Policy Institute report that showed the President is in danger of losing Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio in the 2012 election if Blacks don’t turn out the way they did in 2008. With experts saying this year’s presidential race will be a close one, Obama wants to leave as little to chance as possible. That said, whether it’s a ploy for Black votes or not, it doesn’t really matter if it works.
The African-American community is plagued with a variety of ills that can be combated with education. For instance, studies now show that education, not race or gender, is the biggest determining factor in how much money a person makes. “Based on data from before the recession, between 2006 to 2008 … over a forty-year career, the variation in annual earnings between the least educated (or those with an eighth grade education or less) and the most educated (those with a doctorate degree) is $72,000,” wrote Harry Bradford at the Huffington Post last year. “That's five times higher than the difference in annual earnings between genders, which stands at $12,618. It's also substantially more than the difference between whites and other races.”
Beyond just money woes, education can have an impact on crime, too. Researchers have shown that more education in a community can have a mitigating effect on crime-fighting expenditures. It can also make communities healthier, a major selling point for the Black community, which suffers from things like diabetes and hypertension at rates far higher than whites.
While education certainly isn’t a panacea for all African-American problems, it is something that, if improved, could be helpful for improving conditions for so many. So, again, as long as Obama’s new plan works, perhaps we should all be a bit less concerned that he’s doing it to win votes. Besides, something tells me Romney wouldn’t enact such a plan if he were president, regardless of whether he wanted Black votes.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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