President Joe Biden signed an Executive Order on Tuesday (Oct. 19) that seeks to begin the necessary work to address and eliminate the racial disparities in U.S. education and, as a result, provide economic opportunity. The administration has directed a working group made up of senior officers across government agencies to study and to implement best practices that will improve education and ultimately financial outcomes for Black Americans.
The Order is titled the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Black Americans, and it’s a comprehensive plan that addresses issues from educational access for 3 and 4-year-olds to Black students at HBCUs as well as those attending other post-secondary, trade and vocational schools.
The Biden order specifically names “persistent racial and systemic injustices'' as a root cause for why Black students are often steered into the poorest schools with least advancements. Subsequently, this lack of educational opportunities has often left those children, once grown, fewer and less lucrative career opportunities.
Recognizing this, the executive order describes using internships, apprenticeships, and partnerships with private sector companies to expose Black students to careers and fields in which they are typically underrepresented. There are also plans to highlight education and training that will allow Black students to enter STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields.
As Americans struggle to resume some sense of normalcy after 18 months of COVID lockdowns, the nation’s economy is on track to decline $16 trillion from lost productivity and business according to a study from the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The president’s order states that the pandemic is a large part of the need to improve the status quo saying, “In order for our Nation to equitably recover from the COVID-19 crisis, and to ensure that every Black person in America has a fair shot at the American dream, we must advance equity and excellence in public education and access to economic opportunities.”
In addition, factors outside the classroom including eliminating discriminatory enrollment, housing, transportation, and other policies that lead to racial and socioeconomic issues will also be studied and addressed by the working group.
What will the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity do exactly for Black Americans?
To advance equity in our nation's schools and to promote the economic opportunity that follows for Black students, families in communities by focusing on certain policy goals. First, there must be a general understanding of the educational challenges faced by Black students, increasing Black students' access to early childhood programs and services that promote healthy learning, addressing this mistreatment of Black students especially in special education, improving data collection related to Black students and ensuring that all Black students have access to excellent teachers and school leaders through positive engagement with them and their families.
How will the Initiative lead to jobs?
The Initiative will monitor and support the development of Black students with the help of federal coordination and funding around educational, workforce, research and business development policies and programs. There will be established programs with work-based learning, entrepreneurship, financial education, and mentorship to help empower Black students to further economic stability.
Since taking office in January, the Biden-Harris Administration has spent the past 10 months working to address the lasting impacts of systemic racism on Black communities.
Here are just some of the areas in which the Administration claimed successes to benefit Black people from a White House fact sheet called, "The Biden-Harris Administration Advances Equity and Opportunity for Black People and Communities Across the Country."
• Providing Immediate Relief to Black People and Families through the American Rescue Plan. The ARP provides cash relief directly to low- and middle-income Americans, and is projected to cut the Black child poverty rate by more than 50% this year and has already cut Black child poverty by 40.1%, lifting some 420,000 Black children out of poverty between June and July alone.
• Leveraging Federal Procurement to Narrow the Racial Wealth Gap for Black Entrepreneurs and Families. President Biden directed agencies to use federal purchasing power to grow federal contracting with small disadvantaged businesses, including Black-owned businesses, by 50%, translating to an additional $100 billion over five years.
• Extending a Lifeline to Struggling Small Businesses. The American Rescue Plan provided emergency grants, lending, and investment to hard-hit small businesses
Homes and Land
• Helping Black Americans Stay in their Homes. President Biden’s American Rescue Plan has helped Americans stay in their homes by providing emergency aid to cover back rent. In addition, the ARP helps struggling homeowners catch up with their mortgage payments and utility costs through the Homeowners Assistance Fund. And, it provided additional funding for families and individuals who are recovering from or at risk of homelessness.
• Assisting Black Land Owners in Resolving Title Issues. An estimated 60% of Black owned land in the South is heirs’ property that has historically made owners ineligible for USDA programs, including lending. In July, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rolled out the Heirs’ Property Relending Program which provides funds to assist heirs in resolving ownership and succession issues on farmland with multiple owners.
Police and Justice Reform
• Chokehold Ban. In September, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a ban on use of chokeholds and carotid restraints except where deadly force is necessary
• New restrictions on no-knock warrants. Implementing reforms for federal law enforcement administratively that the President had called on Congress to enact nationwide through the George Floyd Justice in Police Act.
• Restoring the Use of Consent Decrees to End Systemic Police Misconduct. The DOJ rescinded guidance from the previous Administration curtailing the use of consent decrees to reform police departments with a pattern or practice of discrimination and misconduct.
• Improving Prosecutorial Guidance to Prevent Unduly Harsh Sentencing. The DOJ withdrew guidance issued in the previous Administration that required prosecutors to always charge the harshest sentences, replacing it with guidance that restored discretion to make decisions about charging, plea agreements, and advocacy at sentencing based on an individualized assessment of relevant facts.
• Addressing Police Misconduct. The President strongly supports the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. He is disappointed that legislation has not yet reached his desk, and he will not wait to advance meaningful police reform through executive action.
• Executive Order Limiting Use of Private Prisons. The President ordered DOJ not to renew contracts for privately-operated criminal detention facilities, covering the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and U.S. Marshals Service (USMS). When completed, this will result in up to 14,000 people in BOP custody and 10,000 people in USMS custody being moved out of private prisons.
• Support for Community Violence Intervention (CVI) Programs. Black boys and young men ages 15-34 make up 2% of the population but are 37% of homicide victims, and homicide is the leading cause of death for Black men under the age of 45. Until this Administration, however, CVI programs like violence interrupters and hospital-based programs, which are demonstrated to reduce violence by up to 60%, have been badly underfunded.
• Support for Voting Rights. President Biden has called for Congress to enact the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, which would together set national standards that make it easier to vote, and deliver new tools to prevent voting discrimination.
Improving Health Outcomes for Black Communities
• Lowering Health Care Costs. Millions of lower- and middle-income Black families enrolled in health insurance marketplaces saw their premiums lowered or eliminated as a result of the ARP. Nationwide, existing consumers saved an average of $67 per person per month on their premiums. These monthly savings were even higher in 20 states and the District of Columbia where existing consumers saved, on average, over $75 per month.
- Millions of uninsured Americans gained coverage during the Administration’s 2021 Special Enrollment Period (SEP). Of those newly signing up for HealthCare.gov coverage who attested to race or ethnicity, 15% were Black Americans, up over 60% from 2019.
-In April, President Biden issued the first ever Presidential Proclamation on Black Maternal Health Week, calling on all Americans to recognize the importance of addressing the crisis of Black maternal mortality and morbidity. In addition, the President’s FY 22 budget request includes more than $200 million to bolster Maternal Mortality Review Committees, implement implicit bias training for health care providers, and create State pregnancy medical home programs, among other actions.
• Ensuring an Equitable Pandemic Response. Nationwide, Black people have died from COVID-19 at 1.4 times the rate of White people. The ARP provided $160 billion for the vaccines, tests, personal protective equipment, and public health workforce needed to address the spread of COVID-19, an investment that is helping to drive down racial disparities in prevention and care. Due to the ARP and the President’s other investments in equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine, multiple studies show that the gap in COVID vaccination rates in Black Americans compared to Whites and Latinos has closed.
In January, President Biden signed an Executive Order on Ensuring an Equitable Pandemic Response and Recovery, creating a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force to provide specific recommendations to the President for mitigating the health inequities caused or exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and for preventing such inequities in the future.