In the National Urban League’s recently published “State of Black America” Report, there were many findings that show that Black Americans are experiencing more success and higher achievement in education. In their Equality Index, Education had the greatest increase, rising from 77.4% to 78.2%. The Urban League’s report states that these gains are a result of lower high school dropout rates, increased literacy actives by Black children at home, and a higher percentage of Black Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 earning associate’s degrees.
The report clearly articulates how Black educations have improved over the last year, but also contains a tone that is grim and distrustful. The language throughout the executive summary, and from guest contributors, relays a message of realism and resilience during the presidency of Trump. The report itself is titled, “Protect our Progress.”
Below, is an excerpt from an essay from one of the guest authors of the report, Rep. Bobby Scott from Virginia, that supports this notion that the achievements from recent years must be guarded, despite the actions of Trump and DeVos.
As the lead House Democrat on ESSA, I was proud to work alongside the National Urban League and other crucial civil rights partners to ensure high standards and other meaningful federal protections for Black students in the new law. ESSA provides flexibility to states, but also maintains the federal oversight and enforcement role to ensure they comply with the law and take meaningful action to close achievement gaps, improve resource equity, and better serve all students. I believe that if implemented and enforced the way Congress intended, ESSA will improve access to high-quality, equitable education for all students and will uphold the civil rights legacy of the law.
That means the Trump administration and Congress must commit to not only enforcing the law’s requirements, but also funding ESSA. The early actions of President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos are concerning. So far, these include blocking implementation of President Obama’s rules for ESSA’s core requirements and President Trump’s budget proposal. President Trump wants to cut 13.5% from the Department of Education’s budget and slash investments in public schools, while diverting dollars to private school voucher schemes. Despite claims that vouchers help disadvantaged students, research consistently shows that vouchers drain education budgets, don’t cover the full cost of tuition, and fail to produce better academic results for students. This leaves even less money to support the 90% of students across the country who are enrolled in public schools. The most recent data from Louisiana and Ohio shows that voucher programs actually have a negative impact on student achievement. Furthermore, private schools receiving vouchers are not accountable for student performance and discipline practices, and are not always subject to federal civil rights laws.
The Trump budget would eliminate or reduce funding for more than 20 additional education programs, including afterschool and teacher professional development programs. The budget would cut TRIO and GEAR UP, programs that support low-income and first-generation college students. The budget would also cut the Pell Grant program and drastically reduce campus-based aid. Cuts to student aid disproportionately affect African Americans as three out of five Black undergraduate students receive Pell Grants. President Trump’s draconian cuts would weaken the educational pipeline to college and future careers for the African-American community.