After speaking with the National Urban League last night, President Obama today made good on a campaign promise and signed an executive order creating the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. “Acknowledging the significant racial disparity present in our educational system, the president’s order is a significant game changer for millions of black students, their families and communities suffering from the impact of inadequate opportunities,” Rev. Al Sharpton, present at the signing, wrote in a Huffington Post op-ed:
When endless research and evidence suggests that poverty, violence and crime are all correlated with access to quality education, it’s incomprehensible that we would set up children for failure by denying them the foundation of intellect and knowledge. Thankfully, we have a president that recognizes this greatest civil rights challenge of our time, and more importantly, is leading the charge to combat it.
In 2009, not long after taking office, President Obama shocked many by inviting two individuals from virtually opposite ends of the spectrum to the White House to discuss education — former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and me. Shortly thereafter, the president asked us to embark on a national education tour to highlight inequities, raise awareness and seek methods to resolve some of the most difficult challenges we face in leveling the educational playing field. Although we hardly agree on much of anything, Newt and I willingly participated in this effort because both of us understood that improving our schools and access to colleges/universities wasn’t a left or right issue; it’s an American issue.
My organization, National Action Network (NAN), and I have worked with the president and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan from the beginning of this administration. My unlikely ally, Newt, and I didn’t hesitate to participate on this education tour upon the president’s request because we wanted to see the next generation succeed. To now watch everything crystallized into a permanent initiative is a natural and necessary progression of this administration and we at NAN salute President Obama and will aggressively work with this new initiative.
The Executive Order creates a presidential commission on educational development for black students, and only strengthens his 2010 Executive Order to bolster the nations’ Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) that suffered extensively from decreased funding due to state’s budgetary challenges.
Image, top, via the White House:
President Barack Obama signs the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans Executive Order in the Oval Office, July 26, 2012. Standing behind the President, from left, are: Patricia Coulter, CEO National Urban League of Philadelphia; Rep. Danny Davis, D- Ill.; Reverend Al Sharpton; Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, President of University of Maryland Baltimore College; Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; Benjamin Jealous, President of the NAACP; Ingrid Saunders- Jones, Chair of the National Council of Negro Women; Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa.; Kaya Henderson, Chancellor of DC Public Schools; and Michael Lomax, President of the United Negro College Fund. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
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