Learning Offers True Emancipation

Black Leaders on Education: But, the Urban League's chief asks, are we willing to invest in our kids?

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* Although African Americans enter college at rates that are nearly equal to those of their white counterparts, only about 40 percent of them will graduate with a degree.

We can all agree that education is the surest on-ramp to economic empowerment and upward mobility, so when we shortchange our youths on education, we come up short as a community.

The reasons for the disparity in educational investment are as varied as the tax schemes and arcane state and local funding formulas used to justify them, but the evidence cries out for an intelligent solution to ensure that all students -- and minority students in particular -- are able to meet college and career-ready standards and compete in a 21st-century economy. This means comprehensive, progressive funding reform that directs more resources to those areas where the need is greatest: high-poverty and minority communities. And it must include input from all stakeholders: parents and citizens, community leaders and elected officials at the local, state and federal levels.

The Urban League embraces its historic role in helping to prepare our youths for success in and out of the classroom. In fact, as part of our recently announced Jobs Rebuild America campaign, we are expanding a number of out-of-school time educational-enrichment programs for primary and secondary school children. But we can't do it alone.

At a time when resources to help the most vulnerable of our citizens are offered up on the altar of fiscal discipline, we in the civil rights community must demand adequate and equitable funding for our children's education.

As the nation faces changing demographics and future workforce needs, we must not shirk our responsibility to say that intelligent investment in our children's education is in our national interest.

Marc H. Morial is the president and CEO of the National Urban League.

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