President Joe Biden signed an Executive Order this week aimed at addressing “entrenched disparities [that] continue to plague America’s education system, holding far too many Black students back from achieving their full potential.”
The White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence and Economic Opportunity for Black Americans, an order that has as much power as a federal law, begins with the premise that “educational opportunity is a fundamental element of the American promise.” Additionally, Biden’s order acknowledges that for far too long, inequities and systemic racial disparities lead to disparate outcomes and a persistent racial divide Black Americans experience over a lifetime.
The initiative will be housed within the U.S. Department of Education. The education secretary is responsible for designating an executive director responsible for carrying out the initiative’s mandate to “advance equity in our Nation’s schools and to promote the economic opportunity for Black students, families and communities.”
This far-reaching initiative addresses a broad range of issues from Black children’s access to high-quality childcare programs and services, discriminatory referrals to special education and excessive disciplinary actions, to advancing racial equity and economic opportunity by connecting education to labor market needs, to name a few.
An interagency working group will be established to monitor and support the initiative by providing resources and opportunities in the federal government’s efforts to better address educational disparities. Nearly every federal agency will be involved including the Departments of Defense, Justice, Energy, Homeland Security and NASA, as well as the White House Office of Gender Equality, among others.
Biden also established a Presidential Advisory Commission whose responsibility will be to keep the President aware of the initiative’s needs, directives and progress.
Biden also acknowledged in the order the ability of Black students to break barriers and achieve success regardless of the opportunities historically denied to them. Their tenacity has led to “vital contributions” in many areas including science, academia, business and public service, he wrote, adding this “is a testament to the resilience of Black Americans and steps our Nation has taken to expand access to education and opportunity.”
We applaud President Biden for realizing that, despite all of the other major national and global issues now demanding his attention, the cause of racial equity in education is also important to address. He received significant support from Black voters and these are the kind of issues they expect him and his administration to address.