Here are some of the education news stories from 2016 that impacted the Black community. They range from the ongoing battle over school choice and shutting down the school-to-prison pipeline, to African-American educators reaching the height of their profession.
Jahana Hayes, a Connecticut history teacher, won the 2016 National Teacher of the Year Award. After meeting with President Barack Obama and Secretary of Education John B. King, Hayes set off on a national tour to inspire other educators.
Several Republican senators crossed party lines to confirm John B. King as U.S. Education Secretary. President Barack Obama applauded the 49 to 40 vote. The President said one of King’s main challenges will be implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced No Child Left Behind.
NewsOne traveled with the Rev. Al Sharpton and his partners on a four-city tour to kick off a national movement to redevelop the broken relationship between the Black community and the schools that serve them. The three-member coalition includes Sharpton’s National Action Network, the National Network of State Teachers of the Year, and the University of Phoenix. They held town hall meetings and met with community stakeholders in Atlanta, Georgia; Richmond, Virginia; Baltimore, Maryland; and Columbia, South Carolina.
In a controversial but anticipated move, the board of directors of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ratified a moratorium on charter school expansion. Many in the Black community, even longtime NAACP members, oppose the historic civil rights organization’s views on the controversial issue.
President Barack Obama announced that the nation’s high school graduation rate reached a record high of 83.2 percent. Students in every category made steady progress during President Obama’s time in office. Notably, Black and Hispanic students closed the graduation gap with Whites and Asians. During his speech at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Washington, D.C., the President also underscored several of his education initiatives that enabled the improvement.
An annual report from the U.S. Department of Education said there were a record number of civil rights complaints last year. The report, titled Delivering Justice, summarizes the Department’s Office of Civil Rights’ enforcement activities for fiscal year 2015. It opened more than 3,000 investigations into complaints based on race, national origin, gender, or disability. According to the report, federal officials resolved more than 1,000 cases, with the goal of “achieving equity and excellence” for every student.
Where does the nation prioritize education? A 2016 report by the U.S. Department of Education painted a troublesome picture. Over the past 30 years, several states and local governments increased spending on incarceration at three times the rate they fund K-12 schools. Meanwhile, in higher education, state and local budgets for college has remained flat, while lawmakers increased spending on corrections 89 percent since 1990.
The Supreme Court upheld the University of Texas’ affirmative action program, which ensures the admission of minority students. The Obama administration and Democrats praised the decision. Secretary of Education John B. King said, “Diversity benefits communities, schools and students from all backgrounds.”
In a shameful case, several Detroit principals were convicted of a fraud scheme that diverted funds from their poorly-resourced schools to their own pockets. In October, a judge sentenced the 11th Detroit principal involved in the school supplies kickback scheme to 15 months in prison.
Harvard University appointed highly esteemed epidemiologist Michelle Williams as dean of the University’s Chan School of Public Health. Williams, known internationally for her work on maternal and child health, became Harvard’s first African-American faculty dean.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty