National League of Cities’ Institute for Youth, Education and Families published a new municipal action guide that highlights potential strategies and promising city approaches for reducing the persistent disparities between black males and their peers in the areas of education, work, and family.
City Strategies to Promote Black Male Achievement draws attention to the prominent roles municipal leaders can play in a growing national movement to improve outcomes for black males, who continue to face some of the largest disadvantages of any demographic group in America. For instance, a recent report by the Schott Foundation for Public Education found that only 52 percent of black males graduate from high school within four years, compared with 78 percent of white males. Numerous other studies show that black males suffer disproportionately from poverty, unemployment, incarceration and homicide.
The guide presents a wide range of action steps that city leaders can take to reduce racial and gender inequalities in three areas: strengthening families, improving educational achievement and expanding access to family-supporting employment opportunities. These steps are likely to have the greatest impact when pursued as part of a larger, data-driven strategy defined by measurable goals, a clear target population and mechanisms to share accountability among stakeholders from the public, private and nonprofit sectors.
Recommendations are drawn from the experience of municipal leaders who have made black male achievement a top priority for their cities, from Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter who reestablished the Mayor’s Commission on African-American Males to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg who has invested significant funding in a Young Men’s Initiative focused on young black and Latino men, to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Alderman Joe Davis who have sought to address problems of black male unemployment and father absence.
With nearly two-thirds of black children growing up in single-parent households and in response to research that traces learning gaps to early childhood, city officials are developing new policies and practices to strengthen families and support parents.
One example highlighted in the guide is the Milwaukee Fatherhood Initiative launched by Mayor Barrett in 2006, which connects fathers with financial education, assistance in finding a job and driver’s license recovery. Through a partnership with the state, the initiative also helps noncustodial fathers reduce unmanageable child support arrears if they participate in parenting workshops, a practice often used to increase child support payments and encourage positive father involvement.
Improving Educational Achievement
To close the academic achievement gap between black males and other students, city leaders can partner with schools, early education providers and other key organizations to take a number of steps that will lead to the improvement of black boys attaining the best educational opportunities possible.
An example of great work already happening is in the City of Newark, N.J., which is one of several cities that have established a “reengagement center” serving youth who have dropped out of high school. The Youth Education and Employment Success (YE2S) Center connects these youth to alternative education programs that offer dual enrollment in college coursework. Mayor Cory Booker has also established a coalition to recruit mentors for at-risk children.
Expanding Access to Family-Supporting Jobs
Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that unemployment rates for black males ages 20 and older, already high before the recession compared with the rate of other demographic groups, peaked at 18 percent in 2011 and remains over 14 percent as of August 2012. The guide highlights a number of steps that cities can take to help black male residents attain family-supporting jobs that break the cycle of intergenerational poverty.
Some of the most promising approaches to expanding employment opportunities for young black males combine work-based learning with classroom education. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has played an instrumental leadership role in supporting a strong summer jobs initiative for youth as well as career academy programs that reengage disconnected youth and link them to career opportunities and employers.
NLC’s Next Steps
City leaders can download the municipal action guide by visiting www.nlc.org/iyef. In addition, NLC will continue to engage cities in the Campaign for Black Male Achievement with support from the Open Society Foundations. During the next phase of NLC’s Municipal Leadership for Black Male Achievement initiative, NLC will provide sustained technical assistance to selected cities and will also join Casey Family Programs in coordinating Cities United, an initiative led by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu to reduce violence-related deaths of young black men.
To learn more about these efforts, please contact Leon Andrews at (202) 626-3039 or [email protected].