The follow Essay was submitted by BlackEconomics.org:
Last week, President Joe Biden released his fiscal year (FY) 2022 Budget that proposes a large
increase in education spending.1 While Biden proposes new, sizeable, and potentially helpful
spending at the post-secondary level, here we are concerned with a completely new $20 billion
expenditure in so-called Title I “Equity Grants” for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade education.
We should not get too excited about any aspect of the proposal yet because the US Congress will
have its say in determining actual spending. However, we should certainly scrutinize the proposal
of interest to see what it portends for Black America. Of course, we must always be cognizant that,
like President Barack Obama before him, President Biden will not be a President for Black
America and that the proposed spending is designed to be stimulative in nature and ensure Biden’s
successful manipulation of the political business cycle.
Education is all about outcomes. We engage in education to obtain knowledge, skills, and abilities
that will ultimately ensure our well-being. Clearly, our current and future world concerns science
and technology with emphasis on, inter alia, vaccines to protect against ever evolving viruses,
healthcare bots, green energy forms and related electric and driverless vehicles, space tourism and
travel to Venus, and the colonization of Earth’s Moon and Mars. Therefore, if we are not
STEMAIR (science, technology, engineering, mathematics, artificial intelligence, and
robotization) proficient, then opportunities to experience a well-being-filled life and to contribute
to the evolution of the national and global society will be limited.
Now let us turn to the aforementioned proposed new $20 billion in Title I Equity Grant spending
to determine its potential efficacy for Black America. Consider the following statistics:
• According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Black students account
for about 21 percent of all students who participate in Title I school-wide and targeted
• Disregarding costs associated with administering the program, the $20 billion expenditure
would mean about $760 of new spending for all students (some 26.4 million in school year
(SY) 2018-19) who participate in school-wide and targeted Title I programs.
Now consider the primary objective of the program. Title I programs are designed to help generate
equality in educational proficiency. According to NCES’s National Assessment of Educational
Progress (NAEP), there is a large and persistent gap between Black and White proficiency in
reading, science, and mathematics.3,4 Generally, the average gap between non-economicallydisadvantaged and economically-disadvantaged students (about 68 percent of all Black students
are economically-disadvantaged) is 20 percent or greater in all three subjects.5,6 Theoretically, one
might expect that the new Title I spending could help close the gap. However, we highlight four
important reasons why the new spending may not produce expected outcomes:
• While students are viewed as the ultimate beneficiaries, a significant amount of the new
spending will be used to increase the salaries and improve the skills of teachers. Stated
simply, much of the new spending can be interpreted as a payoff to teachers (members of
the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and National Educational Association
(NEA)), who helped produce Biden’s 2020 election victory. It could be that increased
compensation will motivate teachers to redouble their efforts to assist Black students in
increasing their proficiency, but past increases in Title I spending have not reduced
proficiency gaps considerably. Keep in mind that nonBlack students stand to continue
increasing their educational proficiency under the program.
• This one-time increase in Title I Equity Grant spending would not impact effectively two
especially important indicators of high educational proficiency: (1) Students residing in a
two-parent household; and (2) the availability of Black teachers.7
• The spending will not transform materially the non-school environment in which Title I
students reside. Transformation of an economically-disadvantaged-environment or
relocation out of such an environment could contribute significantly to reorienting
favorably students’ attitudes, motivations, and achievements.
• This one-time expenditure does not constitute a sustained effort to close the proficiency
gap. Just as it takes many years to achieve full educational proficiency, plans and efforts to
close the educational proficiency gap should be sustained over a long period.
A priori, the $20 billion Equity Grant spending proposal sounds promising. In reality it is likely to
be just more stimulus spending to help boost economic growth. Unfortunately, because Black
teachers comprise such a small percentage of all teachers, and because most Black businesses do
not supply the goods and services that might be acquired under the proposed educational program,
Black Americans are not likely to derive sizeable economic benefits from the program.
From an educational perspective, some Black students may benefit at the margin from the program.
However, because the educational proficiency gap is not likely to be reduced in any substantial
way due to all of the reasons outlined above, we suggest that Black America take the following
actions in response to the Biden proposal:
• Black US Congresspersons should oppose the spending because the proposed program and
related spending are inadequate.
• Black US Congresspersons, members of the AFT and NEA, other interested Black parties,
and Department of Education officials should form a Select Committee to develop a longterm strategic plan and budget for resolving the educational proficiency gap specifically
with respect to Black students.8
o One key aspect of the plan should feature training and hiring of more Black
teachers, particularly male teachers. Before desegregation, Black males comprised
a large proportion of academic teachers in Black schools—especially at the high
school level. In many school districts today, Black students can complete their
entire pre-K through 12 education without encountering a Black male teacher
except as a physical education instructor or as an athletic coach.
o Another key aspect of the plan should be a program that engages parents of povertystricken families to ensure that their pre-kindergarteners are able to read and count
before they enter kindergarten.
• The just-mentioned plan and budget should be presented to President Biden for action. Part
or all of the $20 billion in Equity Grants should be used to implement the plan. If required,
additional funds should be provided to execute the plan. This is not to dissuade President
Biden from identifying other funds to reward teachers with higher compensation.
If Black America does not take the suggested or similar action, then we will continue to languish
in lower educational and economic strata of the American society, which does not bode well for
our future well-being.
Lindsey “Rob” Robinson and B.B. Robinson