New Initiative Sets Sights on Disparity Gap in Education - Higher Education
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New Initiative Sets Sights on Disparity Gap in Education


by Jamal Watson


Dominique Sharpton

Dominique Sharpton is president of the board of directors for Education for a Better America, a group that is trying to “build bridges between policymakers and the classrooms.”

Civil rights activist and MSNBC host Reverend Al Sharpton is backing a new initiative aimed at addressing the disparity gap in education between White and minority students.

Education for a Better America (EBA), a not-for-profit organization started by his eldest daughter, Dominique Sharpton, has targeted high school dropout prevention in some of the nation’s largest urban areas.

“We want to build bridges between policymakers and the classrooms by supporting innovations in the delivery of education, creating a dialogue between policymakers, community leaders, educators, parents and students, and disseminating information and findings that will positively impact our schools,” says Dominique Sharpton, who is president of EBA’s board of directors.

The initiative also seeks to be a resource in helping connect minority students to information about college planning, admissions, financial aid and other pertinent information related to higher education.

“I see education as the silver bullet and the key to reducing unemployment and violence,” says Marcus Bright, executive director of EBA and an adjunct professor of public administration at Florida International University and Florida Atlantic University, who added that Black male high school dropouts are 38 times more likely to go to prison than a black male college graduate. “We can’t continue to tell students that we want them to go to college but then not give them the knowledge and tools to do so. It is imperative that organizations and communities pool their resources and talent to provide meaningful information and services to young people through initiatives and organizations like Education for a Better America so that they can maximize their potential and create a better way of life for the next generation.”

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Bright says that EBA supports President Obama’s mandate of ensuring that the U.S. leads college graduation rates by 2020. “This challenge, coupled with the projection that half of the new jobs in the next decade will require some type of post-secondary education, America’s dropout crisis, the severe under-representation of minority and low-income students in institutions of higher learning, and mounting disparities in the areas of health and finance culminate in a need for a holistic response.”

Every day more than 7,000 students across the country drop out of school, and more than 1,000,000 students will not graduate on an annual basis with their peers. Among African-American males, the statistics are even more alarming, leading former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell to address the issue in a recent interview with Diverse.

“The brothers are messing around too much, and, when they do get into college, they don’t graduate at the same rate that the ladies do,” Powell said. “This creates a problem 20 years from now when these young ladies of accomplishment and education cannot find suitable partners.”

And though several organizations have sought to address the issue, the results have had mixed results. EBA has utilized different strategies, including creating a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Pipeline Initiative to encourage and support the guiding of low-income and minority students into STEM curriculum and career fields. Bright says that the initiative builds upon a recent report by the Bureau of Labor that, over the next decade, jobs in STEM fields will double. But despite the abundance of projected jobs, he says that the United States does not currently produce enough qualified workers to meet the demand for STEM employees.

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“EBA’s STEM Pipeline initiative will work with school districts, universities, churches and industry partners to attract young people to STEM curriculum and career fields and put them into a STEM pipeline that will lead to gainful employment,” Bright says.

For his part, Rev. Sharpton, who has long called for education reform, has lent his name and high-profile stature to the cause, barnstorming the country to speak to students to bring attention to one of the country’s most vexing problems.

“I think EBA is extremely important because I think the critical issue of disparity in education has not been given the kind of media attention it deserves,” he says. “Until we close the education gap, we are dealing with Band-aid solutions instead of surgery. We need a social surgery.”

Michael A. Hardy, executive vice president and General Counsel of the National Action Network (NAN) and an adviser to EBA, says that the organization is needed now more than ever before.


“Education for a Better America is one of the new additions to the fight for equality in education,” says Hardy. “They have hit the ground running, understanding that closing the gap between rich and poor, black, white and brown is essential to a healthy and better America.”

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