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Public Statements

Congressional Black Caucus

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. PAYNE. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleagues, Congressman Horsford of Nevada and Congressman Jeffries of New York, for anchoring tonight's CBC Special Order on improving access to quality education.

The recession, the economy, violence and gun control, the security of our Nation, these are the pressing issues being debated across this great Nation today. However, efforts to address the issues are being undermined by our Nation's educational deficit.

John F. Kennedy said that "our progress as a Nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource.''

True to this statement are struggles that we face as a Nation because of our divestment in our human mind and potential. In the past, the U.S. led the world in several categories, including college graduates and innovation. Unfortunately, there has been a rapid decline in our ranking in these areas that directly correlates to the strength of this Nation.

Among these things, the U.S. has dropped considerably in academic rankings, compared to other developed nations. About 33 percent of our Nation's fourth-grade students are proficient readers. Nearly 7,000 students drop out of high school daily, and about a third of first-year American college students are required to take at least one remedial course.

Globally, our rankings have fallen of our students in reading to 14th; in science, to 17th; and in mathematics, to 25th. Despite these daunting statistics, the U.S. continues to lead the world in competitiveness, patents, media, mobile and research universities. But imagine the leadership that we could hold in the world if we strengthened our investment in education.

Our Nation continues to be at a loss due to the untapped potential of our students, especially students of color and low income.

For this particular population, the statistics are even more daunting, but the potential is greater as well. Forty-two percent of Black students attend schools that are under-resourced and performing poorly. Twenty-eight percent of core academic teachers at high-minority schools lack the appropriate certification. Black children, especially boys, are more likely to be classified and placed in special education than their white counterparts. Black and Hispanic males constitute 82 percent of the youth in special education programs. Black boys are 2.5 times less likely to be enrolled in talented and gifted programs, even if their prior achievement reflects the ability to succeed.

Yet despite these demoralizing facts, despite the failure of the American education system to properly educate these students, nearly 3 million college students in America are African American. And only 13 percent of the U.S. population, Black students represent 15 percent of the college student population.

Currently, these are beating the odds; but imagine how we could develop and succeed as a Nation if we changed the odds for these students and closed the opportunity gap. What if we strengthened our education system and allowed all children to reach their full potential? What if we fostered an environment of innovation and leadership for this Nation's outcomes in all communities equally?

We have long held the solutions to address these issues, but they aren't coordinated or connected. We have the potential to reach new heights as a Nation, but it requires a stronger education system as well as effective solutions and resources to change the odds for our children in the most distressed communities.

I will be introducing the Promise Neighborhoods Act soon to do just that. The Promise Neighborhoods initiative represents an unprecedented effort to work across silos and develop a comprehensive cradle-to-career pipeline for children in distressed neighborhoods to holistically address barriers to success. The Promise Neighborhoods Act would foster continued collaboration on the local level to build similar pipelines in communities across this country.

The pipeline of tightly woven, comprehensive support for children emphasized in the Promise Neighborhoods Act would provide, among other things:

-prenatal education and support for expecting parents;

-high-quality early childhood education opportunities, including full-day, full-year kindergarten and prekindergarten;

-high-quality schools that successfully leverage out-of-school time and community engagement;

-support for the transition to elementary school, between elementary school and middle school, and from middle school to high school;

-meaningful family engagement and capacity-building;

-college and career readiness activities, including college counseling, subsidized employment opportunities, and early college programs;

-neighborhood-based support for college-age students from the neighborhood.

This model engages the community to collaborate and end fragmented delivery of programs to develop a pipeline for programs with demonstrated success. This model aims to eliminate the opportunity gap for low-income children and children of color and set a new standard for education and success in this country.

Though not realized, our Nation holds a great deal of underdeveloped potential, and it lies within our human capital. Investing in education will strengthen our Nation as a whole and position us to once again lead the world. Education is the single investment that can unequivocally develop our economy and strengthen our future.


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