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Urban League Cites Schooling Gains, Economic Losses for Blacks in 1982

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Washington--According to the National Urban League, "1982 was not a good year to be black and poor in America."

"These are indeed troubled times, and trouble is magnified within Black America, just as it always has been," said the league's president, John E. Jacobs, in the introduction to the organization's annual report on the status of blacks in America. "White America catches a cold. Black America develops pneumonia."

Although the report painted a generally gloomy picture, particularly with respect to the employment of blacks, it did note continued gains in the area of precollegiate education.

"High-school educational attainment among blacks continued to improve dramatically over the last decade, with the median years of school completed rising from 9.9 in 1970 to 12.0 in 1980 for the first time in history," the report noted.

Decline in Dropouts

In addition, the report noted that during the same time period the number of blacks dropping out of high school continued to decline.

"In 1970, the dropout rate for 18- to 21-year-old blacks was 30.5 percent," representing more than 500,000 students, the report said. "By 1980, this number had decreased to 486,000 youths, representing 23 percent of the 18- to 21-year-old [black] population." Furthermore, in 1970 the dropout rate among 14- to 17-year-old blacks was 7.4 percent, the report continued, and by 1980 that rate had decreased to 4.5 percent.

"In spite of these gains, there is still much to be done and a long way to go in the area of education," according to the report. "Of those blacks 25 years old or older in 1980, only 51 percent have graduated from high school, while 70 percent of whites of that age have high-school diplomas.

"[This means] that only one-half of black adults have graduated from high school in an era when a high-school education is increasingly seen as the basic criterion for both employment and training."

The report also said that "it is becoming increasingly clear that simply keeping youngsters in school is not sufficient for the schools to fulfill their educational mission."

"It is important that black people begin again to demand that our teachers teach and our students learn and that we aid and support our educators in achieving this mutual goal," the report asserted. "The importance of education has never been more apparent than today with the black unemployment rate hovering around 20 percent while the want ads are full of jobs for machine installers and repairmen, computer programmers and engineers."

Top among the league's recommendations for positive change was a call for the creation of "a universal employment and training system," a joint public- and private-sector ef-fort that "would train the unskilled and unemployed and retrain displaced workers for jobs in growth industries."

Other Recommendations

In addition, the league:

Called upon the Congress to resist further cuts in social services, such as the school-lunch program;

Called upon private groups to monitor the activities of the civil-rights division of the Department of Justice "and to take appropriate action" when those activities are not in the best interest of minorities;

Asked President Reagan to publicize the findings of the National Commission on Excellence in Education, paying special attention to findings that determine "a more equitable and effective approach to strengthing instruction in public schools;"

Asked the Congress to re-establish the Emergency School Aid Act, which provided categorical school-desegregation grants to school districts;

Opposed legislation that would extend tuition tax credits to parents who send their children to private schools; and,

Asked the Congress, "appropriate federal agencies," and the General Accounting Office "to monitor the implementation of the block grants enacted in 1981 to guard against the possibility of misuse and abuse of federally appropriated funds, and to assure that the civil rights of blacks and minorities are protected."

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