New legislation from the Congressional Black Caucus backs the Obama-era Promise Neighborhoods program that supports wraparound services to support student achievement and well-being, as well as increased access to computer science programs.
The Jobs and Justice Act, introduced by the CBC Thursday as an omnibus bill, also supports the creation of environmental justice programs at the U.S. Department of Education and two years of tuition-free community college, among other education initiatives.
The 49-member caucus based the legislation on the “We Have A Lot to Lose: Solutions to Advance Black Families in the 21st Century” policy document the caucus presented to President Donald Trump last year. (The title of the report was intended to rebut Trump’s quest for support from black voters during the 2016 campaign in which he asked rhetorically, “What the hell do you have to lose?”)
You can read more about Promise Neighborhoods here; grants under the program can support a variety of health as well as education programs, and can support nonprofit groups and other community organizations. The Trump administration sought to cut Promise Neighborhoods to $60 million from $73.3 million for fiscal 2018, but Congress instead boosted its funding up to $78.3 million.
The Jobs and Justice Act also provides for the secretary of education to provide grants to states and districts to expand computer science education. The grants could be used for training teachers in computer science and expanding online opportunities to learn computer science. Recipients would have to ensure that every high school student served by a grant would have access to a computer science education program within five years of a state or district receiving a grant. Grant recipients could also use the money to improve science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (or STEAM) programs. (Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced new computer science and STEM grant opportunities last month.)
The bill’s environmental justice section would authorize the Education Department to issue grants on a competitive basis to educate students on the impacts of air pollution, toxic dumping, access to organic foods, and other issues. The grants would be focused on middle and high school schools that “are located in an urban community that may be disproportionately affected” by things like climate change.
While this legislation as a whole probably won’t merit any attention from GOP leaders of this Congress, if the Democrats take control of that chamber in the November elections, it will be interesting to see which pieces of the caucus’ agenda get traction in the House.
Photo: Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., on Capitol Hill last November in Washington. Richmond, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, introduced the Jobs and Justice Act on behalf of the caucus on Thursday, May 10, 2018. (Alex Brandon/AP)