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Education was front and center at the 100 Black Men of America Inc.’s annual conference Thursday. At an education town hall meeting, U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan recalled his experiences with the 100 Black Men’s Chicago Chapter during his term as the city’s public school superintendent.
“Instead of asking me what I could do for them. They always asked what they could do for me,” said Duncan.
This time was different, however. When the floor was opened to questions Thomas W. Dortch, Jr., chairman emeritus of 100 Black Men, requested that Duncan consider reinstating $85 million that Congress had allocated to Historically Black Colleges and Universities in 2007. The two-year funding commitment is scheduled to end in 2009.
“That was a two-year funding cycle that ended, but we’re looking to help out in some other ways,” said Duncan in an interview with BlackEnterprise.com before the town hall. He pointed out that there are proposed increases for HBCUs in the fiscal year 2010 budget that President Barack Obama administration has submitted.
“We’ve also done some things to increase access to capital on their campuses,” said Duncan. “HBCU’s are so important to me for a number of different reasons. One big reason is that 50% of our African American teachers around the country come from HBCU’s.”
Nevertheless, conference attendees said that their organization should be persistent in writing Congress and pressing the administration to do more for HBCUs.
“[The lost funding] was a critical piece for the survival of HBCUs,” said Col. Edward Brown, a member of the 100 Black Men of America’s Educational Programs Committee,” They are already at the bare bottom in terms of necessities and funds so when you take away something of this nature in a time when funds are already short you are really killing the institution.”
Duncan added that “Going forward I think that the role of HBCU’s is going to be extraordinarily important as more and more young people go to college.”
It is great that Duncan stands in support of HBCU’s and their potential to educate the nation, but there may not be a “going forward” for some HBCUs if there isn’t any funding now.
Marcia A. Wade is the reporter for BlackEnterprise.com