By Howard Koplowitz
Mayor Michael Bloomberg launchedï»¿ last week what he called the country’s most ambitious effort to tackle disparities between young black and Latino men, which was lauded by state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans).
The program, dubbed the Young Men’s Initiative, which in part will target 40 city schools that have shown progress in closing the achievement gap in high school graduation among Latinos and blacks, is getting $30 million in financial assistance each from George Soros’ Open Society Foundations and Bloomberg Philanthropies.
Another $67.5 million in funding is being provided by the city.
“Even though skin color in America no longer determines a child’s fate, sadly it tells us far more about a child’s future than it should,” Bloomberg said during a speech rolling out the initiative last Thursday in Manhattan. “That reality is not something we ever tell a child. Because how could we possibly explain to young black and Latino boys that they are twice as likely as white children to grow up in poverty, twice as likely to drop out of school, and twice as likely to end up out of work?
“The truth is we can’t possibly look our children in the eyes and say any of those things. The fact that more black and Latino young men end up imprisoned or impoverished — rather than in professions of their choosing — is not a fact we are willing to accept here in New York City,” the mayor said. “Not today. Not ever.”
Sen. Malcolm Smith applauded the mayor for starting the initiative.
“It’s a harsh message to hear, but it’s real,” he said.
The three-year initiative will invest $127 million in programs and policies designed to improve the future of young black and Latino men “by systematically targeting the areas of greatest disparity,” Bloomberg said.
The mayor said once the young men in the 40 target schools are ready to succeed, “then we’ll know how to do it in every school.”
Bloomberg also said the city Department of Education will develop specific metrics to measure the performance of black and Latino men against their peers and that the method will appear on all school progress reports.
“We are sending the message to the entire school system that we are all responsible for closing the achievement gap — and we are giving parents another tool to hold schools accountable for success,” the mayor said.
Besides education, Bloomberg said he will expand the city’s Fatherhood Initiative, a program that investigates ways the city is either unintentionally excluding a father’s involvement in his child’s life or is failing to engage them.
“For example, we’ll work with CUNY to serve low-income young men who aren’t actually students, but who could benefit from job readiness, college prep and literacy training, as well as parenting workshops,” Bloomberg said. “At the same time, we’ll help more young men avoid fatherhood until they’re ready by making our hospitals, health clinics and reproductive health services more welcoming to young men.
“We can offer them all the services in the world, but it won’t make a difference if the young men who need them aren’t getting them,” he said.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.