Posted on July 22, 2010

White House to Impose “Fairness” on Education Spending

John Rosenberg, Minding the Campus, July 20, 2010


John S. Wilson Jr., executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, said on Tuesday that the Education Department was looking into which states continue to shortchange public black colleges and how the federal government can make sure appropriations are more equitable among public institutions.

Mr. Wilson said the department’s Office for Civil Rights was evaluating data on state appropriations to compare amounts given to historically black colleges with those given to traditionally white institutions. The office, he said, is developing strategies to improve any disparities and will announce more details about its plans for action at a September conference held by the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Presumably, according to the White House, in order to be “fair” and “equitable” there can be no “disparities” between the funds states spend on “historically black” and “traditionally white” institutions.

It will be interesting to observe the enforcement of this new presidential effort at racial engineering. A quick look at a list of HBCU’s by state suggests some questions. Alabama, for example, has nine historically black colleges (not all of them public). Does the White House believe that equity and fairness (concepts with which it obviously believes itself to be more knowledgeable than the states) require that each one of them receive the same amount of state funds as each branch of the “traditionally white” institutions? That the sum total of funds be equally divided between “traditionally white” and “historically black” institutions? Or must the spending per student al all public institutions be the same (counting, or not counting, out of state students and in-state illegal immigrants)?

And what, if anything, should be done about states that have no HBCU’s, such as Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, or only one, such as California (Charles Drew University of Medicine & Science)? This problem may seem academic (as it were), but it will not seem that way to strong state universities–North Carolina, Virginia, and Texas come to mind–that compete with peers in Michigan, Wisconsin, and California but under the new White House rules would have to reduce, perhaps drastically, the budgets of their flagship institutions. {snip}

And what does the White House propose to do about the Mexicans/Mexican-Americans/ Hispanics? Will the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans require “fair” and “equitable” spending on Hispanic-serving institutions as well? (And if not, why not?) The Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities seems to have far more members than there are HBCUs, and they would seem equally to deserve “fair” and “equitable” treatment. {snip}

Anyone who thought the Obama administration would, finally, allow us to move beyond race must now be having second (or third or fourth) thoughts.

[“White House Official Says Civil-Rights Office Will Enforce Fair State Spending for Black Colleges,” published by the Chronicle for Higher Education can be read here. There is a charge.]