Mayor Bloomberg has announced plans for a far-reaching program in New York City that will address persistent poverty, incarceration and unemployment among young black and Latino men. The programs, which will target this group starting in middle school, will be funded in part by $30 million from Bloomberg’s foundation and a matching grant from billionaire hedge fund manager George Soros. The remainder of the $130 million budget will be derived from city revenues.
Bloomberg is taking an aggressive stance against the pattern of failure in government agencies and schools to prepare young men of color for successful participation in public life. Through overhauling a host of agencies that until now have let these men slip into society’s margins, the mayor hopes to improve the lives of about 315,000 who typically go undereducated — ending up in a recurrent relationship with the prison system. The New York Times notes the detail of this revolutionary operation:
Starting this fall, the administration said it would place job-recruitment centers in public-housing complexes where many young black and Latino men live, retrain probation officers in an effort to reduce recidivism, establish new fatherhood classes and assess schools on the academic progress of male black and Latino students.
Mr. Bloomberg plans to announce the three-year program in a speech on Thursday morning in Manhattan, in which he will declare that “blacks and Latinos are not fully sharing in the promise of American freedom.”
Even as crime has fallen and graduation rates have risen in New York over the past decade, city officials said that black and Latino men, especially those between ages 16 and 24, remained in crisis by nearly every measure, including rates of arrest, school suspension and poverty.
The plan aims to go to young black and Latino men where they are by installing offices in centers where they normally receive free services. In addition, simple measures like encouraging them to get a driver’s license or state I.D. upon high school graduation will greatly increase their ability to apply for jobs. In a dramatic measure, schools will now be judged based on how well black and Latino men are educated. Failures to serve them could lead to school closings.
Participants in remedial studies will receive internships paying $7.25 an hour as an incentive to gain new skills. In addition, 900 mentors — many who were once troubled youths — will also be paid to inspire these young people to strive. Some believe the mayor could face resistance to funds being used to support such a specific sector of the population, with very little overt benefit to anyone else.
But there is a long-term benefit.