Reader Keisha tipped us to a new joint initiative between Michael Bloomberg and George Soros. The New York Times reports:
The administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, in a blunt acknowledgment that thousands of young black and Latino men are cut off from New York’s civic, educational and economic life, plans to spend nearly $130 million on far-reaching measures to improve their circumstances.
The program, the most ambitious policy push of Mr. Bloomberg’s third term, would overhaul how the government interacts with a population of about 315,000 New Yorkers who are disproportionately undereducated, incarcerated and unemployed.
To pay for the endeavor in a time of fiscal austerity, the city is relying on an unusual source: Mr. Bloomberg himself, who intends to use his personal fortune to cover about a quarter of the cost, city officials said. A $30 million contribution from Mr. Bloomberg’s foundation would be matched by that of a fellow billionaire, George Soros, a hedge fund manager, with the remainder being paid for by the city.
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.
Talk about a jump start. While many of the experts quoted remain overwhelmed and slightly pessimistic at the turn of events, there are some really great ideas in the initiative: a focus on practical needs, like payment for participation in programs, retraining parole officers, and creating school based initiatives around the achievement gap. I hope Bloomberg and Soros can make a dent with this plan – however, they are throwing millions and millions of dollars at what is a billion dollar problem. The racial wealth gap and the opportunity gaps take an outsized toll on children of color, and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development has published dozens of studies on how everything from access to child care to the nature of low wage work contribute to many of these issues. And even if this program succeeds in NYC, is there enough political will to replicate it in needed areas?
Still, it’s easy to get overly worried about the future. Bloomberg’s other initiatives have done exceedingly well and translated to other, nationwide projects and legislation – here’s to hoping the program is successful and it reignites a national conversation on the resource gaps in our communities.
(Image Credit: New York Times)