Filed Under:  Economy, Education, Employment, National

Ain’t nothin’ goin’ on but the rent

13th November 2012   ·   0 Comments

Why an agenda on job creation in education should lead Obama’s second term
By Dr. Andre Perry
Contributing Columnist

People of color and in particular poor, people of color have fallen in love with President Obama. The numbers don’t lie. However, what’s love got to do with it? If the votes of the so-called “new America” do not return sustaining shares of power, wealth, and political control, the Democratic Party will be left to hear songs of unrequited love.

Obama does have a mandate. The nation’s urban centers kept him in office, and it’s payback time. Votes are not political equivalents of candy and roses. Votes start the reciprocal foundation for quid pro quo relationships. If urban voters get their just due, our President will outline an agenda specifically for cities. Chief in that urban strategy should be a focus on jobs in education. Heretofore, education has focused on the worthy goal of “gap closing.” But, as Gwen Gutherie sang in the song bearing the same name, “ain’t nothin’ goin’ on but the rent. You got to have a J-O-B if you wanna be with me.”

Jobs and the economy dominated the election. Unemployment among people of color is significantly higher than whites. Our urban economies need to grow under principles of inclusion. Moreover, we need job growth in particular sectors. Elected officials should encourage the urban majority to become educators.

Jobs in education not only create a middle-class workforce they increase the capacity of future workers. Public education should look like the public especially in its teacher ranks. Everyday people must become effective teachers if we want educational and economic growth in our cities.

To prepare and retrain homegrown teachers, elected officials must increase access into innovative, retooled education programs at community and four-year colleges. But college is not supposed to make smart people poor. Or, in the case of urban America – smart people poorer. Consequently, city dwellers need Pell Grant funding commensurate with the soaring cost of tuition.

Before I get an earful, let me be clear. President Obama should not save particular ethnic groups. I could argue that everything that could possibly be done to people of color in inner cities has already been done. Nevertheless, President Obama must save America from developing a permanent underclass in our inner cities. More than our cities will determine presidential elections; they will determine if all citizens will share similar social and economic fates. Prosperity should be a family affair.

Still, urban voters should not expect anything to be simply given. After this election, a diverse urban America should have the attention of both Democrats and Republicans. Both need to expand their bases. Democrats should listen to Reba McEntire’s, I Won’t Stand in Line. The GOP brass should hear Alecia Keys’ song, “A Woman’s Worth.”

Robert Goolrick said, “If you don’t receive love from the ones who are meant to love you, you will never stop looking for it.” The election is over so that means the honeymoon is over. Urban voters must demand a policy agenda that benefits the cities. If not, the Democratic Party will do their best rendition of the Supreme’s classic, “Where did our love go?”

Andre Perry, Ph.D. (twitter: @andreperrynola) is Associate Director for Educational Initiatives for Loyola University New Orleans and author of The Garden Path: The Miseducation of a City.

This article originally published in the November 12, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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