NEW YORK—The following is Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's address as prepared for delivery today at a breakfast co-hosted by the Council of Urban Professionals and the New America Alliance at the offices of Kirkland & Ellis LLP
Thank you, Timothy, and good morning. I want to thank you all for coming, and Kirkland and Ellis for letting us use this wonderful space. I wasn't really surprised that we were able to get the room at this hour since most lawyers don't get out of bed until 9:00 a.m. I'd also like to thank our gracious host organizations: The Council of Urban Professionals and the New America Alliance. These two organizations work hard to ensure that equal opportunity finds its way into every community and that mission is at the heart of what our country is all about.
America is based on a promise. It is the promise that hard work and initiative will be rewarded with opportunity and success, the promise that the American Dream can be shared by Americans of all backgrounds. It is that promise that makes ours the greatest nation on earth. And no city embodies that promise more than New York. We are the city of strivers and workers, of dreamers and doers. This is the freest and fairest city in the world.
And yet, while we have worked to make that true for all, it is still not true for some.
A few weeks ago, I attended the funeral of NYPD Detective First Grade Sonny Archer. Sonny grew up on the streets of Brownsville in the 70s and 80s. At that time, Brownsville was the type of place where it was far too easy for a young man like Sonny to take a wrong turn. Sonny's father saw him gravitating towards a life of full of trouble and he got worried. So he worked multiple jobs so he could earn the money to send his son to the New York Military Academy. It was there that Sonny learned the values of discipline, courage, and honor that would inform the rest of his career and life, and help him become a decorated police detective.
Sonny had his father looking out for him but many boys don't. And too often their stories end in poverty, violence, or prison. And that is why we are here today.
As Mayor I work for every person in this city, in every borough. And I we have an obligation to try and extend opportunity's promise to every community. While we have made significant progress in extending freedom and fairness in guaranteeing equality of opportunity to all New Yorkers we have not touched everyone. Because when we look at poverty rates, graduation rates, crime rates and employment rates, one thing stands out: Blacks and Latinos are not fully sharing in the promise of American freedom and far too many are trapped in circumstances that are difficult to escape.
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. 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?
How could we possibly tell them that when they get older they are far more likely than their peers to become violent criminals or the victims of violent crimes? How could we possibly look them in the eyes and say America is a great place, where you can grow up to be anything you want, but the odds are against you? 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. Not today. Not ever.
And so this morning, we are confronting these facts head-on not to lament them, but to change them and to ensure that 'equal opportunity' is not an abstract notion but an everyday reality, for all New Yorkers. This is a problem that has defied cities and states for decades but it remains as urgent as ever. There is no cure-all, and we're not going to be able to reach every single person no matter what we do. But we have to give it our best shot. Because until we do, we will continue losing billions of dollars in economic activity, billions of dollars in taxpayer money and worst of all we will continue losing an untold number of lives to violence and poverty.
That's why, about a year and half ago, in my 2010 State of the City speech, I made a commitment that we would find new ways to tackle this challenge. To help us devise a plan of action, I asked two people who are here with us today to guide our steering committee: David Banks President of the Eagle Academy, a highly-successful school network that educates young men and Ana Oliveira, President of the New York Women's Foundation, which works to create an equitable future for women, families, and communities in New York City. Since then, David and Ana Oliveira have worked tirelessly alongside Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs, Deputy Mayor and now Chancellor Dennis Walcott, and many others in our administration to devise an entirely new approach to this challenge.
The three-year action plan we're presenting today called the Young Men's Initiative is the result of their work. And we believe it is one of the most ambitious and comprehensive attacks on racial and ethnic disparities among young men that any city has ever undertaken.
Our action plan includes across-the-board policy reforms that will fundamentally change the way our agencies interact with black and Latino young men. This is the first time that New York or any major American city has engaged every relevant local agency in a collective effort to improve outcomes for black and Latino young men. And over the next three years, we will invest more than $127 million in programs and policies designed to improve the futures of young black and Latino men by systematically targeting the areas of greatest disparity. George Soros and his Open Society Foundations are committing $30 million towards this effort. Another $30 million in private investment is coming from Bloomberg Philanthropies. And the City will allocate up to $67.5 million.
In a time of fiscal constraint, we know that these dollars must be spent wisely and strategically. The return on investment will not be just in the lives that these programs will touch, but in the ways that these lessons will reform how our agencies operate. That's how we'll get to the kind of systemic change I asked for when we launched the initiative 18 months ago.
In developing this plan, our team took the same approach that we have to so many other challenges: We analyzed the data, we scoured the country for best practices and we spoke with the most knowledgeable and experienced people from researchers, to young men themselves. Based on what we learned, we determined that there are four areas where the disparities are greatest and the consequences most harmful: Education; health; employment; and the justice system and I'd like to talk a little bit about each, starting with education.
When I first became Mayor, we made a very conscious and deliberate decision to attack the racial and ethnic achievement gap in high school graduation head-on. And I'm very proud to say that, over the past nine years, we have made major progress the first measurable progress in a generation. But even as we have made progress in closing that gap, there remains another gap that we cannot ignore and will not tolerate. Far too many black and Latino men are graduating high school with diplomas, but without the skills to succeed in college or careers. So next month, when the new school year begins, we will launch a pioneering new initiative called 'Expanded Success.'
The program will target 40 schools that have already shown progress in closing the achievement gap in high school graduation. We'll use them as a proving ground to show that we can close the post-graduation achievement gap, too. Through the Expanded Success program we will provide students in these schools with academic supports, increased access to college classes and mentors, and we'll work harder to engage their parents too. Over the next five years, the program will help black and Latino male students graduate ready to take the next steps in college or their careers. Once we help the young men in these 40 schools graduate ready to succeed, then we'll know how to do it in every school.
At the same time, I've asked the Department of Education to make sure that principals of every school throughout the system know that we expect them to bridge the achievement gap. I've always said that what gets measured gets done, so the Department of Education has developed specific metrics to measure the performance of black and Latino young men against that of their peers. Starting this year, those metrics 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.
We'll also work to reduce the disparities that exist in special education and in suspensions. That doesn't mean we're willing to compromise school safety, or allow students who don't want to learn to disrupt things for those who do. We've come way too far in our schools to return to the "bad old days." That will never happen not on my watch. But we do need to find new ways to keep more black and Latino young men in the classroom and to ensure they are getting the support they need to succeed in the classroom. Part of that support will involve new after-school mentoring for middle-schoolers because too many of our young men are growing up without positive role models to look out for them and help them transition into manhood. Our Schools Chancellor, Dennis Walcott, was a key voice in developing our action plan and together, we are committed to holding all schools more accountable for the progress of black and Latino young men.