America’s traditional public education systems has failed the descendants of enslaved Africans. Only 16 percent read at grade level in middle school (and only 12 percent of male African-Americans do so). Just over half of male Black students graduate from high school in four years (as compared to more than three-quarters of male White students). 21 percent of young Black women graduate from college, but only 16 percent of young Black men (compared to 31 percent and 30 percent for White women and men, respectively). As a result of this failure of the public schools to educate Black children, lifetime earnings are reduced on average by over a million dollars, or a total of $5 trillion for this generation of the descendants of enslaved Africans as a whole.

geniuslogoThis $1 million individual reduction in lifetime earnings is a quantifiable, continuing, harm resulting from centuries of slavery and an additional 150 years of Jim Crow and its lingering effects. As such it can be taken as one component of the calculation of the figures for restitution.

While the average per student expenditure for Black students is less than $12,000, the amount spent on White students whose families are in the upper 20 percent of incomes can easily reach $30,000. Adding to that the amounts spent by those families on education activities outside of school hours—private lessons of various kinds, tutoring, educational travel—we can estimate the annual monetary educational disadvantage of Blacks students as at least $25,000. Given k-12 Black enrollment of seven million, the total annual shortfall is on the range of $175 billion.

If this $175 billion were available for the education of Black American children, how could it be used to eliminate the educational penalty for studying while Black?

One idea would be to utilize the existing legal framework underpinning the charter school movement (whose schools have been more-successful in improving the prospects of black children) to create a national charter school network for the American descendents of enslaved Africans. I call it the Black American Public School System. We already have such a system in higher education in the form of the nation’s historically black colleges and universities, many of whom still account for the vast majority of black collegians entering professions such as law and the sciences.

These schools would be funded in each locality by the usual local, state and federal contributions, supplemented by a National Black Educational Fund, capitalized with restitution contributions. The total per student expenditure would vary by locality, but would everywhere be sufficient at a minimum for universal pre-kindergarten; all-day, literacy-oriented, kindergarten; challenging, college-preparatory curriculum with after-school, Saturday and summer classes; highly effective teachers supported by on-going subject-area and pedagogical professional development; excellent facilities.

Use of advanced technology would enable geographically neutral delivery of resources, including administration, so that Black students in a small elementary school in the rural South would have educational resources equivalent to those of Black students in Northeastern and Far Western suburban Black American Public School System schools.

Graduates of the Black American Public Schools admitted to college would be provided with full tuition and living expenses. Others would receive support for job training, including apprenticeships.

Increases in Black high school and college graduation rates would result in higher Black annual and lifetime earnings, with consequent improvements in health, family and social life and childhood well-being in the Black community and increased contributions to governmental revenue at all levels. In this way, the education system, the deficiencies of which now drive the Black poverty cycle, would instead serve as a foundation for the prosperity of the Black community.