Omaha’s Metropolitan Area Planning Agency has just released a comprehensive report, “Equitable Growth Profile of the Omaha-Council Bluffs Region,” describing the challenges facing the Omaha area economy in the next 25 years.
As also reported in the Omaha World Herald MAPA says that:
- Racial minorities currently make up 21% of the area’s population, up from 9% in 1980. Under current trends minorities will comprise 39% of the population by 2040.
- Minorities are less likely than whites to have high school degrees, associate degrees, or four-year college degrees.
- The education gap contributes to a skills gap which in turn contributes to a jobs and income gap. As shown above, black unemployment at 12.2% (in March 2014) is much higher than the unemployment rate for any other racial group.
MAPA has several suggestions for improving job prospects for blacks such as more and better job training, better public transit, and helping minority owned businesses. It also suggests building “cradle to career” pipelines for underprivileged youths.
This last suggestion is precisely what the Omaha area Learning Community is focused on. As I reported several months ago, the superintendents of the 11 school districts in the Learning Community have approved a comprehensive plan for Early Childhood Education whose purpose is to make sure that children from low-income families are well prepared to succeed in school. It will be funded by a ½ cent levy approved by the Learning Community Coordinating Council.
These same 11 superintendents are highly supportive of the overall mission of the LC to close the academic achievement gap between low-income students and middle class students. They have recently submitted a report to the Education Committee of the Nebraska Legislature suggesting ways to make the LC even more effective than it is already.
Achieving improved educational outcomes for minorities has been called America’s big new civil rights challenge of the 21st century. Omaha is making significant strides in addressing this problem thanks to a huge communitywide effort by many different organizations including the Learning Community.