Republicans, Democrats and HBCUs
Coming into the 2020 election, the Democrats knew that they had to strongly support the funding of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) because President Trump and the Republicans outdid them during the previous term. It was clear that the Trump administration and the GOP were intentional with efforts to make meaningful investments in these schools.
When the Democrats took control of D.C. and started proposing bills to spend trillions in taxpayer money like it grew on trees on the White House lawn, many Black American leaders and HBCU leaders thought the Biden-Harris administration and Democrats would always take care of HBCUs financially.
As Black Enterprise points out, “the newest version of the bill allocated just $2 billion for educational programs and HBCUs. Even worse, the funding could be changed into competitive grant funding instead of direct funding to the schools. The aid, currently penciled in at $1.45 billion to be distributed between 2022 and 2026, is much less than HBCUs anticipated, putting Biden at odds with the group that propelled him to the White House.”
This HBCU funding situation further highlights a Democrat Party in disarray, incapable of being on the same page in order to be effective for their own constituencies—let alone the entire nation.
Democrats control everything and they have an HBCU graduate as Vice President, so they can’t blame President Trump or the GOP on this one.
Under GOP leadership, there was the creation of the Congressional Bipartisan HBCU Caucus which had strong Republican leadership and membership in both the House and the Senate. Senator Tim Scott worked with Rep. Mark Walker to create an HBCU fly-in with HBCU presidents and chancellors. That move outshined both the Congressional Black Caucus and Democrat leaders who had failed to organize anything like that before.
President Trump became a staunch advocate for HBCUs from day one. I was there in February of 2017 in the Roosevelt Room of the West Wing when a group of Black Americans gathered to speak about how his support of HBCUs could be life-changing. President Trump listened, he learned, and he acted. He became one of the strongest supporters of HBCUs the White House has ever seen.
From being the first U.S. President to invite all HBCU presidents and chancellors to the Oval Office, being the first president to praise HBCUs on foreign soil in Davos, Switzerland and the first President to give remarks at the annual White House HBCU Conference, to his backing of increased HBCU funding, to eradicating the debts of HBCUs damaged by Hurricane Katrina and permanently funding HBCUs via the FUTURE Act, President Trump stood strong for the black community. Democrats saw Republicans taking the lead on HBCUs so they did what they always do: overpromise and underperform.
Lodriguez Murray, a senior vice president for the United Negro College Fund, said, “We were terribly supportive because no president has ever… in the history of this nation, put these institutions so central to transformative change and investment… For Congress to not follow through on (Biden’s) plan is earth shattering for the institutions.”
At issue is not only reduced funding in their so-called social infrastructure bill but the very funding mechanism that would put HBCUs at a disadvantage. Newsweek reports that the $2 billion “could even be reduced to competitive grant funding, instead of direct funding to the schools.”
In an unusual public rebuke, Rep. Alma Adams threatened to vote against Biden’s spending bill over the issue of decreased HBCU funding. Adams stated,“We can’t build back better unless we build our HBCUs back better. Promises made must be promises kept.”
The Biden-Harris team campaigned on increasing HBCU funding. They pushed the fact that Harris was an HBCU graduate. As a result,many Black Americans and HBCU leaders thought the Biden-Harris administration and the Democrat-controlled Congress would deliver on their promises.
Well, they did not keep their promises, and people are upset. It is not about giving out money for the sake of giving out money. What is most important here is not taking a group of people for granted, not doing a bait and switch when it comes to the fine print, and not preying on the emotions of people with words when you cannot back it up with actions.
Whether it is falling short on police reform, not supporting school choice, pushing to defund the police, forcing vaccine mandates to work, and now going back on their word on HBCU funding, Democrats continue to show they cannot be trusted to do what is right for the Black community. They continuously fail to make Black economic and educational empowerment a priority.
Paris Dennard is the National Spokesperson and Director of Black Media Affairs for the Republican National Committee (RNC). Follow him on Twitter: @PARISDENNARD.