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Paige Asks Black Churches to Apply for Tutoring Grants

Ohanian Comment: This is very dangerous, and I wonder why there has not been an uproar. This means that poor schools will have to shell out 20% of their federal monies to any religious sect that decides to set up a tutoring service. No matter how meritorious one group may be, it opens the door for all the crackpots. And worse.

These are our tax dollars.

U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige made a plea for help in bridging the academic achievement gap between black students and those of other races.

"The faith-based community is the heart of boys and girls," Paige told an audience at Tried Stone Baptist Church in Detroit on Thursday night. "The people who know how to fix" the problem "best are right here in this church."

As part of the federal No Child Left Behind program, Paige told the predominantly black audience, he wanted all students to boost their academic success.

"We're seeing movement in the right direction," he said. "We are becoming a little more aggressive about how we approach this."

He defended No Child Left Behind and boasted of a 40-percent increase in grant money to Detroit, from nearly $98 million in 2001 to $139 million today.

"The federal government assistance is supplemental to primary funding from the state," he explained. "It is not to supplant state funding."

Paige called on members of the faith community to apply for grants to help provide services, like after-school tutoring.

Many Detroit parents learned earlier this year that their children were eligible for free tutoring but that the school district was not promoting the service and often did not provide it.

Only 1,529 students in Detroit Public Schools received help while more than 51,000 were eligible.

Paige joked that there was little left for him to say on the topic after Bishop James Williams, the local president of People Aspiring to Create Hope, gave a sermon on the achievement gap.

"I feel relieved of a lot of the responsibility I had when I came," he said. "Bishop Williams has taken care of business."

To a chorus of "amens," Williams, pastor of Spirit and Truth Christian Ministry in Detroit, told the audience it was time to step up to the plate.

"Having more dollars is not the answer," said Lenise Whitfield, who works with youth in Detroit. "We need to tackle it at the ground level. We need to decide what we really think about our children and whether we care if they know how to read or not."

But the money helps, too, insisted Mincie Williams, owner of Honor Tutor Services, with a contract at the Detroit High School of Fine and Performing Arts.

"It will be a key for us to come together as a community," she said.

"But I think some of the talk about Bush's faith-based initiative was a smoke screen, so to speak. I don't see the dollars. We do what they say we need to do only to hit brick walls over and over again."

Contact TERESA MASK at 248-351-3691 or mask@freepress.com.

— Teresa Mask
Black churches asked to help
Detroit Free Press


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