LeBron endeavors to address educational inequities afflicting youth

In February, right wing radio and television talk show host Laura Ingraham made the following ill-informed and implicit racist comments regarding NBA megastar and business mogul LeBron James’ criticism of Donald Trump:

“Look, there might be a cautionary lesson in LeBron for kids. This is what happens when you attempt to leave high school a year early to join the NBA. And it’s always unwise to seek political advice from someone who gets paid a $100 million a year to bounce a ball. … So keep the political commentary to yourself, or as someone once said, ‘Shut up and dribble.’”

Despite Ingraham’s ignorant suggestions, the 33-year-old James, whose platform and achievements off the basketball court dwarfs those of the 55-year-old Ingraham, continues to be an astute political and social voice. And he has expanded his philanthropic endeavors in creating the I Promise School in his native Akron, Ohio.

The school, which will open Monday, will focus on serving at-risk youth. It will begin with third- and fourth-graders and eventually add more grade levels. The initiative is a collaboration of the LeBron James Family Foundation and the Akron School Board.

“Besides having three kids and marrying my wife, putting my mom in a position where she never has to worry about anything ever again for the rest of her life,” James said last November in announcing the imminent opening of the I Promise School, “this is right up there.”

He continued, “The basketball thing, I love it and enjoy it, but to give back and open a school, that’s something that will last way beyond my years.”

In January, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued a report that asserted “the education available to millions of American public school students is profoundly unequal.” There is an abundance of quantitative and qualitative data to support the Commission’s claim. The report noted that school districts serving the highest number of minority students, primarily Black and Latino children, receive roughly $2,000 less in local and state funding than districts serving mostly non-minority students.

Although increased funding for districts serving a preponderance of minority and economically disadvantaged children isn’t an elixir for increased academic achievement, it is a significant factor in providing desperately needed resources, such as social work services, current textbooks, improved technology and vocational training.