Are US non-profits doing the work that European governments do?

nxnxNEW YORK | It’s a catastrophe, experts say: about 1.2 million US students drop out every year and this imposes a huge cost on the whole economy.

“Many of these schools [with high dropout rates] are in the inner-city and are made up of blacks and Latino students who are not graduating at great rates. This increases the level of poverty, it increases crime, it increases the incarceration rate. 80 percent of inmates are high school dropouts in the United States. It’s really a drag,” Dr. Alvin Poussaint, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, declared to CBS news.

Education is the civil rights issue of our time,” as President Obama puts it. There are funding, motivation and quality problems. In his State of the Union speech last week, Obama announced several proposals to make college more affordable, but some analysts wonder whether increasing some student aid programs may come at the expense of cuts in other more effective student aid programs and many call for a whole revision.

“The situation of education is terrible,” explains to The Corner Matilda Cuomo, former First Lady of New York State and President of Mentoring USA, a non-profit organization that provides mentoring to several groups of children, including foster children, the homeless, and recent immigrants (those who are more likely to abandon school before graduation). Ms Cuomo started this program in 1987, when crack was causing a huge damage among teenagers in New York, and school drop out rates and teenage pregnancy were alarming. The government was not providing a solution for those kids.

In 1995 Mentoring USA became a non-profit organization. Bloomingdale’s, Coca Cola, NASDAQ, BNY Mellon and Soros Open Society Foundation are their non-public funders. In 17 years it has provided mentors for more than 5,000 children. Their budget for this year is $674,000.

Mentoring is an important part of the US economy, regarded as a way to recruit and keep new talent in both private and public sectors. But are US charitable and sponsoring organizations trying to do the work that in Europe governments do? Ms Cuomo reckons that they get to places that were forgotten by authorities.

“We need to keep the momentum and get people responsible for these kids”, she says, “I am listening to the Republican debates and I never hear what they would do for children. And children and families are those you have to protect, to produce a better generation for the future.”

In Republican Party’s rethoric, paying high taxes to support more social benefits would “poison the very spirit of America,” as GOP candidate Mitt Romney declared. “Barack Obama wants us to turn into a European-style welfare state,” he said.

At New America Media, Frank Viviano complains about Republican’s demonization of Europe:

Health care standards in Europe are no theoretical matter for me. A doctor in Paris saved my life when I contracted cerebral malaria while on assignment in the southern Balkans. Another doctor in Milan saw me through a terrifying cancer scare a few years ago. Neither of them asked me to empty my wallet. In Sweden, allegedly the most dissolute spendthrift in the Republicans’ European socialist welfare nightmare, sovereign debt stands at a paltry 39.7, which translates into the unavoidable conclusion that Swedish Social Democrats are more cautious spenders than all of America’s Republican administrations dating back to Richard M. Nixon.”

About the Author

Ana Fuentes
Columnist for El País and a contributor to SER (Sociedad Española de Radiodifusión), was the first editor-in-chief of The Corner. Currently based in Madrid, she has been a correspondent in New York, Beijing and Paris for several international media outlets such as Prisa Radio, Radio Netherlands or CNN en español. Ana holds a degree in Journalism from the Complutense University in Madrid and the Sorbonne University in Paris, and a Master's in Journalism from Spanish newspaper El País.

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