The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

“Delta Vision, Delta Voices”

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“At the age of twelve, I had an attitude toward life that was to endure, that was to make me see those areas of living that would keep it alive, that was to make me skeptical of everything while seeking everything, tolerant of all yet critical.”

Richard Wright, Black Boy


Improving the quality of life in the Delta must begin with the celebration of one of its greatest strengths—its rich ethnic, cultural and racial diversity—while attacking its greatest flaw: the blight of racism. A fundamental theme running throughout this Report is the need to ameliorate race relations in the Delta. Racism has been one of the most destructive forces in preventing the people of the Delta from making joint progress in attacking the region’s social, political, and economic problems. In many areas—community development, educational opportunities, small business assistance, and others—there have been important strides made in the 1990’s for African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and other minorities in the Delta. Yet much remains to be done. Minorities in the Delta have not participated freely in the economic boom of the 1990s. Since approximately 40 percent of the Delta’s people are African-American and the relatively small number of Hispanics in the region is rapidly growing, this is a vital issue.

This Report addresses a multitude of issues that deal in part or entirely with race relations. Several examples below illustrate some of the important activities underway. Magnet schools: The Magnet School Assistance Program (MSAP) has assisted school districts in planning and developing such schools as part of that district’s approved desegregation plan to reduce, eliminate or prevent minority group isolation. For example, the Monroe City School District in Louisiana will receive up to $3,730,659 over three years for its MSAP project to establish technology-based magnet schools at Carroll Junior High School and Carroll Senior High School. The program will foster partnerships with business, technical colleges, and universities to create a strong link between school-based and real-world learning.

Minority education at elementary, secondary and college levels: Through the 1994 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), additional Federal resources through the Title I program were directed to schools with high percentages of students living in poverty. A substantial majority of elementary and secondary schools in the Delta receive Title I funding. At the college and university level, a number of initiatives have been pursued, including assistance for the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) program, which makes up another major component of the effort to assist minorities in obtaining opportunities for educational advancement. Many Departments—including USDA, Education, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and others—are committed to strengthening their active partnership agreements with the association of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) to provide college students training and job opportunities.

Bilingual and migrant education programs: The Department of Education’s Bilingual Education program assists students with Limited English Proficiency (LEP), including many Latino children, learn English and achieve the same high academic standards as other students. The Migrant Education Program reaches out to migrant farm workers’ children who suffer from the combined effects of poverty, inadequate mobility, and limited English proficiency, characteristic of many migrant children. For example, the Orleans Parish School District in Louisiana received $463,676 in Federal funding in FY98 through a Bilingual Education Comprehensive School grant to restructure, upgrade, and reform the current program for over 1,300 LEP students speaking more than 20 languages.

Minorities in the agricultural sector: The U.S. Department of Agriculture has pursued a number of policies for assisting small farmers and farm workers, many of whom are minorities. Expansion of marketing opportunities, greater access to credit, and other policies for the disadvantaged have been advanced, although much remains to be done to correct the historic discrimination that has been inflicted upon minority farmers. Efforts have been made to provide aid for farm laborers, many of whom are African-American and Hispanic. In addition to the education programs cited above, housing is a major issue for migrant workers. Farm labor housing in the Delta region has traditionally consisted of single-family dwellings located on private lands, which the agricultural producer funded. But, with changes in the agricultural economy of the Delta, there has been a shift away from such housing. In the 1990’s, USDA Rural Development provided assistance for farm labor housing programs in the Delta. Mississippi built 26 on-farm labor housing units totaling $1.23 million, and western Tennessee built two units at a cost of over $100,000. In Arkansas, however, construction of new, on-farm units has continued at a more significant rate, and an innovative, overnight housing and referral facility for migrant farm workers was developed in Hope, Arkansas. During the 1990’s, Rural Development in Arkansas provided 47 domestic Farm Labor Housing loans to finance 62 on-farm units totaling approximately $2,610,000. Moreover, Rural Development in Arkansas also granted $2.5 million to construct the new Hope Migrant Complex.

The Hope Migrant Farm Labor Center was constructed to assist families and individuals as they travel through a “migrant stream”—workers who travel to points north and south, anticipating work opportunities along certain routes. Each year, thousands of families following the midwestern migrant stream travel through Hope, Arkansas, and many families stop to rest at the Labor Center. They are provided with housing, job referrals and social services assistance. Farm workers have historically been among the most socially and economically distressed groups in the region, despite their essential contribution in producing the food Americans eat every day. USDA’s Rural Development and the U.S. Department of Labor are working on this and other projects to assist farm workers throughout the region.

Fair housing opportunity: The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has vigorously invoked its authority under the Fair Housing Act to prosecute cases of housing discrimination. HUD has funded the Fair Housing Initiatives Program, which aids private nonprofit organizations, State and local governments and other entities committed to enhancing compliance with the nation’s fair housing laws. Furthermore, HUD launched a rigorous independent study of racial and ethnic discrimination in housing and rental sales in order to enhance its continuing effort to enforce fair housing opportunities.

Minority small businesses: The Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Micro Loan program has assisted small businesses throughout the region, with over half of the loans going to African-Americans. SBA’s Section 7(a) Loan Guaranty Program provides loans to eligible, credit-worthy small businesses that cannot obtain financing on reasonable terms through normal lending channels. This program has steadily increased its loan activity for minorities. In fiscal year 1992, 15 percent of the loans were made to minorities and 14 percent to women, while in fiscal year 1998, that percentage had risen to 24 percent to minorities as well as 24 percent to women. In fiscal year 1999, SBA guaranteed 4,052 loans in the region, amounting to more than $755 million, and almost half of the loans were to minorities and women. Similarly, the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund has provided opportunities for small businesses, including many African-American businesses, working with community development organizations such as the Enterprise Corporation for the Delta and many others.

Minority government contracts: The Federal government has made a concerted effort to provide minorities with opportunities to increase involvement with Federal contracting. The 1990 Commission explicitly recommended such assistance. The Department of Defense gives attention to minority defense contract awards, and SBA’s Section 8(a) program is a set-aside for small disadvantaged businesses. African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans and Asian Pacific Americans are included among those designated as disadvantaged under the Small Business Act. To date, there are 683 companies taking part in Section 8(a) in the Delta region. To cite just a few examples of the benefits: in four Delta counties in Arkansas in 1998, $18.5 million in Federal contracting dollars were awarded to small and disadvantaged businesses, while three Louisiana Delta counties received almost $32 million.

HUBZones: Similarly, the Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZones) program provides Federal contracting opportunities for qualified and certified individually owned small businesses located in areas with high unemployment, low-income residents, or on Native American reservations. Almost every county along the Mississippi River is included among the more than 7,500 HUBZones across the nation. SBA pursues a number of other policies aimed at providing fair opportunities for minorities (and all small, disadvantaged businesses) through its Small Business Development Centers and other initiatives.

Minority health: In 1998, President Clinton instructed Federal agencies to pursue a major initiative to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in health. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is leading this effort to focus attention on minority health issues. One example of this attention is the Mississippi Delta Environmental Health Project, supported by HHS through a cooperative agreement with the Minority Health Professions Foundation. This project identifies environmental and other problems that affect the health of Delta minorities, addresses demographics, identification of health care providers and environmental services in the region, and implements strategies to address these problems.

Environmental justice for minorities: Pursuant to the Clinton Administration’s Executive Order 12898, “Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations,” the Environmental Protection Agency has funded a variety of low-income and minority communities through its Environmental Justice Program, including grants to Delta institutions of higher learning to study hazardous waste, health and the environment in the region. The Department of Transportation also has made environmental justice a cornerstone of its relationship with its stakeholders, working to ensure that the public participation process which underlies all State and metropolitan plans is fully open to access by minorities who would be affected by proposed transportation projects.

Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities: As discussed earlier, this major Clinton-Gore Administration innovation in community development has designated 15 rural and urban EZs and ECs in the Delta located in economically distressed areas with large minority populations.

Civil Rights Division, Justice Department actions: The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) has done extensive work to ensure equal rights and equal opportunity for all residents of the region, regardless of race, ethnicity, color, gender, or disability. Numerous Federal criminal civil rights cases have been filed during the past seven years. These prosecutions include hate crime violations as well as acts of official misconduct and criminal violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE). In addition, DOJ has promoted educational opportunities by enforcing extant desegregation decrees in longstanding school cases to which the United States is a party. Fair housing, employment discrimination, and voters’ rights remain top priorities in the Mississippi Delta, and DOJ has been very active in these areas. For example, DOJ has brought cases under the Voting Rights Act to ensure that minority voters have an equal opportunity to elect their candidates of choice, and extensive work has been done in defending State and local redistricting plans challenged under the 14th Amendment as unlawful racial gerrymanders.

The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, established in 1957 following enactment of the first civil rights statutes since Reconstruction, is the primary Federal institution responsible for enforcing Federal statutes prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, sex, handicap, religion, and national origin. The following includes some highlights in key areas:

  • Disability rights: In the area of enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Civil Rights Division has been quite active in the Delta. The Department of Justice has entered into a consent decree with the Louisiana Department of Corrections, for example, to resolve a complaint regarding the denial of reasonable accommodations to applicants for corrections officer positions. Also, DOJ has reached settlements with various Delta cities and counties including the City of Gonzalez, Louisiana; Hickman County, Kentucky; and Marshall County, Mississippi, to resolve allegations that they failed to complete self-evaluation or transition plans—a requirement for providing access to government programs. DOJ has also reached settlement agreements under Title III of the ADA (ensuring access to public accommodations) against several hotels in the region.

  • Educational opportunities: Since 1993 the Educational Opportunities Litigation Section has had case-related activity in 37 counties/parishes in three States of the region: 19 in Louisiana (Ascension, Avoyelles, Catahoula, Concordia, E. Baton Rouge, Evangeline, Franklin, Iberville, Livingston, Ouachita, Pointe Coupee, Rapides, St. Bernard, St. Helena, St. Johns, St. Landry, Tenesas, W. Carroll, W. Feliciana); 13 in Mississippi (Benton, Bolivar, Copiah, Covington, DeSoto, Lafayette, LeFlore, Madison, Rankin, Simpson, Tunica, Wilkinson, Yazoo); and 5 in Tennessee (Fayette, Hardeman, Madison, Shelby, Tipton). With minor exceptions, activity in this region has involved enforcement of extant desegregation decrees in longstanding school cases to which the United States is a party. Typically, the range of issues includes student assignment, course offerings, faculty/staff hiring and assignment, facilities, and extracurricular activities. Outreach to the community, by way of telephone interviews, community meetings, and site visits, is a regular part of our compliance review and litigation preparation activity. In Evangeline Parish, Louisiana, the Department of Justice is working with the school district to explore alternative ways to address concerns regarding disparate facilities conditions between majority black and majority white schools. An exploration of these alternatives was necessitated by the failure of a bond election, which would have funded a new school in a predominantly black community. Also, in Jackson-Madison County, Tennessee, at the urging of DOJ, the school district has agreed to implement a pilot reading improvement program for at-risk students at two elementary schools that have fallen outside student desegregation guidelines. DOJ also is working to have defendants identify other educational improvement programs to address minority student achievement disparities in the school system.

  • Employment discrimination: The Employment Litigation Section initiated nine employment discrimination investigations and filed ten lawsuits in the region during the past seven years. Of the ten cases filed, nine were resolved by consent decree. Five of these consent decrees continue to be monitored by the Section and four have expired. In addition, during this period DOJ has monitored and ensured compliance with nine consent decrees entered in previous cases. In August 1996, the Civil Rights Division filed a complaint and tendered a consent decree to the court in a case alleging that the State of Louisiana had engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination against African-American applicants for the position of state police cadet. In particular, DOJ alleged that the written examination used between August 1991 and May 1996 in the processing of state police cadet candidates had an adverse impact against African-Americans and did not meet the requirements of Title VII. The consent decree enjoins the State from discriminating against any individual with respect to the hiring, selection, promotion, or terms and conditions of employment within the Louisiana State Police (LSP) in violation of Title VII; requires the LSP to recruit individuals from all groups protected by Title VII in numbers approximating their interest in the position of state police cadet; and requires it to discontinue the use of any written examination or other selection criteria that violate Title VII. The Louisiana State Police, with DOJ’s agreement, contracted with an outside consultant to develop a new examination that has significantly less adverse impact on black candidates. The decree also established a $1 million back pay fund for victims and provided for up to 18 qualified victims to be hired on a priority basis as state police cadets, with retroactive seniority and pension credits. Finally, the decree provided for remedial seniority and pension credit for eligible African-American incumbents whose hiring was delayed as a result of the written examination.
  • Fair housing: The Justice Department’s Housing and Civil Enforcement section has been active in enforcing the Fair Housing Act (FHA) in the region. For example, this section recently filed a pattern or practice case against the Deposit Guaranty National Bank alleging that one of the largest banking institutions in Mississippi violated the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act by discriminating on the basis of race against African-Americans in the provision of home improvement loans. A complaint and settlement agreement were filed on September 29, 1999. Under the agreement, among other things, the bank will pay $3 million in monetary damages to 250 victims of discrimination. In January 1994, the Department filed its complaint and reached an agreement with the First National Bank of Vicksburg, Mississippi, to resolve allegations that it allegedly charged African-Americans higher interest rates on unsecured home improvement loans than equally qualified nonminorities. Under the agreement, the bank agreed to pay about $750,000 to compensate victims, pay $50,000 in civil penalties, and take a variety of corrective measures. Voting rights: The Civil Rights Division has been very active in bringing cases under the Voting Rights Act to ensure that minority voters have an equal opportunity to elect their candidates of choice. DOJ also has done extensive work defending State and local redistricting plans challenged under the 14th Amendment as unlawful racial gerrymanders. For example, between 1993 and 1997, the Voting Section continued to litigate its case against the City of Memphis, Tennessee in which local practices were alleged to have diluted minority voting strength in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The case challenged the use of atlarge elections for six of the thirteen city council seats and the use of a majorityvote requirement for all citywide elections. The district court issued preliminary injunctions against the use of the citywide majorityvote requirement for the city’s 1991 and 1995 elections. After the city modified its method of election by referendum to remedy the Section 2 violation, and the district court issued a permanent injunction against the majorityvote requirement on the grounds that it violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, DOJ agreed to dismiss its remaining claims. In 1995 the United States intervened as a defendant in Theriot v. Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, a lawsuit that challenged the redistricting plan for the Jefferson Parish Council, which originally had been ordered into effect as a remedy for a Section 2 vote dilution violation, as an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. In 1997 the District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana agreed with the United States that the plan was constitutional and ruled against the plaintiff. In August 1999 the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court.

  • The President’s One America Race Initiative: “One America” is the President’s initiative on race designed to create diverse, value-based communities in America in which differences are respected and celebrated, by involving community leaders in a thoughtful, respectful dialogue of trust and idea sharing. In June 1997, President Clinton announced the “One America in the 21st Century” initiative designed to help shape an America based on “opportunity for all, responsibility from all, and one community of all Americans.” Having recognized that in areas of our country the legacy of racism can be especially destructive to forming the community linkages necessary for building cooperation and prosperity, the President has pursued eliminating the “opportunity gaps” that continue to exist in the Delta and elsewhere.


HUD has worked with local communities throughout the Delta in promoting more equitable housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income citizens. HUD consistently pursues policies aimed at reducing the financial, informational, and systemic barriers to homeownership as a part of President Clinton’s National Homeownership Strategy. A basic goal in the new century should be a continuation and broadening of the promising housing policies pursued in the 1990’s.

HUD supports a range of initiatives for assisting moderate- and low-income people, such as escrow accounts containing a percentage of monthly rent for high-end rent paying tenants to be used later for down payments on homes; Community Development Block Grant funding projects; mortgage assistance; assistance for the elderly and disabled; and a variety of policies aimed at eradicating racial, religious or other forms of discrimination in housing. The Commission in 1990 had recommended that an additional 400,000 units of decent, affordable rental housing be provided for low-income Delta residents by 2001, and HUD reported that building permits for an estimated 310,000 such units had already been issued by 1998.

Homelessness issues: An array of initiatives has been aimed at eliminating homelessness from the Delta. While acknowledging that this ambitious goal has not yet been achieved, addressing homelessness is one of the Clinton Administration’s priorities. Nationally, funding for HUD’s homelessness assistance programs grew dramatically from $284 million in 1992 to $975 million in 1999. An innovative approach called Continuum of Care involves comprehensive and cooperative local planning to ensure the availability of a range of services—from emergency shelter to permanent housing—needed to meet the complex needs of the homeless. However, the 1990 Commission set the highly ambitious goal of eradicating homelessness by 2001. That goal has not been met. In the years beyond 2000, there should be a continuation and expansion of this effort to eliminate homelessness.

Housing discrimination issues: HUD has greatly expanded efforts to enforce the Fair Housing Act. From the early 1990s to 1998, HUD secured more than $3.2 million to compensate people who had suffered discrimination in violation of housing laws. Using its authority under the Fair Housing Act, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, HUD has investigated, settled, and when necessary prosecuted cases of housing discrimination.

Rural housing: In addressing housing problems for rural areas, USDA’s Rural Housing Service assisted nearly 43,000 Delta households to buy or improve their homes. These loans for single-family housing in the region from fiscal years 1993 through 1999 came to a total of $2.236 billion. Regarding rental housing, the 1990 Report recommended that Section 515 Rural Renting Housing and Section 521 Rental Assistance programs be expanded. Through these programs, RHS provided more than $254 million in low-interest loans for more than 10,000 rental units in the rural areas of the Delta.

Housing Goals and Recommendations

In looking to the future development of the Delta region, it is essential to take a candid look at those areas that have suffered the most. As the distressed rural counties of the Delta suffer many of the worst unemployment rates, these areas also experience many of the worst housing problems. The Housing Assistance Council reported in 1997 that people in rural areas of the Delta are more likely to live below the poverty line: 24 percent of Arkansas rural residents lived below the level, 29 percent of Louisiana residents, and 31 percent of Mississippi rural residents lived below the poverty line. The Housing Assistance Council stressed that these poverty rates obviously pose serious housing problems for the region. About 6 percent of African-American households in Arkansas lack plumbing, 4 percent in Louisiana, and 6 percent in Mississippi. The averages of the population as a whole are almost three times superior to that rate. People in the Delta also have a higher housing cost burden—defined as paying greater than 30 percent of monthly income for shelter costs. In Arkansas 42 percent of the rural households and 39 percent of the urban are cost-burdened, 47 percent of the rural households and 44 percent of the urban in Louisiana, and 44 percent of rural households and 43 percent of the urban in Mississippi. Senior citizens are especially vulnerable: 58 percent of rural elderly renters in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi as a whole are cost-burdened. Thus, while some areas of the Delta have experienced some advances in housing, major populations have been left behind, especially the low-income elderly and African-Americans in rural areas.

In general, HUD, USDA’s Rural Housing Service and other Federal agencies have developed a strong collaboration with major nonprofit organizations in the Delta such as the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and many other community development organizations. The major HUD initiatives aimed at expanding homeownership, fighting homelessness, improving housing, and opposing discrimination in housing should be continued and broadened.

Housing Efforts Help Revitalize Downtown Jackson, Mississippi District

Forty years ago, Jackson, Mississippi’s Farish Street district was a thriving commercial and residential area where African-American businesses and blues clubs flourished. The 125-block district traces its roots to a settlement founded by freed slaves in the 1860s. “From the 1920s through the era of Jim Crow, Farish Street was really in its heyday,” says Michael Hervey, Executive Director of the Farish Street Historic District Neighborhood Foundation. “It was a self-contained community because African-Americans had no place else to go. After integration, though, many residents elected to move out and look for the American Dream in the suburbs.”

Like other inner cities neighborhoods across the country, the Farish Street district experienced its share of disinvestment during the 1960s and 1970s. However, Farish Street was luckier than other inner-city neighborhoods that watched urban renewal change their unique characters. Historic buildings along Farish Street remain standing and intact. When the area received a historic district designation in 1994, its downward spiral began to reverse.

The first sign of that reversal was the Farish Street Housing Project, a $2.5 million, foundation-initiated project that renovated 35 historic shotgun houses during 1998. The housing project, completed in March 1999, involved a host of partners. The National Equity Fund provided $1.6 million from the sale of Historic Preservation Tax Credits. A consortium of local banks furnished $600,000 and the City of Jackson gave $175,000 from its Community Development Block Grant allocation from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The shotgun homes, built between 1930 and 1950, were completely gutted inside and their outside structures were retained and restored. Each home required new plumbing, electrical wiring, fixtures, and appliances. Eligible residents who qualify for Section 8 rental subsidies will be able to rent the one-, two-, and three-bedroom bungalows. After the 15-year tax credit compliance period ends, the homes will be sold to qualified buyers. For now, tenants won’t pay more than 30 percent of their incomes for rent. The project will provide much-needed housing in an area where more than half of the residential stock is vacant, substandard, or abandoned. In addition, the project already has helped the local economy by providing construction jobs for almost 60 local workers. Minority-owned firms received 80 percent of the project’s business.

Rural Housing: In general, USDA’s Rural Housing Service (RHS) will continue its policies of assisting Delta families in housing opportunities. These policies led to a number of constructive results from 1993 to 1999, such as helping nearly 43,000 households buy or improve their homes, as well as low-interest loans for more than 10,000 rental units over that period.

Multi-Family Rural Housing: The 1990 Commission urged an increase in units of decent, affordable housing for low-income Delta residents. In particular, the Report singled out the need for expanding USDA’s rural housing programs: the Section 515 Rural Renting Housing and Section 521 Rental Assistance programs.

Through its Section 515 Rural Rental Housing and Section 521 Rental Assistance programs, RHS employs a private-public partnership by providing subsidized loans to developers to construct or renovate affordable housing complexes in rural areas. By combining low interest loans, rents are affordable to low-income tenants. With rental assistance, tenants pay 30% of their income towards their rent (including utilities). RHS maintains an active Rural Rental Housing program enabling 397 projects to build or improve rental units that provide decent, safe living conditions for lower income Delta families and elderly. The following table shows the number of RHS Section 515 loans and Section 521 Rental Assistance units provided in the Delta counties, 1990 to mid-1999.

Section 515 Rural Rental Housing in Lower Mississippi Delta Counties Projects Assisted 1990—mid-1999




RA Units Loan Obligations (in millions) AR 89 2322 1356 $55.9 IL 16 342 143 $5.5 KY 18 326 262 $10.9 LA 108 3086 1790 $73.8 MS 91 2633 1377 $59.3 MO 52 1030 734 $28.7 TN 23 737 462 $20.2 397 10476 6124 $254.3

Farm Labor Housing: One of the successful programs in housing during the 1990s is the Hope, Arkansas Migrant Farm Labor Center, funded by USDA. As discussed in the “Diversity” section of this Report, this project provides housing, job referral and other social service assistance to farm worker families who are passing through this migrant stream. RHS recommends expansion of this successful model to other States in the region. At least two additional migrant farm labor centers need to be established in other areas of the Delta, patterned after the project in Arkansas.

HUD proposes the development of Specialized Notices of Funding Availability (NOFAs) in the Delta: HUD would allocate special population points within selected NOFA areas to applicants proposing to do work in the seven-State, 219-county MS Delta region. All competitions would be conducted in conformity with section 103 of the HUD Reform Act. A “NOFA” is the formal Federal Register notification that funds for a particular program are available for eligible applicants to apply. This has already been done with HUD’s Rural Housing and Economic Development Program. The FY 2000 NOFA for that program allocates several points for applicants who propose to serve the Delta (as well as selected other areas with very high need.)

(SIDEBAR) Jerome G. Little Housing for Senior Citizens in the Delta This HUD-funded Section 202 Elderly Housing facility is located in Webb, Mississippi, a city with a population of just over 600 people. The Tallahatchie County area, in which Webb is located, is one of the poorest parts of the State. Tallahatchie County’s annual median per capita income is just over $13,000. The Jerome G. Little complex has 33 units, reserved for low-income elderly residents. It consists of 17 one-story buildings, each of which contains two units. It has an outdoor gazebo, a community center, and a management office on site. As with most other multi-family complexes built in the Delta region, the infrastructure to support the development was not in place before the construction began. Adequate plumbing and sewer lines, streets, sidewalks and other amenities did not exist and were included as part of the development cost. Therefore, many partners came together with HUD to make this project a success, including Tallahatchie Housing, Inc. a local non-profit housing provider; the local LISC office, which helped to prepare the application and funded the pre-development costs; the USDA Rural Development program, which extended water and sewer lines to the project; and the Federal Home Loan Bank, which provided a grant to pay for enhancements to the project.

Jerome G. Little has been complete for nearly four years, and is fully occupied, with a waiting list of eligible people wanting to move in. In a recent visit to the site, Patricia Hoban-Moore, Senior Community Builder for the Mississippi HUD office, sat with several of the residents. One of the families, a husband and wife, were living with Social Security checks as their only income. They felt fortunate to have a decent, clean and well-kept home in the area they had grown up in. As an additional benefit, the wife’s father was also a tenant at the apartments. At 86 years old and wheelchair bound, he was not able to get in and out of the shotgun shack that had been his home. The wheels of the wheelchair were getting caught in the rotted floorboards of the home, and it became time for him to find a new place to live. At Jerome G. Little apartments, he told Ms. Hoban-Moore, “This is the first house I ever lived in with indoor plumbing.” (END SIDEBAR)

Fund housing counseling in the seven-state, 219-county Delta region: HUD would, in conformity with relevant parts of the HUD Reform Act, target funding to housing counseling activities in the seven-state, 219-county Mississippi Delta region through its discretionary account. The Atlanta regional HUD office in conjunction with local HUD offices would conduct outreach and training.

Promote the 203(k) Rehabilitation Mortgage Insurance Program in the Delta region: The 203(k) Rehabilitation Mortgage Insurance Program is HUD’s primary program for the rehabilitation and repair of single-family properties. As such, it is an important tool for community and neighborhood revitalization and for expanding homeownership opportunities. HUD will work with Delta non-profits to build their capacity in accessing and using this program. Related outreach activities to Delta communities could include providing information on ensuring contractor performance and the satisfactory completion of work. Outreach and training would be conducted by the Atlanta regional HUD office in conjunction with local HUD offices.

Promotion of Real Estate Owned (REO) sales to non-profits: HUD would promote Real Estate Owned sales to non-profits and conduct outreach and training. These sales would be conducted in accordance with FHA property disposition regulations or through appropriate waiver of a regulation.

Designation of 7 HUD Delta Community Builders: HUD will designate a Community Builder in each Delta State to promote the region’s future development. These Delta Community Builders will work with Delta communities to develop innovative strategies and solutions to problems facing local communities. Activities will range from Homeownership Educational events to SuperNOFA conferences to regional development consultations.

EDUCATION Nearly a decade after the 1990 Commission’s recommendation to target resources to “low-income, rural students” in the Delta, the Department of Education provided over $350 million in fiscal year 1998 to high-poverty school districts in the Delta. While continued investment in public education is absolutely necessary to increase student academic achievement in the region, many Delta schools and districts have recently demonstrated some significant gains in student test scores. For example, third grade students at the Portland Elementary School in Ashley, Arkansas improved their reading scores on the Stanford Achievement Test from the 25th percentile in 1993 to the 46th percentile in 1999. The percentage of eleventh graders in the Memphis City Public Schools scoring ‘proficient’ on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) Writing Assessment increased from 19 percent in 1994 to 56 percent in 1999.

“We still have a long way to go, but we believe our progress is largely a result of our school-wide approach to reform and the initiation of extended learning opportunities, both of which are facilitated by Federal program funding and flexibility reforms,” states Memphis City Schools Superintendent—and American Association of School Administrators (AASA) 1998-99 Superintendent of the Year—Dr. Gerry House. While education, of course, is primarily a responsibility of State and local governments, improving K-12 education is a major priority of the Clinton-Gore Administration. The U.S. Department of Education worked in partnership with the State and local level to help increase levels of student achievement, create greater regulatory freedom, and expand targeted funding in the Mississippi Delta region.

Targeting of funds to poor communities: The Clinton-Gore Administration has met the Commission’s 1990 goal of providing “targeted services to low-income, rural students” in the Mississippi Delta. The Department of Education—through its Title I program—provided over $350 million in FY98 alone to high-poverty school districts in the Delta to help improve student achievement. Under the Administration’s Class Size Reduction Initiative, Delta school districts received over $50 million in FY99 to hire up to 1,500 new teachers in the early grades. The Project Star study conducted in Tennessee demonstrates the positive impact of smaller classes of 13-17 students in the early grades on student achievement, especially among poor students.


DELTA REGION WITHIN STATE 1998-99 BASIC GRANT ALLOCATION 1998-99 CONCENTRATION GRANT ALLOCATION TOTAL 1998-99 TITLE I, PART A ALLOCATION Arkansas $42668265 $7692325 $50360590 Illinois $10094876 $1692705 $11787582 Kentucky $11551917 $2144517 $13696434 Louisiana $114427929 $20880116 $135308045 Mississippi $65587684 $11189176 $76776860 Missouri $21412872 $3697051 $25109926 Tennessee $38383623 $7202205 $45585828

$54,498,095 $358,625,261



Arkansas    $7283009
Illinois    $1591380
Kentucky    $2134411
Louisiana   $20690057
Mississippi $11135475
Missouri    $3489667
Tennessee   $6878930


Migrant farmworker education: Migrant farmworkers and their children living in the Delta also have benefited from Federal funding. During the 1998-99 school year, 91 percent of the 135 migrant students who participated in a University of Tennessee Program—supported by a $350,000 Federal grant in FY99—completed their G.E.D. A $270,000 Federal grant in FY99 provides family literacy services to 120 migrant families residing in the Kentucky Delta through the Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative (OVEC). Native-American students living on reservations in the region also have received additional Federal funding. The Department of Education awarded $177,097 in FY99 to the Mississippi Band of Choctaws to implement a tutorial program aimed at improving student academic achievement.

Office of Migrant Education (OME) officials met with State officials in all States—including the Delta—during the National Association of State Title I Directors conference in San Antonio, Texas, in early 2000. Delta State and local Migrant Education directors took part in a technical assistance workshop to discuss the opportunity to apply for collaborative discretionary grants. Topics included strengthening services for migrant students through coordinated Federal Education programs.

Access to technology: The Delta region has received millions of dollars in Federal funding during the 1990s to help insure that teachers have the skills and resources to provide students with a rich educational experience enhanced by advanced technology. Four Federal programs—the Technology Literacy Challenge Fund (TLCF), Technology Innovation Challenge Grants (TICG), Star Schools and the E-rate—all target funding for technology to high-poverty regions. In FY98 alone, Delta districts in Louisiana received $4,600,000 of the $5,900,000 in TLCF funding allocated by the State in subgrants directly to districts. For example, St. Barnard, Plaquemines, St. Charles, and Jefferson Parishes in Louisiana received a $425,000 TLCF grant in FY98 to provide teacher-training initiatives focused on technology-connected lessons in mathematics and language. Between FY98 and FY99, Concordia and Catahoula Parish Schools in Louisiana received over $2,600,000 in Federal TICG funding to expand the successful Trainer of Teachers program to poor, rural school districts in order to help teachers use technology to improve student learning in core academic subjects, such as English, mathematics, and science.


EARLE, ARKANSAS: On December 10, 1999, President Clinton announced an initiative from the MCI WorldCom Foundation to provide Internet training to kindergarten through 12th grade teachers throughout the Mississippi Delta region. The President and Secretary of Education Richard Riley recognized the MarcoPolo program, run by the MCI WorldCom Foundation and its partners for helping to better prepare K-12 teachers to integrate Internet content effectively into the classroom. This is a free educational program at website www.mciworldcom/marcopolo.

At a high school dedication ceremony in Earle, Arkansas, the President announced MarcoPolo, “a generous new initiative coming not from government, but from the MCI WorldCom Foundation, to give the teachers at Earle High School and across the Delta region unprecedented access to the kind of world-class educational materials that in the past only the wealthiest school districts could afford… [MarcoPolo] contains lesson plans and resource materials on everything from history to math to art. These lesson plans for teachers have been developed by some of our finest teachers and academics. And they’re now available absolutely free over the Internet, thanks to MCI WorldCom.” The Foundation will train—free of charge—as many as 4,500 district curriculum specialists throughout the seven-State Delta region. These specialists, in turn, will train over 100,000 teachers in the region on how to effectively incorporate the high quality MarcoPolo content into their day-to-day teaching.

Along with the President and Secretary Riley, the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities Bill Ferris, as well as the chief education officers from the seven Delta States, attended the Earle event. The President and Secretary Riley toured the Earle High School computer lab with students and Foundation staff and looked at MarcoPolo websites.

Secretary Riley said that the MarcoPolo Internet “’Content for the Classroom’ program builds upon the multi-billion dollar investment the Administration has made in technology over the past seven years. Thousands of schools across America have used Federal resources to purchase computers and to get connected to the Internet. Through this program, teachers can receive free training and resources to help bring high standards to the classroom.”

The Executive Director of the Foundation, Caleb Schutz, said, “This training, offered at no charge, is intended to impact every classroom in every school in all seven Delta States. MarcoPolo Internet training materials are standards-based and approved by panels of classroom teachers and content experts from around the country.” The MarcoPolo program is a partnership among the Foundation and seven leading educational organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Council of Great City Schools, Kennedy Center, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, National Council of Economic Education, National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Geographic Society. The following are examples of materials provided by the MarcoPolo Foundation site: The EDSITEment website was developed by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Council of Great City Schools. EDSITEment provides teachers with roughly 50 content-based websites approved by a panel of peer reviewers and content experts. The Codie Award-winning Xpeditions site, prepared in partnership with the National Geographic Society, features an interactive geography museum, standards-based lesson plans, and a global atlas of 1,800 maps (including every country in the world) which teachers can print for classroom use. ArtsEdge, a site developed by the Kennedy Center in the early 1990s, is now undergoing numerous enhancements in preparation for a February 2000 launch as the newest MarcoPolo partner. ArtsEdge will provide online resources and lesson plans for K-12.

Update: On March 3, Ray Simon—Chief State School Officer for the Arkansas Department of Education—signed the agreement to roll out MarcoPolo throughout Arkansas. The MCI WorldCom Foundation will provide professional staff development training to 300 technology trainers, teachers and administrators who in turn are charged with delivering the training to every school district in Arkansas. The Foundation’s training will take place between May and July 2000 and will include 14 separate sessions. The State of Arkansas has an aggressive plan to impact every teacher by the end of the 2000-2001 school year. Their statewide training will be provided in a number of ways including: regional training sessions for teacher trainers, inter-school video conferencing, and summer professional development workshops. (END SIDEBAR)

Increased flexibility for states and schools: The increased flexibility provided to States and schools by the Department of Education has helped bring about improved student achievement. The Commission recommended in 1990 that Congress allow “States and/or school districts to employ innovative pilot projects to educate low-income, at-risk students.” Schools and districts were given greater authority to create their own reforms through the 1994 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Due in great part to the implementation of a research-based school-wide reform supported by Federal legislation and funding, the percentage of fourth graders in the Memphis City Public Schools scoring ‘proficient’ on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) Writing Assessment increased from 20 percent in 1996 to 34 percent in 1997. According to the Memphis City School Superintendent, Dr. Gerry House, “the increased funding and flexibility in Federal programs support our goal of improving student achievement by focusing resources in a coordinated way to meet the diverse educational needs of our urban, poor children.”

In 1997, a pilot program called Ed-Flex granted 12 States (including Illinois) increased flexibility in decision-making on the use of Federal funds in exchange for increased accountability for improved student achievement. President Clinton signed legislation in 1999 expanding Ed-Flex eligibility to all 50 States.

Mathematics achievement: During the 1990’s, students in the Mississippi Delta have made the greatest achievement gains in mathematics. The Commission called for all Delta students to demonstrate “competency” in mathematics and science at “grades four, eight and twelve.” Results from the voluntary National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) demonstrate that mathematics scores have improved this decade in the three States where a majority of the population resides in the Delta region. NAEP test scores for fourth and eighth grade students in these States—Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi—improved by significant amounts between 1992 and 1996. For example, fourth grade students at the Glen Oaks Park Elementary School in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, have improved their median national percentile rank on the mathematics section of the California Achievement Test (CAT) from the 29th percentile in 1993 to the 75th percentile in 1997. The Federally funded Eisenhower Math/Science Educational Consortium has provided numerous teachers in the Delta with training aimed at improving teaching and learning. The Consortium recently funded Algebra Project training sessions for teachers in Jackson, Mississippi. Studies have demonstrated that the Algebra Project has had a beneficial impact in Jackson on student motivation and problem-solving skills.

Literacy levels: The LMDDC in 1990 called for an increase in “literacy” for children and adults in the Delta. Under the Clinton-Gore Administration’s America Reads Work-Study Program, the Federal government pays 100 percent of the wages of work-study students who tutor children or adults in literacy programs. Numerous colleges located in and near the Delta region take part in the America Reads program in order to help reach the President’s goal of ensuring that all children can read by the end of the third grade.

Federal funding has supported efforts in the Delta to improve literacy levels for both children and adults. Since instituting an innovative reading program through a $60,000 Department of Education grant in 1994, the Portland Elementary School in Ashley, Arkansas saw average third grade reading scores on the Stanford Achievement Test increase from the 25th percentile in 1993 to the 46th percentile in 1999. Over 1,400 adult learners in five Mississippi Delta counties in Louisiana—East Carroll, Madison, Tensas, Catahoula, and Concordia—are provided literacy training and life skills by a $330,000 matching Federal-State Adult Education grant.

(SIDEBAR) Test Scores Improve at Newberry Elementary School Memphis City School District (Photo of kids with computers) The Newberry Elementary School in Memphis, Tennessee enrolls over 850 students in kindergarten through the fifth grade. Over fifty-five percent of the students at Newberry are eligible to receive free or reduced-price school lunches. Supported by Federal legislation passed in 1994 that expanded opportunities for school wide reforms, Newberry implemented a research-based reform model through New American Schools known as Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound (ELOB). Through adopting the ELOB model, educators at Newberry have instituted a school wide curriculum that centers on the purposeful, in-depth study of two or three projects each year from an interdisciplinary perspective. School projects usually take students outside the school and bring the community inside the school.

Students at Newberry have demonstrated dramatic improvements in writing. The number of fourth grade students scoring ‘proficient’ on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) Writing Assessment increased from 13 percent in 1994 to 79 percent in 1999. Teachers at Newberry foster a ‘culture of revision’ by maintaining writing portfolios for all students and providing real-life writing exercises. For example, during the 1998-99 school years, students were asked to write letters to local businesses requesting supplies to create a school garden. “When students write to business people in their own community requesting products, they are motivated by a desire to express themselves clearly and accurately,” explains Newberry fourth grade teacher Kelly Douglas.

Technology has helped students at Newberry improve their writing skills. Federal funding has allowed the Newberry school and similar schools across the country to substantially increase their number of computers and Internet hook-ups. “The Internet pushed the roof off the building and collapsed the walls. Now the whole world is our classroom,” explains Newberry Principal Marilyn Ingram.

Education Goals and Recommendations Fundamentally, the major innovations pursued during the Clinton-Gore Administration need to be continued and expanded. These include the basic initiatives discussed above: Title I and the various programs aimed at targeting improvements for low-income, rural students; The President’s Class Size Reduction Initiative; programs for supporting family literacy targeted to migrant workers and other disadvantaged groups; policies aimed at enhancing the ability of teachers to provide an educational experience enhanced by computers and other advanced technology, including the Technology Literacy Fund, Technology Innovations Challenge Grants, Star Schools, and the E-rate; the greater flexibility given to States and schools under the 1994 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and the Ed-Flex program; the various projects aimed at improving mathematics scores summarized above, such as the Algebra Project in Jackson; and The America-Reads Work-Study Program and the other innovations encouraging reading skills. In addition to the continuation and expansion of these policies, the following specific actions are proposed.

Technical assistance: The U.S. Department of Education will hold five comprehensive technical assistance workshops in Arkansas in the year 2000 for educators and community leaders from the 219 counties in the greater Mississippi Delta region. These technical Assistance training sessions are designed to assist educators in the Delta region to utilize Federal funding more efficiently, in applying for additional funds through competitive grants and in meeting specific requirements under Federal law.

Computers for Delta schools: The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) recommends a government-wide technology transfer in the region. As the Federal government moves into the new millennium, many Federal agencies are undergoing major upgrades or replacements in personal computer hardware and software. Although the computers being replaced might no longer be useful for the agencies’ purposes, they still have value for other programs. These computers could make a major investment in the Delta’s human capital. Executive Order 12999 authorizes the transfer of surplus Federal computer equipment to America’s classrooms. These computers could be used by schools for computer training, reading and math skills proficiency, computer labs, and web access.

OPM has committed to contribute a percentage of the workstations that will be available after the “Y2K” upgrades, and in fact on March 1, 2000 donated ten computers to the Delta region. All of the signatories of the Delta 2000 Initiative should assist in this effort. There is no cost of implementing this recommendation. In accordance with the Department of Energy’s “Computers for Learning Partnership,” transportation to the Delta will be provided by shipping companies that are affiliated with the program. This computer transfer effort, combined with the Department of Education’s policies for enhancing technology in the classroom, will help the region’s trek into the information age. The gulf that precludes the Delta from realizing the dream and fulfilling the promise will only widen and deepen if access to the information age does not become a reality.

Safe and Drug Free schools: On March 9-10, 2000, more than one hundred educators from the seven Delta States gathered at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Arkansas for the Delta Safe Schools Conference. Arkansas State University President Les Wyatt opened the conference, while Safe and Drug Free School Program Director Bill Modzeleski gave the keynote address on school safety. The National Resource Center for Safe Schools provided the training sessions and the Department of Education provided presentations on available Federal resources. The Department of Education staff will provide information on funding opportunities from the Federal government aimed at promoting safe, disciplined, and drug-free learning environments. The National Center for Safe Schools will also provide follow-up technical assistance to participating schools.

Community colleges: The Office of Community College Liaison will coordinate rural community college technical assistance workshops open to all rural community colleges in the seven-State Delta region. This grant information workshop is part of a multi-agency series that has been coordinated by the Community College Liaison Office. A workshop took place at Phillips Community College in Helena, Arkansas on March 13-14, 2000. Community colleges in the seven-State Delta region brought staff to this workshop to attend training sessions that will strengthen their skills in seeking competitive grants, and heard presentations on existing program models that can be replicated in this region.

Standards: The Education Department’s Standards Team will convene a two-day technical assistance meeting during 2000 in the Delta region on assessments and accountability for Delta States involving national experts, State colleague trainers, and Department officials. This training workshop will be tailored to the needs of the area and include the opportunity for follow-up assistance from peer consultants. Participants will have the opportunity to learn about different approaches to school accountability and providing technical assistance to small and remote schools in need of improvement.

(SIDEBAR) SOUTHERN ILLINOIS PROJECT FOR LOW-INCOME STUDENTS In 1999, Shawnee Community College, one of the partners in the Southernmost Illinois Delta Empowerment Zone (SIDEZ), received a 5-year $1.7 million U.S. Department of Education GEAR UP grant. Life-long learning and education is one of the zone’s seven priority goals, and the empowerment zone supported the GEAR UP application. The GEAR UP program is encouraging young people in the empowerment zone to have high expectations, stay in school, study hard and take the right courses to go to college. Four local schools in the Southern Illinois empowerment zone are participating. Other partners include the Regional Office of Education 02, Illinois GEAR UP Alliance, Southern Illinois Collegiate Common Market, Southern Seven Health Department and Alexander and Pulaski County Housing Authorities.

During the 1999-2000 school year, 235 seventh graders are participating. The GEAR UP program will work with these students for five years, adding a new class of seventh graders each year. The program anticipates working with 1165 students during the five-year grant period. Sixty-five to ninety-three percent of the students attending the four target schools are eligible for free or reduced price lunches. The percentage of minority students ranges from 24.5 percent to 88.5 percent in each district. Truancy ranges from two percent to 13.9 percent in the four target districts. Attrition is 12 percent in one school and 21.3 to 31.3 percent in the other three schools. Unemployment for Pulaski and Alexander Counties, where the schools are located, is more than double the State and national average.

The students have gone to plays and visited Southern Illinois University’s museum and aviation program. They have gone to St. Louis, Missouri to tour museums and a science center. All trips include instruction preceding and following the activities. In addition the students are receiving individual and small group counseling. They are encouraged to “think college early” with on-site visits from the GEAR UP coordinator. Career Days have been organized at several schools. Parents are involved. A summer academy is being planned.

The empowerment zone, Shawnee Development Council, (a local community action agency) and GEAR UP are working together to acquire funds to establish individual development accounts for each student to pay educational costs once they have graduated from high school.

The GEAR UP program is a powerful tool in improving educational achievement in the Southernmost Illinois Delta Empowerment Zone. It is through mutual support and partnerships that the zone anticipates achieving many of the strategies in its strategic plan. (END SIDEBAR)

Charter Schools: The Department of Education will hold a regional Charter School meeting in the Delta for State department of education officials and key educational leaders to discuss charter school programs and how best to administer these programs. During this two-day conference in 2000, the Charter School Program Office will also provide assistance to leaders in States that do not have charter schools (Tennessee and Kentucky) that will demonstrate the potential and opportunity that charter schools represent. Officials from Delta States with charter school legislation will share ideas and interact with experts in order to think about ways to expand the pool of charter schools.

(SIDEBAR) The Brightest Youth of the Delta Ponder their Future Marlon Henderson and Conn Davis are two of the brightest and most dynamic young people of today in the Mississippi Delta. Armed with excellent academic records, athletic accomplishments, and an impressive array of extracurricular activities, they can look forward to bright professional opportunities after they graduate from high school in the years beyond 2000.

Yet, like many of their classmates in the region, they face the dilemma that career opportunities appear brighter outside the region than within it, and they may not be able to fulfill their greatest professional aspirations if they stay at home after graduation. Davis and Henderson poignantly addressed this issue in their closing speeches at two of the Delta 2000 listening sessions held at Cape Girardeau, Missouri and West Memphis, Arkansas in the fall of 1999.

Conn Q. Davis is a senior at East Prairie High School in southeast Missouri’s Delta. He is a football player, concerned about community issues, and is a superb student who plans to attend the University of Missouri-Columbia to major in computer engineering and then enter medical school. Davis spoke movingly at Cape Girardeau of the benefits of growing up in the small town of East Prairie (population—approximately 3,500):

“Because I am from a small town, I have felt safe and protected from many of the problems that face larger communities and urban areas. I have been able to develop close-knit friendships with virtually everyone in my community…. These factors have made me very secure and helped build my self-confidence. Growing up in a rural area, I have learned what a dollar is worth and to respect the hard-working people around me.” Despite these benefits from growing up in the rural Delta, Davis also faces the social and economic problems of the region: the standard of living is much lower than in most urban areas, there are fewer opportunities to be influenced by the arts, and the career opportunities in a small town are far fewer than those in more populated areas. He acknowledged that the public school system in his town is excellent, yet he cannot afford to have a wide selection of classes. He can enroll in “just the bare necessities.” Davis said he thought he had been able “to overcome some of the shortcomings of my community” largely through the support of his family. Considering the implications of those shortcomings for