As the announcer states at the horse races, “They are off and running.” The winners of November’s elections were all sworn in this week and now at work in Washington and Sacramento. They all took an oath to defend the constitution and do the business of all the people not just their friends. Their friends and supporters might have voted for them but as elected officials every citizen pays taxes for them to spend, so every one has some “skin” in the government financial game. That is important because once elected some people forget and claim to speak on behalf of the people while their actions and votes say otherwise.
I know they are facing some difficult times when it comes to money but the Black community has been without money even during the time of plenty. Our unemployment rate has always been double that of the White community and now the White community is where the Black community was during good financial times. Yet no one as elected officials are developing special bailouts to address that specific problem on the national level.
While we suffer the most with health issues brought on by lack of health care coverage and access, the Republicans have vowed to overturn the Health Care Act signed into law to help close the gap.
The Republicans and Tea Party people are saying the deficit is too high yet they vote to give the rich more tax breaks.
In California we have a new administration facing a $28 billion dollar hole to climb out of and the public has said no new taxes. In addition to that, the state unemployment rate is at 12.4% and Blacks at 14.8% and growing. Jerry Brown has stated he is going to seek the input of the citizens by taking trips around the state to meet with people to get advice. I will be watching to see how many in the groups are African Americans. We will also be watching to evaluate the recommended cuts in services and what impact that will have on our community.
Tom Torlakson is the new Superintendent of Public Instruction and he faces some difficult challenges (i.e. no money, over crowded classrooms, labor issues with teachers, low parent involvement in the classroom, wide achievement gap between students of different races, shortage of qualified teachers in urban schools, high drop out rates and low college going rate with college tuition rising).
With all of that going on the African American students are suffering at the bottom with a drop out rate of 36. 8% statewide and an academic achievement score at 685, the lowest of all students. If that is not bad enough, the longer our students stay in school the achievement score continues to drop to 638 for Black students who remain in school to the 12th grade. We also face a shortage of teachers from the Black community in our classrooms and while this is not a criticism it is something we must address. In some of our lowest achieving districts, we have the highest percentage of African American teachers and administrators so race is not the single factor.
Charter Schools are being looked at by many in our community as an alternative to educating our children but I caution us to evaluate those who wave this solution in our face because not everyone has the children’s interest at heart. In other words, know the people you are talking to. The same is true for those you elect to your school boards for they can help or work against the state department of education.
I want to remind all elected officials that we have fought and are fighting in the current wars to protect America so everyone can seek the American dream. But, when we approach lawmakers they are quick to say, don’t rush things, get to the back of the line or not now we are in bad financial times. Well I for one, don’t care about bad budgets because when I look at who is standing in line during good and bad times to receive consideration from the government they all look the same. In our community we say the Lord helps those who helps themselves, so we are going to help ourselves. The late Ray Charles sung a song that went something like this: them that got is them that gets but how did them that got get the first is the mystery to him. I know how they got it from our government by slave trade laws, by land grant give-a-ways, by tax breaks for corporations and land owners, by discrimination laws that worked against Black citizens and other legalized policies implemented by public elected officials.
So to the new government I cannot accept any reason other than this is what we can and must do to address the issues in the Black community. So now that you have taken the oath of office and are “off and running,” put together your plan that will address the many issues your office has responsibility for and include the African American citizens.
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