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State, County and District School Chiefs Unite to Support Prop. 30

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Torlakson, Delgado, Deasy Lead Coalition to Prevent Further Cuts to Schools

CERRITOS -- State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, Los Angeles County Superintendent Art Delgado and Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy today joined school superintendents from throughout Southern California in urging Californians to prevent further education cuts by supporting Proposition 30.

“We’re here because California’s schools are in a state of financial emergency – and we need every Californian to come to their aid,” Torlakson said. “Today, we stand together as education leaders and say with one, united voice: `Stop the cuts to education – vote yes on 30.’ ”

Superintendents from more than a dozen school systems across the region – including Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties – discussed the huge toll $20 billion in cuts to school budgets in recent years have already taken – and the further harm that would take place unless voters approve Prop. 30 and prevent $5.4 billion in additional cuts this school year.

“If Prop. 30 fails, it will be a disaster for the Los Angeles Unified School District,” Deasy said. “We would be threatened with having to close the school year three weeks early, which would have a tremendously negative impact on all our students.”

Los Angeles County Superintendent Delgado agreed, adding: “Voters have a clear choice this November on whether to invest in our California children or to continue the current trend of the underfunding of our schools that now puts our state among the lowest in the nation in funding support of our education system.”

"These are unprecedented times for education in California. At no time in history have we had such high expectations for our schools and students with diminishing resources to meet them,” said ABC Unified Superintendent Mary Sieu. “Our District has cut $30 million in the past four years. There's no doubt that an immediate investment in education is necessary to prevent more harm to the next generation of students."

“My concern is for the future of our children as well as the future of California. Without proper funding to ensure college and career readiness for our students, they will be less competitive in the job market and in university placement,” said Sandra Thorstenson, Superintendent of the Whittier Union High School District. “If Prop 30 does not pass it will create a $5 billion hole in the public education budget on top of the draconian cuts schools have endured since 2008. This would have an unconscionable impact on our children and on our society.”

Also Joining Torlakson and others at the news conference were:

• Chaffey Joint Union High School District Superintendent Mat Holton
• Lynwood Unified School District Superintendent Edward Velasquez
• Montebello Unified School District Superintendent Robert Henke
• Romoland School District Superintendent Anthony Rosilez
• Saddleback Valley Unified School District Superintendent Clint Harwick
• San Bernardino City Unified School District Superintendent Dale Marsden
• Val Verde Unified School District Superintendent Juan Lopez
• Kent Taylor, State Administrator, Inglewood Unified School District
• Josh Pechthalt, President, California Federation of Teachers
• ABC Unified School Board President Olympia Chen

Torlakson said that California’s schools have earned a vote of confidence. He noted that despite the ongoing effects of massive funding reductions, graduation rates and test scores are on the rise. And for the first time, a majority of public schools have reached or exceeded the state’s academic performance goals.

Supporters of the measure noted that with the passage of Proposition 30, we will begin to restore our ability to give every student the finest education possible. Through a modest tax increase on the wealthiest Californians, and a very small increase in the state sales tax, Proposition 30 will ask the people who can best afford to invest in our future to do so, in order that all may benefit.

Torlakson added that schools across the state are engaged in ongoing efforts to improve technology, teaching methods, and help more children graduate ready for college and a career.

“There’s much more to do,” Torlakson said. “And California’s schools – and the dedicated teachers, school employees and administrators who have made them their life’s work – are eager to take on these challenges. But they cannot do this alone.”

President Obama Deserves Our Vote

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Dr. Benjamin Chavis, Jr.(NNPA) In just a few days, millions of Americans will vote in the November 6 national elections. In those states where there is early voting, millions have already voted. There is a clear choice between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. At the end of the day it is reduced to the question of “going forward” or “retreating backward” in clear terms of the social, economic, and political empowerment of people who historically have been marginalized and discriminated against because of race, ethnicity or class. It is about the politics of inclusion versus the politics of exclusion. This election is more than a political struggle between the 99 percent and the 1 percent on the quest for wealth and economic control. The consequential future of America and the world is at stake.

For millions of African Americans, the importance of reelecting President Barack Obama cannot be overstated. Given the state of Black America in 2012, the thought of going backward in our society should not even be an option. We have come too far and made too much sacrifice and progress to turn around now because of what appears to be formidable opposition to our interests and future. There is still time to reawaken those of us who have fallen asleep or who have become apathetic at this is another critical moment in our long struggle for freedom, justice, equality and empowerment.

We have to ensure that we mobilize our family members and everyone in our communities about the importance of making sure that every eligible person will actually vote between now and November 6. Every hour of every day now needs to be focused on Getting-Out-The-Vote (GOTV). It is time to pool all our organizational resources to stage the largest grassroots voter turnout in history. The African American church community should be at the forefront of our GOTV nonpartisan work. I am expressing my own personal views about this election in hopes to raise the level of awareness and consciousness of others who may be mistakenly taking this election for granted. It does matter who wins. Not voting is an unforgivable sin.

On September 22, President Obama reminded us of the 150 year anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation document that President Lincoln issued in 1862 to take effect on January 1, 1863. Why is this an important reminder today in 2012? It is very important not to ever forget the history of slavery, Jim Crow and systematic denials of equal justice and freedom not only to African people, but also all people who have had to struggle to make advancement and progress against formidable odds and historical circumstances.

President Obama emphasized, “One hundred and fifty years after that historic even, we recognize an important milestone in the American story and reflect on the progress we have made toward realizing our Nation’s founding promise of liberty and justice for all. Though it would take decades of struggle before African Americans were granted equal treatment and protection under the law, the Emancipation Proclamation marked a courageous step forward in fulfilling that essential task.

“It affirmed that the Civil War was a war fought not only for the preservation of our union, but for freedom itself. The Emancipation Proclamation stands among the documents of human freedom. As we commemorate this 150th anniversary, let us rededicate ourselves to the timeless principles it championed and celebrate the millions of Americans who have fought for liberty and equality in the generations since.”

Each generation has to rise to its particular challenge of history. Today, we have both an opportunity and a responsibility to keep pushing forward. For Black Americans, voting is sacred and we dare not take this election lightly. For all of those who have become cynical instead of being vibrant, enthusiastic and active, we have to remind them of the past and of the present. Hundreds of millions of dollars have spent to suppress our vote and on negative deceptive television and radio ads, all designed to confuse, confound, and to immobilize people in our communities. The worst form of suppression, however, is self-suppression and a sense of hopelessness. I am optimistic but know we still have a lot of work to do over the next days ahead.

Mitt Romney, in my view, represents the exclusive views and the ideology of the past. President Barack Obama is not only the hope for the future, but also he is doing a good job in the present in the face of fierce opposition and huge wealth stacked against him. This is exactly the moment that our ancestors prayed for and gave of their sacrifice and blood. Let’s stand up together in this moment of decision. Let’s have a record turnout in every precinct in every state. Let’s defy the odds once again. Let’s vote for freedom, justice, equality and empowerment of all. Let’s re-elect President Barack H. Obama.

Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is President of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN) and Education Online Services Corporation. He can be reached at drbenjamin.chavis@gmail.com

Cuba Begins the Road to Success

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Harry C. Alford(NNPA) The National Black Chamber of Commerce® has been studying the evolution of Cuba for 14 years. The evolution has been slow as we entered the 21st century but recently there have been some major economic developments. Last November, Cuban residents were given the right to personal property. They can now buy and sell homes. Beginning last week, they can now freely travel abroad with an authentic visa from the nation they wish to visit.

During our first trip to Cuba in August, 2000, we were stunned by all the promising features of this island nation and its people. My mentor, the late Arthur A. Fletcher, marveled at this and said to me, “This nation will one day become the ‘Hong Kong’ of the Caribbean.” Art, it is about to start happening. Let’s look at the possibilities.

Cuba has a great education system that is far superior to ours. These citizens are ready to take on the global market as they are adept at the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects. For example, they are some of the best engineers and architects in the world. Much of this talent is used around the globe and helps generate revenue for the nation. The last time I was in Paris, I took a stroll past a new five star hotel that was being built. I was surprised to see so many Blacks participating in the construction. The next day, I came by again and heard one of Fidel Castro’s speeches blasting out through some speakers. It became clear to me that the construction company and probably the architectural team were indeed Cuban. I first witnessed this inspirational exercise while we were in Havana. Their prowess at infrastructure is becoming legend around the world. Africa, Europe, Asia and other places they are making a great reputation.

This island nation is also known for its healthcare delivery system. Cuban doctors are so efficient that they travel around the globe helping to address health issues wherever it is needed. A Black Cuban has a lifespan at least a decade longer than an African American. Every Cuban is required to have a full medical exam twice a year. Did you know that they have eradicated sickle cell anemia in Cuba? Now that they can freely travel we should be sending for some of their health services here since it is superior to ours. Just think of the possibilities in all third world nations.

The biggest provider of wealth for the average American is real estate equity (right now it is in a funk but it will return). Now that Cubans can buy and sell homes it is going to generate cash for prospective entrepreneurs. With these proceeds they can invest in start-up businesses and begin the venture of wealth building and job creation. Banks in Cuba are as busy as ever. There is now a housing demand for more than 600,000 new homes. Think of the construction companies popping up to meet that demand – Jobs, Jobs and Jobs. The government is estimating that more than 1 million new jobs can be created through this capitalistic activity. This nation has a population of about 11 million people and already 338,000 are now self – employed.

Cuba is one of the hottest tourist destinations for Europeans and South Americans. Its white sand beaches, modern hotels (mostly European owned), best rum in the world, best lobsters in the world and slick Afro – Cuban music (actually straight from the Congo via the slavery years) makes it a festive nation. Did I mention the world’s best cigars? We saw some of the most beautiful Black women in the world living there.

The gates of Cuba are unlocked. It is time for our nation to catch up to these changes and let us travel and do business with our brothers and sisters in Cuba like the rest of the world. Cuba has survived all the sanctions, dirty games, spying and trickery we have thrown at it since 1959. It is now ready, willing and quite able to participate in the global economy. In fact, we should be going there right now and invest in this newborn economy. The best educated people with a natural work ethic should be value added human capital for our corporations. They would be excellent joint venture partners for our small businesses. God has blessed Cuba. Maybe it is that giant statue of Jesus in downtown Havana that is helping things out. Also, maybe it is that statue of Abraham Lincoln in the town square that compels us to go there and join this renaissance.

Next year we need to organize a gigantic trade mission to spend a good two weeks in Havana, Santiago and the countryside. Hopefully, our nation will catch up to this modernization and extension of liberty in Cuba.

Harry Alford is the co-founder, president/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®. Website: www.nationalbcc.org. Email: halford@nationalbcc.org.

Yes on 33

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By Celes King IV

Having spent much of my life immersed in it, I am well-acquainted with the work of advocacy for the disenfranchised.

Too often, however, those who take up that mantle assume a paternalistic posture toward those classified as “low-income” — which, in this state, is commonly read and sold as African- Americans and Latinos.

During the political season, these forces, typically from outside the community, use the struggles of that demographic to sell positions that actually run counter to their interests.

As Election Day draws closer, that is how I have come to view the opposition to Prop. 33, a statewide ballot initiative that would restore fundamental fairness to California’s often confusing and one-sided insurance laws.

The logic behind the initiative is simple, and resonates with anyone who has ever purchased auto insurance: Under the proposal that voters will decide upon Nov. 6, consumers would be able keep the “continuous coverage” discounts they earn by staying insured for a number of years, even if they decide to change insurance companies. Incredibly, as the law stands today, motorists only qualify for those discounts if they remain with a single insurer; should they decide to seek coverage elsewhere, they are forced to relinquish those cost savings — no matter how long they took to establish.

The opposition is led Yes on 33 By Celes King IV Celes King IV mostly by a single individual, who is bent on blocking even the most commonsense updates to insurance reforms that he championed more than 20 years ago.

Predictably, the initiative’s supposed ill effects on lowincome consumers is often cited, but a closer analysis reveals how the initiative’s passage holds the potential to free African-Americans and others from discriminatory practices that drive up their insurance rates.

In 2006, researchers at UCLA found that another enduring practice of the auto insurance industry — using ZIP codes as a factor when calculating rates — takes a disproportionately adverse effect on African-Americans in Los Angeles.

Through Prop. 33, African-American and other motorists living in neighborhoods deemed higher-risk, but — through a combination of responsible driving, adherence to insurance laws and loyalty to a single insurer — have still managed to establish affordable insurance payments, can exercise a fundamental right as consumers to explore new options without the risk of paying higher premiums as the cost of finding a better deal. If motorists could take an existing continuous coverage discount to new insurers motivated to compete for their business, it makes sense that drivers statewide would stand a much better chance of securing more favorable rates.

But it could go even further than basic pocketbook issues: What if, for instance, African-American drivers want the opportunity to do business with insurers that do not hike rates in their ZIP codes? Or ones that, at the very least, impose lighter penalties on drivers from their communities? Why should they be forever bound to companies that have no incentive to give them an even better deal, or end practices that take an excessive financial toll on their communities?

Indeed, for African- Americans, Prop. 33 holds the potential to further empower us to take control of our own economic destiny. By voting yes at the polls on Nov. 6, we can take a firm stance against an unjust law that drains wealth from our communities, and leaves us with far fewer choices in the marketplace.

Celes King IV is the vice chairman for of the Congress of Racial Equality California, CORE. CORE was instrumental in renaming Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in South Los Angeles, and is the principal sponsor of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Parade in Los Angeles, which has grown to be the largest Martin Luther King Jr. birthday celebration in the country, with 3.5 million viewers.

Steps to Counter Voter Suppression

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(NNPA) Hopefully by now you have heard a thing or two about efforts on the part of the Republicans to suppress the votes of minorities, youth, the elderly, union members and many veterans. The plot is fairly simple: make it especially difficult to vote by setting up all sort of systems of identification in the name of avoiding alleged voter fraud. The fact that voter fraud has not been a major issue in the U.S. in recent memory is irrelevant for the Republicans since their principal objective is to decrease the potential turnout on the part of voters likely to go with Democratic candidates.

In the last year, with the increased attention on voter suppression efforts, there have been counter-efforts undertaken to minimize this threat. Various organizations have worked to ensure that voters have the proper identification. Many courageous individuals and groups have also challenged these anti-democratic laws in courts and, in many cases, won.

On Election Day, however, there are a variety of challenges for which we must prepare. Among other things we have to make sure that the voting machines correctly tabulate the vote. This will be helped by good poll watchers who can get a sense of the mood of the voters. If there are apparent regularities we need to be ready to yell “foul” immediately.

Another ominous challenge is that of right-wing outfits that are assembling volunteers who are going to be sent to challenge voters who they believe to be engaged in alleged fraudulent behavior. It is not clear how they will approach doing this, but we must be clear that their objective is the intimidation of voters. For this reason defensive measures will need to be taken.

One measure is to make sure civil liberties, civil rights, and labor union organizations have volunteers at the polls to make sure that there is fairness. Should voters have questions or if there is an attempt to intimidate anyone, liberal and progressive volunteers need to be ready to intervene to ensure that everyone has a chance to cast their ballot.

An organized presence is critical, a point that needs double underlining. The right-wing has whipped itself up into a frenzy repeating over and over that the Democrats (and most especially President Obama) plan to steal the election. The irony is that demonstrable efforts at disenfranchising have not come from the Democrats but from the Republicans, including the infamous 2000 election; the 2004 mysteries in Ohio; and the post-2008 efforts by Republican state legislators across the country to pass legislation that makes it more and more difficult for citizens to vote.

There are those who seek to make the notion of democracy the equivalent of a movie set with all of the trappings and none of the substance. Our resistance to such shenanigans will again be tested this November 6th.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. He can be reached at papaq54@hotmail.com.

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