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Letter to the Editor: An open letter to our community

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We the undersigned faculty of California State University, San Bernardino, are reaching out to our fellow community members to inform them about the current threat to public higher education and how it will affect all of us living in the Inland Empire. We hope you will join us in defending a precious community resource that has delivered personal, social, and economic success to thousands of families during our 45 years of existence.

CSUSB has educated today's political and business leaders, nurses, teachers, civil servants, working professionals and countless others.

We fear, however, that current trends threaten our ability to continue to offer students access to a high-quality, affordable education that will position them for success in the job market and not leave them laden with enormous student loan debts.

Since 2002, student fees at Cal States have increased by over 260%. This is an unprecedented tax on those who can least afford it. The state must stop hiking student fees to offset funding cuts to the Cal State system. By raising student tuition, we are limiting the ability of our students and their families to afford a college education.

In addition to fees, student access to an education at CSUSB is directly linked to funding from the state. At CSUSB, chronic underfunding has already meant reductions in faculty jobs, overcrowded classes, fewer available courses, and delays in student time to graduation. Last year, for the first time in its history, Cal State denied admission to 40,000 eligible students state-wide. At CSUSB, 1,500 eligible students were turned away. The prospect of additional budget cuts this year is very real. If the governor's proposed tax extensions are not enacted, the Cal State system could suffer up to an additional $1 billion reduction in funding – this represents a quarter of the system’s budget! With a “cuts only” budget, we risk turning away thousands more from the CSU. Our elected leaders must find ways to see past partisan politics and do what’s best for our state’s future.

In these times of economic crisis people need more educational opportunities, not less. If we continue to diminish opportunities to attain a public higher education, the future result will be a more undereducated and underpaid labor force, resulting in poor economic performance for our region and the state. It would mean additional stress on our local economy, and less tax revenue for our cities while creating more need for public services, at a time when critical public services are also being drastically defunded.

For our part, California Faculty Association, the CSUSB faculty union, will do everything we can to ensure access to all those who wish to attend the university. This includes holding the CSU Chancellor accountable for decisions made in recent years to increase the numbers and salaries of top level administrators, as well as hire high-priced private consultants for pet projects, instead of prioritizing student instruction and services.

We need your help. California lawmakers must understand that higher education is not a cost but an economic benefit to our community.

Every dollar invested in CSUSB results in more than four dollars in economic activity generated by our graduates. In these hard times, cutting funding to CSUSB is bad economic policy.

Together we have the power to protect CSUSB for present and future generations of students and their families. We urge you to stand with us and help us defend our University! Please write or call your local representatives in state government and tell them that keeping CSUSB strong is essential to you, your children and future generations in our region. (Find your local legislator at:

http://www. legislature.ca.gov/portzipsearch.html)

If we work together, we can ensure that CSUSB continues to serve our community. We must join together to protect our region’s most valuable asset.

CSUSB Faculty

Tax, Tax, Tax – Now They Want Your Grocery Bags

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(NNPA) Local and state governments are just like the federal government. They want to keep their largesse ways and not face the demand for austerity and good fiscal management. When times get tight they seek to get into your pockets via obscene taxation on any and everything they can find. There is no regard for the underserved or populations that can least afford damaging taxation for the sake of keeping massive governmental infrastructures.

Many cities and counties are slipping taxes on cell phones like they are luxury items. The truth is cell phones are security items, family management tool,s and access to the Internet. Black citizens use cell phones as their number one vehicle to the Internet. So, when they start slapping taxes on your child’s phone and you are on a limited fixed income or assistance it becomes terribly damaging. They are doing this with reckless abandon and that is why we are pushing for a federal bill that will declare cell phones interstate commerce and prohibit any further local taxes for at least 10 years.

Let’s say you purchase a download through the Internet. You live in Philadelphia and you buy it from a firm in Seattle, Washington. The server used in this transaction is located in St. Louis. What may happen is a triple tax on this transaction. You may pay Philadelphia, Pennsylvania sales tax, Seattle,Washington sales tax, and a St. Louis, Missouri sales tax all on one transaction. It is becoming crazy and somehow we must bring good management and governance in this new age of doing business.

Now comes taxing grocery bags. Washington, D.C. started this under the last mayor. My wife and I no longer shop in D.C. We shop in Montgomery County, Maryland. However, the Montgomery County Council has just decided to implement their own five-cent grocery bag tax. Shall we now cross the Potomac River into Virginia? Better yet, let’s start getting a handle on this one.

The stated goals of the tax are to raise revenue and curb the use of grocery bags. The bags, the county says, are an environmental hazard. Instead, county officials say they want to encourage Montgomery County shoppers to use reusable bags.

Unfortunately, the measure misses the mark. What bag taxes like these result in isn’t very “green” at all. And, what might be affordable for one of America’s most affluent counties certainly wouldn’t be affordable for working class communities, let alone the entire state.

Eliminating free grocery bags at the checkout means consumers must search for alternatives – presumably reusable plastic or cloth bags. Both options weigh more and take more energy to produce, contributing to greater emissions, not less.

As alternatives, plastic reusables and cloth bags must be used repeatedly over time before their environmental impacts are less than that of plastic. If they aren’t reused to that extent, we only succeed in introducing more waste into our landfills. To illustrate, it would take 7.5 years of using the same cloth bag (393 uses, assuming one grocery trip per week) before it’s a better option than a plastic bag reused three times, like to carry lunch and then line a garbage can.

And since so many people (nine out of ten according to market surveys) reuse plastic grocery bags, without them, consumers would naturally replace plastic grocery bags with other, heavier gauge plastics, for household uses. After Ireland implemented its bag tax, consumption of purchased plastic trash bags increased by 400 percent. So, if the goal is to promote less waste in our landfills and use fewer plastics, bans and taxes don’t achieve those outcomes.

Bag taxes also skirt the real issue of litter. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says plastic grocery bags make up less than 0.5 percent of the litter stream. Junk food wrappers, cigarette butts and paper, all make up bigger portions of litter, but plastic bags make for an easy target because they are visible, white, and often can get blown around. In effect, getting rid of plastic bags is negligible in cleaning up litter. Addressing litter requires more than just banning a product, it requires a change in habits, more recycling, and greater education.

A tax on grocery bags is regressive. A growing number of Americans rely on government assistance for food, and taxes like this hurt these groups the most. In a time of rising gas prices, and with the rising cost of commodities driving up our grocery bills, the added financial burden at the check-out for a cause that has an arguable impact on improving the environment just doesn’t make sense.

Though well-intended, a bag tax does more harm than help. Non-recyclable reusables are no better for the environment. The worst part is that the tax ends up hurting those that can least afford it. Fight this increased taxation effort whenever and wherever it comes up.

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

Demanding the Best Education for Black Children

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(NNPA) Now that the economy in the United States continues to improve each month, there is an open question that remains concerning the economic empowerment status of Black Americans in 2011. But there is a prior question that will have both short term and long range implications for the economic future of Black Americans. Unless we do more now to acquire the best education possible for our children, there will not be a significant economic recovery in the African American community. We have to be more aware and active to demand nothing less than the best for our children. There are just too many African American young people who are attending some of the least performing schools across America. Another school year is about to end and the national report card is not good.

There is a crisis in the public education system throughout the United States. Study after study, statistic after statistic, and analysis after analysis all point to the fact that there are too many schools that are failing Black children on a daily basis. We cannot and should not be complacent about this situation. Something corrective and transformative must be done and it must be done now. Black parents, in particular, need to be at the forefront of the rapidly increasing School Choice Movement. The mission of the Black Alliance for Educational Options is to increase access to high-quality educational options for Black children by actively supporting parental choice policies and programs that empower low-income and working-class families.

It is important to emphasize that “school choice” places parents in charge of their children’s education. Black parents should always have the choice of selecting the best schools for their children, public or private. Some affluent parents exercise school choice more readily because they have the financial means to do so. Parents who can afford it simply do not permit their children to attend a failed school. They often decide to move to a certain neighborhood because of the quality of a high-performance traditional public school or that neighborhood has a high-performance innovative public charter school. Other parents, those who can afford it, send their children to high-quality private schools. But for the vast majority of Black American parents who are marginal middle-class or low-come and working-class, they cannot afford to move to better neighborhoods or to pay for private school tuition, according to the National School Choice advocates who believe that all children should have the opportunity to go to better schools; private schools via opportunity scholarships (most commonly called school vouchers), special needs scholarship programs, and scholarship tax credit programs. While this book focuses on those three reforms in particular, advocates also believe that states should eliminate barriers preventing the growth of high-quality charter schools, virtual schools, online learning options, and home schooling.

Why Does President Obama Hate Black Businesses?

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(NNPA) It is not about race. It is about a philosophy and agenda that is rather foreign to his predecessors. The thought resembles that of the late Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm who addressed a group of Black manufacturers with this: “I don’t give a damn about businesses. All I am concerned with are jobs” (what an oxymoron). Then former Congresswoman Cardiss Collins chimed in with “Besides, you are all a bunch of Republicans”. Business ownership has no direct party affiliation. The ideal for President Obama is to make a world full of a few gigantic corporations, some of which are owned by governments, and then the workers unionize from top to bottom. There is no room for entrepreneurs as they just get in the way.

The big problem with the above is that America was founded and continues to be a capitalistic system where entrepreneurship is encouraged and many times rewarded. This is where the jobs come into play and 70% of all new jobs come from small businesses. His ambition counters what America is all about and this is starting to be realized by many. Black people should consider the following as examples of what I am talking about:

*The Stimulus Bill ended up being a nearly $1 trillion spend fest and Black business got virtually none of the contracting. We were blocked out as they guided contracts to union shops. Ninety-nine percent of Black businesses are not union so when there is union exclusivity we are out in the cold.

*The Broadband Deployment grants totaled $7.4 billion. Despite notable Black firms applying for these grants not a penny went to them. Thus, our neighborhoods will continue to lag behind in Internet deployment and keep us at a disadvantage.

*During Fiscal Year 2010 there were 64,880 Black owned firms in the federal procurement data base. Only 3,990 received any type of contract activity. Thus only 5.4% of the Black business database amounted to 1.5% of the total dollars spent by the federal government - 94.6% were on the outside looking in.

*The President wants to build a high speed rail system. In order to skew it to union shops only he placed the management of this in the Federal Railroad Administration as opposed to the Federal Transit Administration which manages all other railway activity. Why? Because this way he could avoid the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program and keep Black business out of the contracting activity – again Union Only.

*He stepped in and allowed our EXIM Bank to give Petrobras, a quasi Brazilian government and private partnership, a $3 billion low interest loan. EXIM tells our members that they must prove that their loans will create new American jobs. Not here, it is for Brazil and it allows them to do off shore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico while our oil firms had a moratorium on the same area. By the way, the current President of Brazil is a former Marxist guerrilla who spent time in prison. Also in the picture is George Soros, a crony of our President and a major stock holder of Petrobras and a proponent of Eugenics.

*Another shocker is this. We no longer have a champion to fight contractual discrimination within federal agencies. When defense contractor Henry Thomas asked Senator Sessions (R-AL) to help start a discrimination investigation he was told this by Obama’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, “Congress has not given the Department of Justice authority to pursue charges of discrimination against departments or agencies of the federal government. Therefore, we cannot assist Mr. Thomas with respect to his allegation that the DLA has discriminated against him.” Wow! The Enforcer will not enforce. We are in trouble.

*The people of South Carolina were happy to receive the news that Boeing plans to build a new airplane plant there. There is a significant Black population in South Carolina and our businesses in that area were equally excited. Then, the federal government steps in to try and stop Boeing from bringing tens of thousands of jobs and supplier contracts. Why? The plant will not be unionized counter to the President’s philosophy. This is anti-entrepreneurial!

*The Mortgage Modification Program has a success rate of seven percent so Blacks and Hispanics, the majority of mortgage problems, continue to suffer and lose our net worth.

*His Director of the Minority Business Development Agency has stated that his main concern is big business. He is laissez faire about small businesses and has a disdain for micro-enterprise.

*The White House has actually conspired in forming a rival group to oppose the National Black Chamber of Commerce. It reminds me of when the great Booker T. Washington established the National Negro Business League and White liberals came up with a rival organization. It was called the NAACP and a robust Black middle class was delayed by half a century. They will fail on this one. Find the story at www.nationalbcc.org/latestnews.

It is time to become scared. I fear for my country.

Mr. Alford is the President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Website www.nationalbcc.org Email: halford@nationalbcc.org www.twitter.com/nationalbcc.

Career Technical Education Career Readiness Report

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The prolonged economic downturn has pressed many Americans to keep working when once they might have retired. Beyond that, there are the separate pressures to have more American workers stay on the job until age 68 to relieve the strain on the Social Security Trust Fund. The American workforce is already changing under these metamorphic pressures. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that 28 million people in our workforce are now 55 or older. That's 17% of the work force - the most ever. Meanwhile, only 17 million workers are age 24 or younger. That's 12%-- the lowest ever. Consequently, our young people are not just competing with foreign workers for jobs. Regardless, the solution to the problem is the same: high quality education and relevant career training.

With over 553 classes serving more than 30,000 students in 50 career areas, the Riverside County Office of Education (RCOE) brings to this challenge the leaders and educators of our Career Technical Education (CTE) unit. Our programs are highly successful because they dependably deliver not just what students want, but what they need. The courses are constantly evolving to meet the needs of a changing economy, they're widely available across the county, and what's more, they're affordable. They're also fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Our teachers have working experience in the subjects they teach. And the courses are articulated with community colleges to provide clear paths to vocational growth.

CTE and Regional Occupation Program (ROP) classes are a great asset to both college and non-college bound students. Those intending to go directly into postsecondary education out of high school will benefit from having some career-ready training under their belt. We also acknowledge that over 60% of our high school graduates are not currently going to college. We want them to have the best employment opportunities possible so they can become self-reliant, contributing members of society and live good quality lives. Studies show that CTE and ROP classes help students stay engaged in school and graduate on time, and prepare them with the fundamental skills they will need to be successful in the workforce - whether they go to college or not.

Our staff at the Riverside County Office of Education have been working with the county's Workforce Investment Board to develop meaningful workforce preparation criteria in order for students to receive a special level of industry certification - certification that, along with their high school diploma, will give them a hiring advantage over other job applicants who otherwise would be their equals. This new certification of work readiness, through the efforts of the Workforce Investment Board and RCOE, will be issued to students completing the requirements at the end of the current school year.

As County Superintendent, I have been working to forge ties on a broader, regional level, with business organizations. In the desert, we're engaged with the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership. We support the CVEP drive to increase applications for college financial aid among high school seniors in the desert. We are working to have similar efforts going on in the rest of the county. In the western county, we've joined with the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce to support an ambitious role for the chambers' Business Education Partnership.

We're staking out common policy ground and strategic initiatives. With these and related efforts, today's students are being well prepared to successfully take us into the future!

Kenneth M. Young is Riverside County Superintendent of Schools.

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