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Why Black Communities Can't Settle for Small Education Reforms

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By Dr. John H. Jackson, NNPA Special Correspondent –

Several weeks ago the Schott Foundation released "Yes We Can: The 2010 Schott 50 State Report on Black Males in Public Education". The report revealed that the overall graduation rate (2007-2008) for Black males in the U.S. was only 47 percent. Taken alone this statistic is alarming. Coupled with the fact that two-thirds of all new jobs will require some level of college attainment and the correlation between education attainment and a communities’ economic base, access to healthcare, civic participation and incarceration rate—the statistic is dangerous.

While the numbers in the Schott 2010 report are new, few should be shocked as in 2008 the Schott Foundation highlighted the fact that the Black male graduation rate was only 48 percent nationally. Many articles have been written discussing how these statistics project a bleak future for Black males and our nation. However, we cannot get so wrapped up with projecting the future that we lose sight of the impact of failed federal and state systems on Black males and youth when they do not provide learning opportunities to all students.

For example, New York City, which enrolls the largest number of Black males in the nation, graduated fewer than 29 percent of its Black male students on-time and college ready.

Chicago, which enrolls the second largest number of Black male students only graduated 44 percent on-time.

None can separate New York’s nor Chicago’s graduation rate with the fact that TODAY, in New York City, 50 percent of Black males are unemployed.

TODAY, in Chicago Black males are disproportionately involved in shootings and are the victims of homicides.

During one June Chicago weekend alone, more than 52 people were shot—reports indicated that the majority of the shootings were youth gang related.

These education and social factors indicate that Black communities, churches, businesses and families are in trouble TODAY and can neither wait in the future to take action to change the trajectory.

Unfortunately, as urban and rural Black communities are losing thousands of young people per year the majority of solutions put forward by officials can only save hundreds in a given community. The main discussion today has been to give these communities more access to charters or individual academies---when every indication is that even if all charters were high quality (which is not the case) creating enough of these schools to address the depth of today’s reality is virtually impossible.

For example, Chicago’s, Urban Prep Academy, an all boys academy where 100 percent of the 107 graduates are going to college is often cited when officials discuss solutions to the problem. While Urban Prep’s accomplishment is to be lauded, offering the school’s existence, or other charters, as a model for systemic change is insufficient.

Even if the city replicated Urban Prep ten times, the graduation rate for Black males in Chicago would only be impacted slightly.

According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, in 2009 the fastest-growing charter system was in New York City with 22 percent growth.

Yet, charters in New York City only educate 2 percent (21,000) of New York City's one million-plus students. These school-by-school solutions are inadequate for depth of the challenge. High minority and high poverty communities and their youth have been neglected for so many decades that they need solutions that impact thousands not hundreds.

It’s time for faith institutions, grassroots advocates, parents and progressive elected officials to call for large-scale systemic reforms that we know work. For example:

- Guarantee all students access to high quality early education ensuring that they are literate by 3rd grade - as only 13 percent of Black 8th Grade students are proficient in 8th Grade reading. - Provide all students who are 10-15 percentage points below the proficiency rate an Individualized Student Recovery Plan—which provides each student the academic supports, mentoring and health supports needed to provide students an opportunity to learn. If states can pay for probationary officers for Black males surely they can employ mentors for them.

- Call for states to develop an "Opportunity to Learn" plan that outlines how the state plans to reduce the inter-district and intra-district disparities in access to early education, highly effective teachers, college bound curricula and equitable instructional resources over the next five years. The Plan should be costed out to plot the long term state and federal investments needed to protect every child’s civil right to an opportunity to learn.

Many of these requests will likely be met with the question: How can we afford to do this in this economic climate?

The Black community TODAY is uniquely positioned to respond to that question. We Can’t afford not to! Dr. Jackson is president and CEO of the Schott Foundation for Public Education

Steve Cooley's Coded Statements Against Kamala Harris

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A week ago at the California Republican Party Convention in San Diego, Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley said some outrageous things about his opponent in the California Attorney’s Race – San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris.

Steve Cooley called Kamala Harris, who is running to be the first African American Attorney General in California’s history, a “radical” and a “tremendous threat to public safety.” If she wins in November, Kamala Harris would be the first African American statewide elected official in California in 31 years.

Steve Cooley went on to say that he “would be very happy to stop her aspirations at an early point in her career. There's just too much at stake."

In this year’s political climate, we’re hearing more and more of these kinds of attacks. Pandering to their extremist base, some candidates from the right are stooping to a level of “code” that we haven’t seen in years.

Their agenda is to attack President Barack Obama and try to stop candidates of color in their tracks. All the while, they refuse to repudiate those elements among their supporters, some of them truly dangerous radicals, who carry signs portraying the President of the United States as a monkey, as Hitler, or worse.

Steve Cooley calls Kamala Harris a radical but he doesn’t take issue with her record. As San Francisco’s first African American District Attorney, Harris has been an innovator in law enforcement, creating early intervention programs like her “Back on Track” program that has lowered recidivism among nonviolent offenders from more than 50% to less than 10%. She’s tough as nails when it comes to violent crime, increasing public safety and raising conviction rates to their highest point in 15 years, including doubling the conviction rate for gun violence.

Harris is working with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to prosecute predatory lenders and people who commit mortgage fraud.

And she launched one of the first environmental justice prosecution teams in the country -- Steve Cooley shut down L.A.’s environmental unit.

Cooley, the Republican Party nominee for California Attorney General, says if he is elected, he will join Republican Attorneys General from across the Southern United States who have filed a federal lawsuit to overturn the historic health care reform law championed by President Obama and passed by Congress earlier this year. Cooley and the Southern state Republicans claim the new law violates “state’s rights”.

We’ve heard that argument before – for years “states’ rights” was the rallying cry for segregationists attempting to block federal civil rights laws.

Assemblymember Sandre Swanson (D-Alameda) is Chairman of the California Legislative Black Caucus.

Chasing Glenn Beck

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I never thought it would have gone this low so fast. On the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech the major civil rights groups or should we now say “human rights” groups coalescing together not to celebrate the anniversary but to protest a white cable television icon’s celebration of the event. Something is very strange about this. It is like there is no agenda any longer for our human rights groups from an African-American perspective. They are now fighting for immigrants, gays and lesbians and ex-offenders regardless of their color. Direct action for African- Americans is fading fast and that is not a good thing.

Just why are they upset with Glenn Beck? I believe it is because of his criticism of President Barack Obama. It seems that President Obama’s administration can fend for itself but these groups feel it is their duty to defend the honor and reputation of this publicly elected official. What it has come to is Democrats versus Republicans even though these groups are 501©3 organizations which are supposed to be nonpartisan.

The truth is they are terribly partisan to a fault. In essence, former civil rights groups are now human rights groups terribly influenced by the labor movement (unions) and hopelessly directed by the Democratic Party. They represent the Democrat Machine not the people. Please be aware of this fact.

Beck is a very interesting person. He first started his television career on the liberal CNN. From there he transitioned to the conservative Fox News and “blew up” with his tirades and accusations of the liberal camps.

He became the pride and glory of the conservative movement and many credit him with the start of the Tea Party Movement. He is unashamed of his ultra conservatism and will call out anybody in much detail and doctorial fashion. To the surprise of many he has lately been applauding Black history and many of the little known heroes of Black history.

He is actually on a campaign to show all of the contributions of our leaders in the making of America. It is admirable and you must give him his due praise. That is, if you are not on a mission to counter whatever he says as opposed to weighing his words as he speaks them. From my Black viewpoint Mr. Beck has been on the “1” in discussing the contributions of Frederick Douglas, Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver and many others.

So why are these human rights Democratic groups bashing him? Could it be the money they receive from the DNC that is doing it? Probably, it is reported that the Department of Education is giving one organizer $1.5 million to talk about education with Secretary Arne Duncan, who attended the protest rally by the way.

I went on the Glenn Beck show last December after a series of regrets. I finally relented just to see what would happen. We talked about the racist innuendos of California Senator Barbara Boxer and the discrimination by construction unions in employment and contracting. The professionalism of his staff was very impressive. More than that, they were quite diverse with Blacks interacting at the management level. My wife and I must admit that the professionalism of his staff is probably better than that of any other talk show host. Glenn Beck knows what he is doing and his ratings are the second highest in cable television.

The Lincoln Memorial event he produced on the anniversary date of the I Have a Dream speech (August 28) is not a coincidence. His recent campaign to promote Black history falls right in line with this event. It was here that he made clear that “one man can change the world” over and over throughout the ceremony. As a student of Dr. King and a direct benefactor of his work, I am impressed and appreciative of what Glenn Beck is doing.

No one else thought of it. The human rights groups’ reaction was knee jerk as they were caught sleeping. They had no plans whatsoever to honor the anniversary. It was reactionary and on demand from the Democratic National Committee. It is so tough to be an organization when you have a “boss” telling you what to do. As my grandmother would say, “they were like chickens with their heads cut off”. They were running and ranting with no distinct purpose. Mr. Beck with his 500,000+ followers had an agenda and mission. They accomplished it.

Glenn Beck is now touting that his movement is going back to the roots of conservatism. “We were the first ones to shout freedom for everyone and we are reclaiming that”. He flipped the script and the traditional colored groups took the bait.

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

For Black Farmers: 'Justice Delayed is Justice Denied'

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For more than 10 years, tens of thousands of Black farmers have been denied justice and a share of a $1.25 billion government settlement as compensation for decades of discrimination in federal farm loan programs. Many have lost their farms waiting.

Some have died waiting. And on August 5th, before going on its summer recess, the Senate prolonged the wait by failing to once again appropriate the funds to right this egregious wrong.

Consistent with an unfortunate pattern that has stalled Congressional action on everything from health care reform to unemployment benefits, the Senate is stuck in a stalemate over the Black farmers' settlement due to partisan bickering over how it will be financed.

But, as noted in a recent Reuters news story, "The measure brought to the floor included offsets required under congressional 'pay-as-you-go' rules mandating new spending be offset with cuts elsewhere so as not to add to the deficit."

This is a clear case of political obstructionism and a violation of civil rights. Attorney General Eric Holder and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the settlement in February. President Obama included money for it in his current budget. The House of Representatives approved the funds in July. But the Senate has repeatedly refused to add its final stamp of approval. According to John Boyd, Jr., President of the National Black Farmers Association, "It shows that some of the same treatment that happened to the Black farmers at the Department of Agriculture is transpiring with the Senate's inaction to help Black farmers."

The original class-action lawsuit, Pigford v. Glickman, filed in 1997 and settled in 1999, awarded $50,000 to Black farmers who were denied Department of Agriculture farm loans due to racial discrimination from 1983- 1997. The government has already paid out more than $1 billion to 16,000 farmers. The new funding is for payments to as many as 70,000 farmers who were denied previous payouts because they missed the deadline for filing.

The Black farmers settlement bill has the support of the White House, the Agriculture Department, Senators and House members of both parties, the Congressional Black Caucus and the major civil rights organizations, including the National Urban League. The National Black Farmers Association has taken the fight to Capitol Hill on numerous occasions and has appealed to the White House for help.

When the February settlement was announced, CBC Chairwoman Barbara Lee and many others thought that justice had finally arrived. In a statement then she said, "I am encouraged that today's settlement is an opportunity for Black farmers who were denied the benefit of USDA loans and programs to begin to be made whole."

But justice continues to be denied. This is a travesty. The federal government has spent trillions on bailouts to banks, corporations and investment firms, but struggling Black farmers have been left out in the cold. As John Boyd said, "It seems like the trains leaving the station in the Senate manage not to have the Black farmers on them."

August 28: March for Jobs and Justice Where Ever You Are

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(NNPA) We have to thank Rev. Al Sharpton and other Civil Rights leaders for turning our attention to the atrocity planned by Glenn Beck, Conservative Fox TV talk show host, to have a rally on the Lincoln monument on the anniversary of the March on Washington. Rather than “restoring honor” as they say, this march, heavily supported by the National Rifle Association is a perversion of the progressive spirit of the original nonviolent march, which held out the hope of racial reconciliation and that America would finally cash a check of justice that would allow all of us to invest in the great project of Democracy.

Glenn Beck is a White nationalist who frequently says that progressivism is the problem with democracy, so he and his Tea Party henchmen want to return America – virtually – to honor a set of values that were around when Black people were still being lynched. I agree that he must not be allowed to appropriate the day of the great March and the values that we are still attempting to protect and uphold, so I will be there in Washington.

At the same time Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. is leading a March in Detroit, Michigan on August 28 to highlight the fact that the economic Stimulus and therefore, jobs have not reached many Black communities and that going forward, Detroit, a City that is 82 percent black and economically challenged, is a symbol that we need a new national urban policy. Rev. Jackson is right to make clear the fact that jobs is the great issue of our times and where better to make that case than in Detroit.

Also, many people from New Orleans will not come to Washington because they will be commemorating the Katrina Hurricane damage and resurrection that weekend. In that event, I am told they will include elements of the other marches. But some national news organizations are planning their own five-year look at New Orleans and there are primary elections that day in the State, so that weekend also means that other events will have to struggle for press attention.

In any case, I think that people, especially in this economically challenged environment, should march where they are. If they can come to Washington, DC, or Detroit, or go to New Orleans, fine, but there is work to be done right there at home. It strikes me that, in sympathy with the national marches, local organizations could plan jobs marches to their local workforce agencies, city halls, construction projects where there are no Blacks working, and other places where the demand for jobs by local people is a logical act. Many of us have talked about “civic engagement” well here is an opportunity to do just that, when the national spotlight could connect a national march to one held by a local community.

Perhaps this is a good idea that come too late, but I am reminded that many folks could not come to Washington, DC on August 28, 1963 and so they had local events. For example, I marched on Woodward Avenue in Detroit with hundreds of thousands of people and heard a version of the “I have a dream” speech a few days before it was given in Washington, DC. The same could be said about the Million Man March: people came by the boatloads in 1995, but by the celebration of the 10 year anniversary, an effort was made to urge folks to have local marches to highlight the values of the original march in their communities.

Finally, there is another reason why blacks should try out their local mobilization legs and that is the elections that are coming down the pike this fall.

I will say more about the elections later, but it strikes me that since the National Coalition of Black Civic Participation is a sponsor of the March in Washington, DC that is sign that they are making a move to get organization thinking about how they will organize to get out the vote later on.

So, these marches are about jobs and justice and respecting the values of the movement for which so many people gave their lives, time and energy. But they are also “right now” oriented to the present crisis of unemployment and to prevent the conservative movement from distorting Dr. King’s dream, but also to keeping political power in the hands of those who can help us best.

Ron Walters is a Political Analyst and Professor Emeritus of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland College Park.

One of his latest books is: Freedom Is Not Enough: Black Voters, Black Candidates and American Presidential Politics (Rowman and Littlefield)

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