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So This Is The 'Race To The Top'? The View From Here is Scary

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David B. DeLuz, President and CEO Greater Sacramento Urban LeagueCalifornia’s traditional public schools are failing our kids, and every day the Urban League in California deal head-on with the aftermath of that failure. We serve hundreds of thousands of adults and youth who are either in – or have passed through – the crumbling public education system. We cannot tinker at the margins with changes to a broken system. We need change, we need reform, and we need accountability in our public school system – NOW.

A case in point: According to a disturbing October 2009 Northeastern University study on the dire economic and social consequences of high school dropouts, on any given day nearly 23 percent of all young Black men ages 16 to 24 who have dropped out of high school are in jail, prison, or a juvenile justice institution in America – with dire economic consequences for these young men. In California, 1 in 4 black students fail to graduate from high school. Without a high school diploma, one cannot earn enough money to make ends meet and certainly not enough to reach the American dream of raising a family and buying a home. The mean annual earnings of the nation’s young people with a bachelor’s or advanced degree were $24,797 in 2007, three times higher than the mean earnings for dropouts of $8,358. And this does not even begin to address the hard costs of dealing with incarceration (black males being 47 times more likely to be incarcerated than their counterparts who graduate), drug dependency, and social safety net payments, costing California nearly $1.1 billion annually (UCSB, September 2009) . This is a crisis of epic proportions. Lacking real access to a quality education, an entire generation of young people – black, brown, Asian and white – are marginalized at the edges of the economic and social mainstream and are left without a true opportunity to achieve the American Dream.

In spite of all the evidence pushing for swift and decisive action, recent actions by the California Legislature have cast doubt about the willingness of those in power to place the needs of students and the future of this State above immediate, short-term political interests. The gamesmanship around SBX5 1 and ABX5 8 has brought this state to the brink of failure to qualify for federal Race to the Top (RT3) funding. While the funding is important, what is more vital is the opportunity to provide real change and reform to a public education system that has long been broken and has failed miserably to adequately serve those most in need of its services – poor and ethnic students who lack real educational options.

The Urban Leagues in California, with three affiliates in Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Diego and who serve thousands of families daily, are calling for the Governor and legislature to take action on RT3 that provides all students with choice, an ‘exit option’ from poor performing traditional schools, and accountability at all levels of the public education system. Choice is a bedrock principle that will create a drive for innovation and improvement as parents and students ‘vote with their feet’ and find educational options that work for their students; an ‘exit option’ is important because in America, the ability for the people to have a choice and a voice, and to move freely and choose a school that works is simply the right thing to do. Trapping parents and students in a monopoly of ill-performing, inferior educational institutions is simply un-American – isn’t it? The parent trigger is key to empowering parents to participate as a full partner with the schools in the education of their child. And finally, accountability is critical so that we can hold accountable those elements of the system that are underperforming and we can fix the problems that have squandered our most precious resource. In the December 9 hearing, Asemblymember Joan Buchanon made reference to “not wanting to play the ‘blame game’”. I agree, however the game is able to be played because of a lack of accountability – for the teachers, the principals, the educational bureaucracy and the parents. The range of reforms available under RT3 give everyone the opportunity to become empowered and identify their critical role in the education of children, and allow them to live up to it.

For too long, and in too many ways, young people across this state and country have been let down by the education system and by the adults responsible for their care and development. Now is the time to increase the investments we make in young people, enhance the content, opportunities and supports we provide, and empower them to make better choices about both their individual future and the future of our nation.

There is not time to waste. The gamesmanship must end – now. We strongly urge the legislature and the Governor to come together and meet this challenge with the urgency it deserves. Our community cannot afford to delay reform one day longer. The California Urban League’s fully support school choice, the parent trigger and providing accountability in our byzantine educational system. We do not care how or by what bill number it’s called. What we want is an educational system that works for all students.



Congressional Black Caucus Stands Up for Voiceless and Vulnerable – and Wins

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NNPA Special CommentaryU. S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.)

The ten members of the Congressional Black Caucus who serve on the House Financial Services Committee – Reps. Mel Watt, Gregory Meeks (D-NY), William Lacy Clay (D-MO), David Scott (D-GA), Al Green (D-TX), Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Andre Carson (D-IN) and I – took a stand to make sure the African-American community receives the attention, assistance and resources needed for our economic recovery. We delivered a loud and clear message to Congressional leaders and White House officials that they cannot take us, or the people we represent, for granted. We made our point and have achieved a significant victory, which we will build upon with continued efforts to put more people back to work and stimulate economic growth in our neighborhoods.

As Congress was working on legislation to reform how big banks operate to make them more accountable and prevent failures that could cause another financial crisis, the CBC Financial Services Committee members united to hold up this legislation.

We did so not because we oppose the legislation; in fact, many of us helped write the bill and were able to put in important provisions to protect American consumers from being ripped off by banks, credit card companies and payday lenders. However, we used our power strategically to say that we cannot focus on fixing the problems on Wall Street while ignoring the hardship endured by families and businesses on Main Street.

This is not to suggest that nothing has been done to help: President Obama and Congress acted quickly to lessen the impact of this recession on the most vulnerable Americans. In February, the Congress passed a stimulus bill that cut taxes for middle class families, extended and increased unemployment insurance, and created and saved more than a million jobs. Although the economy is showing some encouraging signs, high unemployment and foreclosures threaten to slow down the recovery. African Americans have been disproportionately affected by predatory lending (55 percent of loans made to African Americans in 2005 were subprime, compared to 17 percent for Whites), and the unemployment rate of African Americans is currently 15.6 percent, 56 percent higher than the overall national rate. As a result, African-American neighborhoods have experienced higher levels of foreclosures, which cause families to lose their homes and the home values of the entire area to drop. The CBC members who serve on the Financial Services Committee acknowledge that we have not been forceful enough in protecting the most vulnerable of our population. Since last September, we have continuously voted for bailouts and reform for the very institutions that created the financial crisis, without properly protecting the African American community, or small business. At a widely covered press conference we declared, “That stops today.”

Places where economic suffering has occurred over years, even decades, and is now especially severe, require additional support and extra attention. In discussions with leaders of Congress and officials from the Obama Administration, we have pushed for a renewed, vigorous focus on the economic challenges many African-American families and businesses are facing.

We have already had success. As a result of our clout and willingness to block legislation if necessary, House leaders agreed to include some important proposals that we advocated in the financial regulatory reform legislation this week.

We secured $4 billion within the Wall Street reform package for homeowners and communities dealing with the foreclosure crisis, of which $3 billion will be made available so homeowners with reduced income as a result of unemployment, underemployment, or medical conditions can receive low-interest loans to help them stay in their homes. Homeowners must be at least 3 months behind on their mortgage payments, have received a foreclosure notice, and must have a reasonable prospect of being able to resume making full mortgage payments to qualify. They will be eligible to receive low-interest loans for up to 24 months, up to a total of $50,000, to make their mortgage payments.

An additional $1 billion will be directed to the Neighborhood Stabilization Program to provide grants to state and local governments to purchase foreclosed properties, fix them up and make them available for rent or purchase by low- and middle-income families. Created last year through legislation supported by the CBC, the Neighborhood Stabilization Program has been a success. However, because the program has received more applications than could be funded, the additional funding will be helpful.

The legislation also includes a provision the CBC members of the Financial Services Committee authored to establish an Office of Minority and Women Inclusion in many government agencies so qualified minority- and women-owned businesses can fully participate in government contracting opportunities. Having recommitted ourselves to fighting for the voiceless and the vulnerable, we will continue to develop and advocate for solutions that serve all Americans.

The rights are sometimes in conflict with institutional practices today, but the authors believe it is essential to start from the child’s perspective to work on what is possible.

Chicken Hawks: All Talk and No Action

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By A. Peter Bailey –

The shrillest chicken hawk supporters of United States military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan repeatedly insist that the country’s national security is at stake, that anyone who opposes these military adventures is literally putting everyone in the country in danger. Which, in my opinion, raises a very obvious question.

If the desk-bound warriors sincerely believe that the nation’s national security is at stake, why aren’t they or their children or other close relatives in the military where they can directly confront the enemy who they insist threatens the system from which they have reaped huge financial benefits? It would seem that the most productive way to support the troops fighting in the two wars is to join them in the trenches instead of blissfully preparing to celebrate upcoming holidays.

If all the chest-beaters and their viewers, listeners, and readers would do that there would be no need to continue sending the children of low-income Black, Latino and White families on 3-5 tours of duty in the combat zone. Because the chicken hawks talk the talk, but won’t walk the walk, there is basically an unofficial draft in place that sends youngsters on repeated tours of combat duty, while their offspring are attending college, partying in Las Vegas or Florida or launching potentially lucrative careers.

The chicken hawks pontificate on television and radio programs and in newspapers and magazines about what “we” must do to stop the enemy. “We” must fight for total victory; “We” must be willing to fight however long to defend national security; “We” can’t talk to terrorists; “We” must show AL Qaeda who’s boss; “We” must destroy the Taliban; “We” should not set any time table about leaving Afghanistan; “We” conducted a successful surge in Iraq; “We” don’t take no stuff from nobody. Sometimes such trash-talking is accompanied by the chicken hawk slamming a fist on his desk or sternly pointing a finger at anyone who dares to challenge his flagrant hypocrisy.

Much more often than not, the most ferocious we-spouters are people who managed to avoid being drafted to fight in the Vietnam War, another military adventure they insisted involved concerns about national security. General William Westmoreland, former commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam, has been quoted as saying that “the military don’t start wars. Politicians start wars.” I would say that politicians and trash-talking radio and television talk show chicken hawks and their counterparts on newspaper op-ed pages start wars, wars in which they have absolutely no intention to fight or send their children and grandchildren to fight in.

Personally, I will believe that the national security of the U.S. is at stake when I see the chicken hawks or their children in the trenches in Iraq and Afghanistan. Journalist/Lecturer A. Peter Bailey, a former associate editor of Ebony, is currently editor of Vital Issues: The Journal of African American Speeches. He can be reached at apeterb@verizon.net.

Black Press of America Stands With Black Caucus' 'Ben 10'

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By Charles W. Cherry II, NNPA Special Commentary –

In one of the most honest self-assessments in recent American political history, 10 Congressional Black Caucus members ruefully admitted that they fell asleep at their posts as the traditional political guardians of Black America.

The “Ben (for “Benjamins”) 10”: U.S. Reps. Andre Carson, William Lacy Clay, Emanuel Cleaver, Keith Ellison, Al Green, Gregory Meeks, Gwen Moore, Maxine Waters, David Scott, and Melvin Watt – all serve on the House Financial Services Committee. The committee is, in the words of P. Diddy, “all about the Benjamins.”

It oversees America’s banking, insurance, real estate, securities, and public/assisted housing sectors. “Each of us served on the Financial Services Committee and we have not been forceful enough in our efforts to protect the most vulnerable of our population,” a joint statement issued from Rep. Waters’ office said.

“…Since last September, we have continuously voted for bailouts and reform for the very institutions that created this devastation, without properly protecting the African-American community, or small business. That stops today.”

Thank God.

We slept Much of Black America was lulled into slumber by the images of Malia and Sasha playing in the White House’s backyard and by the knowledge that their grandmother, Marian Robinson, is one of their primary caregivers. We swell with pride – then go back to sleep – when the elegant Michelle Obama hosts White House parties. We marvel at the sight of a Black U.S. president – then we take another nap.

Snap out of it. The Ben 10’s joint statement should be the cold water to our faces. President Obama’s reaction to the statement should be the slap upside our heads.

Obama was quoted in USA Today as saying, “The most important thing I can do for the African-American community is the same thing I can do for the American community, period, and that is get the economy moving again and get people hiring again…It’s a mistake to start thinking in terms of particular ethnic segments of the United States rather than to think that we are all in this together and we all going to get out of this thing together.”

Cough medicine Black-owned newspapers reported that Black America was already in economic depression in 2006, two years before the deep American recession arrived. If the general American economy has pneumonia, the economy of Black America has full-blown AIDS. The Obama administration has given Wall Street the financial blood transfusion it demanded, while treating Main Street and MLK, Jr. Boulevard with slow-acting cough syrup. If we wait long enough, the cough syrup will work and the coughing will eventually stop – when the patients die.

Obama still believes in Ronald Reagan’s “rising tide” theory that all Americans’ economic conditions rise and fall together. (Statistics disprove that.) Yet, in the USA Today interview, Obama considers the possibility of a “surgical” financial stimulus that would incentivize people to buy home insulation from Home Depot and Lowe’s.

The Ben 10’s statement mentions a few racial disparities regarding economics. We all know there’s a lifelong American ‘Black tax’ that follows us from cradle to grave. It increases our chances of stillbirth, infant mortality, being disciplined in school and dropping out, unemployment, imprisonment, small business failure, poverty, sickness, homelessness, and early death. As the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, said, “It ain’t White or Black –it’s a fact.”

But it’s the hypocrisy and denial of historical and institutional racism and its continuing impact that sandpapers Black America’s racial ‘scar tissue’ daily. The fact is that we know that the U.S. government – now purportedly led by our Black president – won’t confront the disparities. This drives Black America’s collective blood pressure to hypertensive levels.

We won’t wait In his 1963 “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., castigated White moderate clergyman who believed the civil rights movement was moving too fast. “For years now, I have heard the word ‘Wait!’ It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity,” Dr. King wrote. “This ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never’…(W)hen you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society…when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness” – then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.”

We of the 200-member National Newspaper Publishers Association, “the Black Press of America,” will continue to stand – as we always have –with the Ben 10 and everyone who intelligently advocates for the Black community’s permanent interests. Mr. President, we won’t wait for your slowacting cough syrup to work. And we’ll fight you – if necessary – to get the targeted financial help Black America deserves.

Charles W. Cherry II, ESQ. is an NNPA national board member and is the publisher of the Florida Courier and the Daytona Times. He is a practicing attorney and former South Florida prosecutor. Contact him at ccherry2@ gmail.com.


Students Respond to President Obama's Speech: Part II

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The speech of our president Barrack Obama was very deep and outstanding. It’ got to my head that I can’t stop thinking about every little word he said. I liked when he said that when you fail you fail to your self and that is true because I have failed to myself many times and when I go back to it I feel down to myself for not keep going in school.

After hearing him speak I feel motivated to finish school the way I’m supposed to and to try my very best to graduate. I would like to go to college and become a dentist and I always remember of that little phrase he says yes we can. What got to me was when he said that it doesn’t matter who you are the most important thing in your life must be your education.
Jessica De La Torre

I thought your speech was great however I a not a fan. I think stunts like the appearing during term on the tonight show and others demean the title of President. However back to the speech I did like I really enjoyed the fact someone in this corrupt world gives a care at all about how our generation takes advantage of the blessing of school bestowed upon us, many other countries don’t even have the opportunity to go to school, or to take courses for careers that WE choose to pursue. Unfortunately this day and age fools choose not to listen and take advantage of the opportunities in front of them years ago some of these things were not available to the less fortunate people in the Americas, or the minorities in America.

I thank you for caring about our youth and our country by speaking to us and providing us with opportunities to go to school pursue a career and make our country great again. Thank you not just caring about the economy falling and worrying about the economy’s problem, but you are reaching the source of the solution to the success of our economy, our youth, pursuing careers, strengthening our country. Once again thank you President Obama for caring about our country.
Joel Smith

I think you inspired me to get educated. Also you convinced me not to dropout of high school. I think you can wake the world a better place. Your so inspirational I think you can inspire anybody to do anything. You inspired me to do something with my life I want to be president one day. I know you can lead the nation on a good path and get us out of the recession. I thought your speech was really good you inspired people around the world to get an education. I also think you make people want to stop living a life of crime and get involved with school. You make me want to make me want to set a example for my little brothers. I want to show them that they can do anything they put their mind to and just don’t give up on school. I will try to teach them that dropping out of school is a really bad decision. I think that I could do anything I want to do I can be a doctor or a fireman or the president your speech really inspired me to do more than just sitting on my ass I actually want to do something with my life now.
Juan Ramirez

My name is Lisbet Dimas; I attend Provisional Accelerated Learning Center in San Bernardino CA. I am 17 years old and am a junior. I saw the speech you attended at West Brook high school. I was motivated by your speech as well as many other students. I enjoyed hearing you speak about how to be successful in life; you’re an inspiration to me I like how you put things together and make sure we understand what you’re telling us. I could listen to you talk about never giving up for days and wouldn’t get tried.

There are a lot of things I want to do in life. Even if somehow something slows me down from getting to where I want to go, I know not to give up because you never gave up to be where you are right now. I understand that you don’t just wake up one day and just become successful from one day to another. I know you have to work hard to be successful. Like that saying goes you crawl first so we can start walking. Your speech was one of a kind. It was more impressive how you showed up in person to motivated student I really liked that and I bet the other thousands of people feel the same way. You really did a great job. You’re my hero!
Lisbet Dimas

What I truly think about your speech you did today, September 8, 2009 it was a really great speech. And thank you very much for every thing that you told us about going to school it is very important to me. But that story you told us about you I was really thinking about it, that I’m going to school, a free education I should take advantage and graduate. And that was great that you were in that high school they were all happy because you were right there. I really wish you could come to our school.

And I really want to thank you for improving our schools. But you have been a good president so far I really do like you as our president. Also you have been standing there for us the people from United States of America. And you’re my role model. I am going to try my best in school so some day I can be like you. And I really want to thank you for all the things you done for is thank you sr.Obama.
Luis Alonso

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