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Parents and Civil Rights Groups Applaud Race to the Top Law

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Special to CBM --

After calling a special session and introducing a bi-partisan legislative package, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger last week signed historic education reform legislation making California highly competitive in President Obama’s national $4.35 billion Race to the Top education reform and funding competition. On July 24th, 2009 President Obama and U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced federal eligibility and competitiveness requirements for states to compete for the single largest pool of discretionary funding for education reform in U.S. History.

Bi-partisan measures SBX5 1 by Senator Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) SBX5 4 by Senate pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) ensure California can submit a highly competitive application for up to $700 million in funding for California schools and education reform measures designed to improve the state’s lowest performing schools.

The new law represents a victory for civil rights and parent groups including the California State NAACP; Urban Leagues throughout the state; and the Los Angeles-based parent union, Parent Revolution, who pushed Legislative leaders to adopt parental choice measures for students in the state’s lowest performing schools.

“This is a paradigm shift, an entirely new way of thinking about education reform. We're going to fix our schools by giving parents the power. We're going to trust that parents know more than anyone about their child's well-being,” said Shirley Ford a parent and leader in Parent Revolution.

Under the new law parents of students in schools that perform in the bottom 10 percent of statewide student achievement are free to enroll their child in any school in California. Called “open enrollment,” the new law conceived by Gov. Schwarzenegger and championed by Sen. Gloria Romero, will impact 1,000 California schools at the bottom of student achievement. Advocates anticipate that with the new measure, parents of children in low-performing schools will move their children to schools with a proven track record.

As a resource to parents and schools, California Business for Education Excellence (CBEE), a group formed by the state’s top business leaders, recently released a list of 395 “Honor Roll” schools with large populations of low-income and minority students that have boosted students’ grade-level proficiency for four years running.

“Schools on the Honor Roll dispel the myth that certain students can’t reach grade-level proficiency and that schools with a challenging student population won’t be able to succeed,” said Greg Jones, CBEE Chair. “Honor Roll schools are overcoming challenges every day to raise student achievement.”

Also a key part of California’s Race to the Top legislation is a provision called the “Parent Trigger,” which authorizes parents to petition and require school boards to fix failing schools. The law requires a school district to implement one of four federally-approved interventions for turning around a persistently low achieving school if half the parents request action through a petition submitted to the school board. Among the options is closing the school and transforming it into a charter school.

Teachers unions oppose the new Race to the Top law supported by Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, Senate pro tem Darrell Steinberg and a majority of Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature. California Federation of Teachers president, Marty Hettelman drew criticism from civil rights leaders last week when he referred to the “Parent Trigger,” a provision lawmakers designed to empower parents in the state’s lowest performing schools, as “the lynch mob provision” in the January 5th edition of Inside CFT.

Critics charged the use of the term was racially charged and inappropriate. State education department data indicate that in schools that have been failing for seven or more years, 86 percent of the students are African American or Latino. Hittelman dismissed request for a public apology for using the term saying “we thought we used it advisedly.”

The deadline for California to submit its Race to the Top application to the U.S. Department of Education is January 19, 2010. State education officials report Forty-four percent of the school districts, county offices of education and charter schools in California have signed-up to participate in California’s Race to the Top bid. State Education Undersecretary Kathy Gaither applauded the level of school participation, which represents 57 percent of students attending California K-12 public schools.

“This is going to give us broad statewide impact and make us very competitive,” said Gaither.

Assemblyman Nestande Hosts CA Superintendent of Schools Jack O'Connell

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Assemblyman Brian Nestande (R-Palm Desert) recently hosted Education Roundtables with California Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jack O’Connell in Riverside and Palm Desert with school Superintendents, Board of Education members, Principals, and PTO Presidents of school districts in the 64th District.

“I am pleased to have Superintendent Jack O’Connell come visit with educational leaders in my district,” Nestande said.

“It is important to have dialogue between Sacramento and our community.” Nestande is the Vice-Chair of the Education Committee, which focuses on K-12 education, certificated employees of schools, school finance, and school facilities.

Superintendent Jack O’Connell’s role is to lead the California Department of Education, which oversees the state’s diverse and dynamic public school system that is responsible for the education of more than seven million children and young adults in more than 9,000 schools.

Foreclosure Complicates 2010 Census Tracking

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Census Bureau launches road tour 'Portrait of America' to raise awareness and participation in Census

By Chris Levister –

It’s hard mobilizing communities for the 2010 Census when the bulls-eye keeps moving.

Look no further for signs of that moving target than this stately looking brick home in east Riverside County where the locks on the door are rusting and the torn sign in the front yard says – ‘foreclosure – must sell’.

The 2010 Census begins in March. Foreclosures in the Inland region are making residents harder to track down.“Count them out,” said Monica Frank who lives next door. She recalled the middle class family with four kids. “They were very stable. Until the husband (a civil engineer) lost his job. In 2007 they moved out in the middle of the night,” Frank said. “The place was rented then sold to another family in 2008. That family abandoned the home in November 2009.”

The woman points out one abandoned house after another on her block - hit hard by the foreclosure crisis.

“That large brick one’s vacant. That white one with the circular driveway is vacant. The one next to it is also vacant,” she said.

It’s a familiar tale of woe the U.S. Census Bureau is grappling with less than three months before it mails out census forms to every household in March. California is home to 10 of the 50 counties nationwide with the largest numbers of people deemed hard to count because of foreclosure, high unemployment, a large illegal immigrant population and lack of home telephone service. Census officials estimate the average household size in communities hit hard by foreclosure is about 4.8 people. Before the last national census in 2000, California lawmakers approved a $25 million media blitz to increase the chances that every Californian would be counted and the state would get its fair share of federal funding and political clout in Washington, Sacramento and beyond.

At a Southern California census and redistricting conference last fall Ditas M. Katague, the state’s census 2010 director, hummed a very different tune: “You’ve got me and a couple of loaned staff.” Massive budget problems have sharply limited the state’s census spending, to just $2 million for 2009-10. The California Endowment, the Kaiser Family Foundation, other community groups and some local governments are attempting to fill the gap, but they face fiscal problems of their own.

“I’m concerned about the census. I don’t want to lose a (congressional) seat,” says Hemet Councilwoman Robin Lowe, president of the League of California Cities. Lowe sees bad news on the census front particularly when it comes to outreach.

“I think Mr. Katague is doing the best he can, considering the lack of resources, but it’s going to take an army of local grass-roots volunteers to make it successful.” There’s a lot at stake for the fast growing Inland Empire in the decennial count. Federal funds are allocated based on census results.

The census also determines the number of Congressional seats each state has. State officials say overlooking as few as 2,500 people could mean at least one seat in Congress could go elsewhere for the next decade.

State Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, (D-Chino) represents a San Bernardino based district dotted with foreclosure signs. “I think there is a concerted effort underway to raise awareness and address the lack of outreach spending because everybody understands what’s at stake.” Foreclosure is not new to the census said U.S. Census Bureau director Dr. Robert Groves.

“Operationally, we’re counting houses and whoever lives there just like we’ve always done. We know that foreclosure is happening all across the country and that we’re going to have to work harder to track people down,” Groves said. “Those people are somewhere and we need to make sure we count them somewhere.” That “somewhere” could be with family or friends, in another house or apartment, or it could be in a homeless shelter. In any case, that displacement makes it harder to get an accurate census count. So cities, ethnic, faith groups and the U.S. Census Bureau are trying to make sure that those hard to track people, whether homeless or not, understand the importance of participating in the census.

Portrait of America Road Tour Reaches Out

The 2010 Census ‘Portrait of America’ Road Tour set out January 4, 2010 from New York City’s Times Square, launching a cross-country interactive experience designed to increase awareness and encourage participation in the nation’s once-a-decade population count.

During the next four months, the tour will be part of the largest civic outreach and awareness campaign in U.S. history – highly visible vehicles stopping and exhibiting at more than 800 events nationwide. From local parades and festivals to major sporting events like the Super Bowl and NCAA Final Four, the Census Bureau will attempt to motivate America’s growing and increasingly diverse population to complete and mail back 10-question census forms when they arrive in mailboxes March 15-17. The Road Tour seeks to educate and empower, Groves said. “Attendees at Road Tour events will learn about the census, how it affects their local communities and even share their personal stories about why the census is important to them at interactive kiosks and exhibits.” The regional vehicles offer a similar user experience, including GPS technology that allows visitors to track the tour online as it happens and through daily social media postings on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Flickr and YouTube.

This constantly changing “Portrait of America” will be captured during all Road Tour events and will live online at 2010census.gov.





Black Migration Changes the Political Landscape in Many States

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By Nadra Kareem Nittle, Special to the NNPA from America’s Wire –

LOS ANGELES—African-Americans once were clustered so heavily in urban areas that the terms “Black” and “inner city” came to be used almost synonymously. According to the 2010 U.S. Census results, that time is history.

While Blacks have by no means vanished from cities, unprecedented numbers have headed for the suburbs or left the big cities of the North and headed south. As legislative districts are redrawn, nonpartisan groups and both political parties are watching how this unexpected migration will affect local and state elections.

Moreover, redistricting experts say the Black exodus from cities such as Detroit, Cleveland and Philadelphia contributed to placing Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania among the 10 states that will lose congressional seats because of reapportionment after the census. With Republican governors in 29 states, the GOP has greater influence over redistricting than Democrats.

But it is unclear whether the migration of African-American voters will change the number of congressional districts where bBack candidates can win. Rob Richie, executive director of FairVote, based in Takoma Park, Md., notes that Republicans often join civil rights leaders in supporting African-American legislative districts rather than creating politically diverse districts where the Black vote could decide close elections.

“Republicans have a political interest in concentrating the African-American vote,” Richie says. “When Blacks are concentrated, they can’t have their votes in as many districts. It’s a trade-off.”

Experts on redistricting foresee multicultural coalitions emerging in formerly all-Black communities and people of color eventually gaining more political clout in suburbs and exurbs.

In California, the independent Citizens Redistricting Commission will carve out the state’s electoral districts for the first time. Voters authorized having a nonpartisan board, not legislators, delineate these districts in passing the Voters First Act (Proposition 11) in 2008. To ensure that new districts don’t dilute black voting power, grass-roots organizations mobilized to present the commission with recommendations for keeping communitiBs of color intact. New district lines must be drawn by Aug. 15.

Although Black flight from California cities is changing demographics, experts say that is unlikely to shake up the state’s political scene.

“The 2010 census showed that there has been a drift of the Black population away from the coastal areas to more inland areas in California,” says Michelle Romero, a fellow at The Greenlining Institute, which is based in Berkeley and advocates for racial and economic justice. “But fortunately in Los Angeles, there’s the potential to build multi-ethnic coalitions of voters after this new redistricting cycle.”

From 2000 to 2010, the Black population in Los Angeles County dropped from 9.8 percent to 8.7 percent, according to census findings. In Alameda County, which includes Oakland and other San Francisco Bay areas, the drop was from 14.9 percent to 12.6 percent.

Erica Teasley Linnick, coordinator of the African American Redistricting Collaborative in Los Angeles, doesn’t view black migration from California’s urban cores as a threat to black voting power. When African-Americans leave California cities, she says, Latinos and Asians with similar political interests usually replace them.

“In Los Angeles, you’ve had coalitions coming together to vote in Tom Bradley (the city’s first black mayor) to now Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa,” says Teasley Linnick, who also notes that blacks who have moved from Los Angeles gained political representation in the city’s outlying areas. For instance, Wilmer Amina Carter, a black woman, has represented the state’s 62nd Assembly District in the Inland Empire region bordering metropolitan Los Angeles, since 2006.

Marqueece Harris-Dawson, president and CEO of Community Coalition, a social and economic advocacy group for South Los Angeles, agrees that black flight from the city will not undercut African-American voting power.

“It’s been happening over a 20-year period,” he says. “It’s not a dramatic change, so it’s not significant enough to curtail African-American political representation.”

In fact, experts say Republicans in California face new challenges underscored by the census count. Three million more Latinos moved into California between 2000 and 2010, resulting in predictions that Republicans may lose ground after new electoral districts are drawn. Analysts say Democrats could gain as many as five seats in the State Legislature, enough to form a supermajority.

The shift to having an independent panel redistrict California communities makes it difficult for Republicans to devise a redistricting strategy, according to Matt Rexroad, a GOP strategist in Sacramento.

“As always, the Republican strategy is to recruit good candidates and make sure their message resonates with voters, just like at any other time,” he says. “Sometimes, it’s worked and, well, sometimes it hasn’t.”

But what effect will black flight from California cities and the surging Latino population have on the GOP statewide? Rexroad says the Republican Party and African-American community typically share interests in redistricting.

“You’ve found Republicans and African-Americans arguing for the same district configurations,” he says. “African-Americans want their votes consolidated to win urban seats.”

This time around, however, some California activists want the black vote less concentrated to exert wider influence, Rexroad says, adding that the enormous growth of the Latino population is not necessarily bad news for Republicans. He notes that in California’s Central and Imperial valleys, for instance, Latinos tend to lean to the right.

“They’re largely responsible for Proposition 8 passing,” he says, referring to the ban on gay marriage. “They’re very conservative on social issues.”

While Republicans may not gain power where blacks have departed, blacks who have headed south will probably not be able to turn red states blue in the near future, says Herb Tyson of Tyson Innovative Government Relations Solutions in Washington, D.C.

The Black migration “doesn’t help Democrats because the South is so heavily skewed Republican you would have to have a huge representation of African-Americans to make a difference statewide,” he Tyson says.

On the other hand, in cities such as Atlanta, the black population is so large that African-Americans relocated there from throughout the nation won’t change the political landscape. The Atlanta area now has the greatest number of Blacks in the country outside of New York City. For years, Chicago held that distinction. Moreover, three-fourths of the 25 counties in which the Black population rose most over the past decade are in the South.

In Texas, the Black population grew by 22 percent, in part because of Hurricane Katrina refugees who relocated there permanently. With the Latino population also growing, by 42 percent, minorities could alter the political landscape that Republicans have controlled.

Meanwhile, five counties with the greatest number of Blacks 10 years ago—Los Angeles County, Philadelphia County, Wayne (Detroit), Cook (Chicago) and Kings (New York City)—all lost African-Americans. Democratic pollster Ron Lester stresses that populations in northeastern states dropped overall but says he doesn’t expect that to have much political impact.

“The loss has been spread around,” Lester says. “It’s a lot of college-educated voters who are leaving.”

Lester also questions the notion that population declines in northern states will benefit Republicans in that region or nationally. “In places like New York, I don’t think that’s going to them help pick up a seat in Congress,” he says. “I think that right now, you have [43] members of the Congressional Black Caucus. When redistricting is over, you’ll have the same number.”

In the historically-black District of Columbia, the African-American population decreased by 11.5 percent between 2000 and 2010. In contrast, the Black population in nearby Charles County in Maryland doubled as African-Americans departed the District.

David Bositis, senior research associate at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington, D.C., doesn’t expect the Black population decrease to have a huge impact on the city’s political scene.

“By and large, white voters have almost always had a major say in D.C. politics, so the fact that D.C. is becoming less Black isn’t really changing the politics,” Bositis says. “The exception is Marion Barry. He was the only politician in D.C. who was able to win without white support.” The former mayor is a City Council member.

Nationally, Black movement away from cities will eventually give minorities more political clout in areas where they settle, Bositis says. He adds, though, that this phenomenon will take time because the black and Latino population is on average younger than the white population.

“Certainly in the future, it’s going to represent an advantage but not immediately because younger people are not as politically active as older people are, and the white population is getting quite old,” he says.

(America’s Wire is an independent, non-profit news service run by the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education. America’s Wire is made possible by a grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. For more information, visit www.americaswire.org or contact Michael K. Frisby at mike@frisbyassociates.com.)

Ashley Named Chairman of County Supervisors

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Marion AshleyRiverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley is beginning a 1-year stint as chairman of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors.

After he was sworn-in, Ashley listed several priorities Tuesday for 2010.

“One is public safety. We will have to strive hard to maintain our deputy sheriff patrols at safe levels both for our constituents and the public safety providers, the deputies themselves.”

Ashley added fiscal stability, reduction in the county vehicle fleet, quality of life issues, improvements at the County Regional Medical Center, alternative energy and job creation including the new March Medical Campus.

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