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The Disparity in Teacher Pay: A Civil Rights Issue

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By Kenneth J. Cooper, Special to the NNPA from thedefendersonline.com –

New federal research shows that African American and Hispanic students are being shortchanged, literally, when it comes to school budgets, in most districts with diverse enrollments.

The U.S. Education Department study found that teachers in schools with more Latino and African American enrollment get paid an average of $2,500 less than teachers in the whole district. The pay disparity reflects earlier research that found students in public schools with heavy minority enrollments receive instruction more often from inexperienced teachers, who earn less because of salary schedules based on seniority.

In the 2009-2010 academic year, the disparity exists in 59 percent of 2,217 diverse districts, those defined as having between 20 percent and 80 percent African American and Hispanic enrollment. The survey was the first time federal education officials have collected information to compare individuals schools based on teacher salaries, which consume about 60 percent of a district’s budget on average.

Teachers are also a district’s most important educational resource. How the best teachers are distributed is a matter of educational equity. Because of relatively low pay and poor working conditions compared to other professions, the unfortunate fact is there aren’t enough top-notch teachers to go around, therefore they get rationed one way or another.

“America has been battling inequity in education for decades but these data show that we cannot let up.” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in releasing the survey results last month. “Children who need the most too often get the least. It’s a civil rights issue, an economic security issue and a moral issue.”

In its proposal for changes in the No Child Left Behind Act, which has been struck in Congress, the Obama administration asks the legislation be revised to require that “comparable resources” be spent on low-income students at the school level, rather than district wide.

“Currently, some schools with mostly white, non-poor students, may get as much as $1 million more a year because of differentials in teacher salary schedules and how resources are allocated,” Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights, said during an interview in June. “The administration wants to be sure that high poverty schools are getting at least their fair share of state and local resources before any Title I funds are spent.”

Title I is the federal program that provides funds to support additional instruction for disadvantaged students. The program was established in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and continued in No Child Left Behind, the law’s successor. Title I often pays for reading specialists and teacher aide’s in schools with high concentrations of low-income students, particularly in the elementary grades.

Reallocating district funds to make up for shortfalls in budgets allocated to those schools, as the administration proposes, could boost instruction in different ways, Ali said.

“The extra money to schools with teachers who get paid less could be used for many purposes, such as retaining effective teachers in high-poverty schools or providing extra learning time, and not necessarily to expand their staffs,” she said. “The administration’s proposal requiring comparable resources phases in over time so districts can adjust budgets over multiple years.”

Examining the comparability of school resources has been part of the administration’s strategy for enforcing civil rights.

As of June, the department’s Office for Civil Rights was investigating 11 cases having to do with comparable resources, including the experience and pay of teachers. Those cases involve eight complaints filed by individuals and three compliance reviews initiated by the office.

Those cases involve districts in nine states: South Carolina, Maryland, Texas, New York, Colorado, Indiana, California, North Carolina and Virginia.

Later this year, the Education Department will release state and national estimates of teacher pay disparities and other measures of educational equity.

When the teacher pay data were released Sept. 27, Ali said: “To repair our education system requires that we be able to identify where problems exist. Collecting these data and making them widely accessible is a powerful way to make the case for action.”

Kenneth J. Cooper, a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, is a freelancer based in Boston. He also edits the Trotter Review at the University of Massachusetts-Boston.

China Seen 'Dictating African Policy' in Rebuff to Dalai Lama

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

Tibet’s religious leader, the Dalai Lama, was forced to cancel plans to give the keynote speech at the 80th birthday celebration of the Archbishop Desmond Tutu – a victim, some said, of the growing muscle of China not only in trade but in diplomacy.

A Nobel Prize winner, as is Tutu, the Dalai Lama was scheduled to give a peace lecture at the University of the Western Cape and at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Tutu blasted the government’s failure to issue the a visa for the Dalai Lama, calling it "disgraceful," and University of the Witwatersrand vice chancellor Loyiso Nongxa said it "ridicules the values enshrined in our Constitution."

Trade union leader Tony Ehrenreich, speaking at a midnight vigil for the Tibetan figure, said: "Even though China is our biggest trading partner, we should not exchange our morality for dollars or yuan."

Beijing has attempted to block visits of the Dalai Lama to other foreign countries in a dispute over Tibet which China claims. South African officials insist they were not blocking the visa under pressure from China.

Still, it seemed like too much of coincidence that South Africa’s Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe was in China recently signing a stack of commercial agreements, including one trade-financing deal valued at $2.5 billion. And visas for the Tibetan leader, approved

Hormone Drug Considered Unsafe in U.S. Now Creating Havoc in Africa

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

A controversial hormone drug, long opposed by several Black, Latina and Native American women’s health groups, has found its way to Africa where new research has made some alarming discoveries.

In the just-published study of seven African countries, researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle found that women who used the Pfizer drug Depo Provera – a hormone-based contraceptive injection - were twice as likely to acquire and pass on HIV as those who didn’t. A higher risk was also observed for birth-control pills.

The study suggests that active promotion of injectable contraception in Africa may be fueling the spread of the world’s biggest infectious killer, said Charles S. Morrison and Kavita Nanda, researchers at FHI 360, a nonprofit organization in Durham, North Carolina, that works on reproductive health projects.

Some 3,790 couples in Botswana, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia in which one partner was infected with HIV were studied for the research.

For years , Depo-Provera has been targeted by health activist women of color, who point out how disproportionately it is used with Black and poor women despite dangerous side effects. Depo users in the U.S. are 33 percent under the age of 19, 84 percent Black women, and 74 percent low income, according to a recent study.

In 2004, Pfizer acknowledged that Depo caused a significant loss of bone mineral density, and a study funded by USAID found that women using Depo had a three-fold chance of infection from Chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Nevertheless, from 1994-2000, USAID provided 41,967,200 units of Depo-Provera to the developing world. USAID sends more units of Depo-Provera to Africa, to countries such as Mozambique, Tanzania and Nigeria than to any other part of the world.

“Depo-Provera is potentially life-threatening,” warned a poster by the Racism & Reproductive Rights Taskforce in San Francisco. “Get The Facts Before You Get The Shot.”

More than 140 million women worldwide use hormonal contraception, including pills and long-acting injections, which are the most popular form of birth control in Africa. But limiting the most highly used method of contraception could also be risky, warned the FHI 360 group. It could contribute to increased maternal mortality and more low birth weight babies and orphans – “an equally tragic result.”

The Jobs' Crisis Collateral Damage: The Coming Mental Health Epidemic

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Special to the NNPA from thedefendersonline.com –

The U.S. is facing “a silent mental health epidemic” as joblessness lengthens and deepens for millions of once-gainfully employed Americans, a new study is warning.

The report contends that signs of significant mental health problems are already readily apparent among the jobless who’ve been out of work six months or longer, and that they are also beginning to show themselves among workers who have found jobs after a long period of unemployment but at substantially lower wages and benefits.

These problems include difficulty sleeping; having more arguments than usual with family and friends, a tendency to isolate one’s self socially out of shame at being unemployed; a listlessness and loss of self-confidence in pursuing job opportunities in the face of countless rejections, and even clinical depression.

Sociologists and labor market analysts have long discussed these and other effects on individuals of a prolonged spell of joblessness. More recently, the impact of the Great recession and continuing slow recovery has provoked news media to devote more attention to examining the impact on individuals and families of prolonged joblessness.

The huge buildup to record levels of the jobless, and especially the long-term unemployed – those out of work six months and longer – has led some to warn the nation faces a looming social and economic catastrophe.

Among those at the forefront of that effort is the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University. Its researchers have produced a series of reports over the past two years probing the psychological well-being as well as the economic condition of a cohort of jobless workers, paying special attention to the long-term jobless. The findings of the latest, “Out of Work and Losing Hope: The Misery and Bleak Expectations of American Workers,” offer a grim portrait of individuals, most still in their prime working years, whose joblessness has marooned them on the margins of the society and are increasingly pessimistic about finding their way back to the center.

Nearly three-quarters of the 14 million Americans out of work have been jobless for more than six months. Half have been jobless for two years or more.

The loss of workers is a blow to the productivity of the workplace and, via workers spending their wages, the health of the economy.

The collateral damage stems from the drag on the economy caused by a sizeable cohort of unemployed and from the funding for the social services they will require.

The “Out of Work” report found that 47 percent of those surveyed said they had experienced stress because of their joblessness and 32 percent had undergone substantial emotional turmoil; at least 11 percent said they had sought professional help for depression within the last year.

The reasons why are apparent from another set of statistics embedded in the Heldrich Center survey. They show that 41 percent of those who lost a job before being first surveyed two years ago are either still unemployed or have settled involuntarily for part-time work. Among those who’ve found work, over half settled for lower pay; and nearly a third had their job-related benefits cut. The group as a whole remains in dire economic straits. Less than a fifth say their financial circumstances are “excellent; 45 percent say, after their prolonged period of joblessness that they are “poor.”

Further, as a group they are deeply pessimistic about America’s future. Nearly three-quarters believe the U.S. economy is experiencing fundamental and lasting changes, compared to just over half who said that two years ago.

Not surprisingly, the Heldrich Center found a high level of support among its survey subjects for government action to reduce unemployment, including funding long-term education and training program that help people change careers, giving tax credits to businesses that hire new workers, direct government creation of jobs for unemployed workers, and requiring recipients of unemployment benefits to enter job-training programs.

Starbucks to Share Wealth with Urban League, Abyssinian Corporation

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New program will put funds into communities

By Cynthia E. Griffin, Special to the NNPA from Our Weekly –

When Starbucks Coffee Co. closed its store on the corner of Crenshaw Boulevard and Vernon Avenue, the Los Angeles Urban League started asking questions.

Some two years later, those questions have morphed into a new business model that Starbucks, the L.A. Urban League and the Harlem-based Abyssinian Development Corp. announced Tuesday.

Under this new model, for a three-year period, Starbucks will donate a minimum of $100,000 out of the profits from two of its stores to each of the nonprofit groups for use to help bolster programs in the communities the two organizations serve.

In Los Angeles, the bustling Starbucks at Crenshaw Boulevard and Coliseum Street will serve as the focal point, and in New York, the store at 125th Street and Lenox Avenue will support Abyssinian.

“Starbucks is partnering with two organizations doing heroic work to address the economic, social and education challenges in their communities,” said Howard Schultz, president, chairman and CEO, Starbucks Coffee Co. “These two partnerships are intended to help us learn how our company can successfully join with change-making community organizations in a localized, coordinated and replicable way.”

“Starbucks is taking the lead in very tough economic times. They fully recognize and appreciate the need for collaboration between forward-thinking organizations from the for-profit and nonprofit sectors,” said Blair H. Taylor, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Urban League.

“This 21st-century partnership makes tremendous sense, since the Los Angeles Urban League is fundamentally committed to transforming communities through our holistic model, Neighborhoods@Work™. Howard Schultz has fully embraced the notion of Starbucks playing a vital role in rebuilding communities. Our hope is that this powerful relationship–which allows communities to receive contributions from Starbucks through nonprofit agencies–will be replicated by other companies across the nation.”

The program begins this month, and according to Urban League spokesperson Chris Strudwick-Turner, the funding will allow the nonprofit to do some things it has not been able to do in this shaky economic climate.

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BVN National News Wire