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Readin', Writin' & Race: Education Snapshots in Black and White

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By TaRessa Stovall, Special to the NNPA from thedefendersonline.com –

A quick round-up of recent education stories offers a glimpse into the complex stew of progress, setbacks, and conflicting news that represents race and learning in America today.

Higher Learning: A rare piece of good-news-in-Black-education comes from a widely-reported story about Urban Prep, a charter school for Black males from some of Chicago’s most disenfranchised neighborhoods, which has sent 100 percent of its graduates to college for the second year. The four-year-old school was founded to provide quality alternative education to its students, 85 percent of whom live below the poverty line and most who came to Urban Prep reading below grade level. All 107 of last year’s inaugural graduating class were accepted into colleges.

“Not only are these young men being accepted to college, they are being recruited by some of the best higher education institutions in the United States,” reported EduinReview.com. “One student this year was accepted to 21 colleges, and received $719,000 in scholarships.” Among his choices: Harvard, Yale and Wheaton College.

Two additional campuses have opened in Chicago, and plans were announced to reproduce the Urban Prep formula in other cities.

Mo’ Down in Motown: A new plan to close 44 schools and one administrative building in the financially-devastated Motor City this June “will create a leaner, smarter Detroit Public Schools,” according to Robert Bobb, emergency financial manager for the city’s school district. Bobb unveiled a $1 billion plan slated to cut some $31 million in operating expenses and lower future maintenance costs.

“We have no more time to waste. We know that we have not only a financial emergency but an academic emergency as well. In many of our schools, we have a reading emergency, a writing emergency, a science emergency, and a math emergency,” Bobb said in a statement.

This is in addition to 29 Detroit schools that were closed last year. “The nearly 88,000-student district faces a deficit of at least $219 million. Full-time enrollment is projected to drop to about 56,000 by 2015,” reported MSNBC.com. “The plan seeks to reduce costs by eliminating unused space in the wake of shrinking enrollment, as students flee to the suburbs. It will mean thousands of students once again will be shuffled between neighborhood schools.”

The closures and mergers dovetail with an academic plan Bobb unveiled recently that call for a 98 percent graduation rate and 100 percent of students being accepted to college by 2015.

Detroit may regret turning down a $200 million gift to revitalize its schools in 2004. As a September 30, 2010 editorial in the Detroit News reports, Bob Thompson, a road builder, wanted to give the bulk of his fortune to local education to help schools graduate 90 percent of their students and send 90 percent of those graduates on to college. “Instead of grabbing the money and doing a happy dance, Detroiters, as is their custom, wailed about a suburban outsider taking away their schools and stealing their children,” the paper stated. “Then-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick told Thompson to just drop off the check and let Detroit Public Schools decide how to spend it.”

Memo to Detroit: See Newark.

Newark’s Facebook-funded Consolidation: Newark, N.J. school officials are looking at a consolidation plan to make more space for 11 charter schools, according to The Washington Post. The story suggests the move is part of an “overhaul” funded by a recent $100 million grant from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to Newark Mayor Corey Booker.

“The plan calls for some long-struggling schools to be closed and their students sent elsewhere. Other schools with low enrollment could be consolidated, The Post reports. “The buildings freed up by the moves would be used to house new and existing charter schools. It’s unclear whether they would pay rent.”

But officials say the news is premature. The Star-Ledger newspaper obtained the draft of a proposal that wasn’t meant for the public, according to Rochelle Hendricks, acting state deputy education commissioner leading the team that is overseeing the transition of Newark’s schools. “While Hendricks told the Star-Ledger that “The co-locations for charters is not finalized in any way, shape or form,” the paper reports that Newark school officials will announce the creation of five new public schools at a meeting of the Newark Public School Advisory Board on February 22.

The new schools are: Bard Early College, Green School, Diploma Plus, Harvey Milk (designed for gay and lesbian students) and YouthBuild (for students transitioning from jail and other trouble) .Unlike charter schools, they will be run by the Newark school district. Each will be housed or share space within an existing Newark school.

Hendricks emphasized that the goal is to offer more options to Newark students while making the best use of the buildings. She said that no school facilities will be closed.

Black Professors, Where Art Thou?: Dr. Boyce Watkins, a popular blogger, media commentator, speaker and a professor of finance at Syracuse University, reports a that a recent survey at his YourBlackWorld.com site reveals that “42 percent of blacks who attended white universities never had a black professor, and that close to three-quarters of blacks have had only one black professor during their college career,” according to NewsOne.com. Watkins said he hadn’t had any Black professors in his college career, adding that few Black professors are granted tenure, but are given temporary or visiting positions to pump up school diversity statistics. He also reported that half of the survey respondents from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) said they hadn’t had more than three African-American professors in fields outside of African-American or Africana Studies.

While related statistics weren’t available at press time, at least one undergraduate student felt the sting of racism in pursuit of her studies. Murray State University freshman Arlene Johnson arrived early to a political science class to find a film in progress. When she asked the professor, Mark Whattier, about the timing, he said that he typically started films before class, adding that, he “expected” Black students to be late because “slaves never showed up on time, so their owners often lashed them for it.”

Johnson filed a complaint with the Office of Equal Opportunity that day, and Wattier was later suspended.

Minorities Given ‘Unfair Edge?’: The Center for Equal Opportunity, which opposes race-based affirmative education in colleges and universities, is attacking Ohio State University and Miami University, both in Ohio, for allegedly admitting “blacks over whites” with their new report, “Racial and Ethnic Preferences in Undergraduate Admissions at Two Ohio Public Universities” released last week.

Officials from both schools criticized the study, releasing statements that they select students based on a variety of factors beyond race and ethnicity, including the rigor of their high school courses, strength of their school, essays, leadership and work experience, and examples of overcoming obstacles and demonstrating progress. With OSU and MU released statements last week saying that they look at a variety of factors that transcend a student’s race and ethnicity when doling out seats on campus.

“The report charges that Miami University admitted Blacks over Whites at a ratio of 8 to 1 and 10.2 to 1 using SAT and ACT, respectively, as well as other factors, such as grades, gender, residency and year of admission, and that Ohio State University admitted Blacks over Whites at a ratio of 3.3 to 1 and 7.9 to 1 using the SAT and ACT, respectively,” according to Diverse Issues in Higher Education.

“The report also claims that MU admitted Hispanics over Whites at a ratio of 2.2 to 1 using either the SAT or ACT, and that OSU admitted Hispanic over White students at a ratio of 4.3 to 1 and 6.5 to 1 using the SAT and ACT, respectively. The schools were also found to give a “modest degree of preference” to Asian students,” Diverse Issues stated.

Dolan Evanovich, Vice President for Strategic Enrollment Planning at OSU, said after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the landmark Grutter v. Bollinger case that stated the University of Michigan’s affirmative action could be used in college admissions but only on a limited basis, and that OSU implemented a ‘holistic review’ for all applications.

An Increasingly Different World for Some HBCUs: The globalization of American higher education is a passport to “steep challenges” for several Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), according to a new, as yet, unreleased, survey by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that a survey of 14 of the country’s 18 historically laBck land-grant institutions suggests that in the 2008-9 academic year:

■Six had no full-time employee in charge of campus internalization, and the average institution had fewer than two people devoted to that area;

■Only 0.55 percent of their students studied abroad, and more than one-third of those who did were White, compared to 14 percent of students at predominantly-White institutions;

■International students made up only 1.78 percent of the student body on these campuses, compared to close to 4 percent for all higher education institutions.

The report explains that historically Black institutions tend to send students to locations that majority-White institutions do not. The Black colleges and universities surveyed offered as many study-abroad programs in Africa as they did in Europe, long the dominant destination for college students nationwide; and they attract many Caribbean students.

In a nation struggling with every aspect of its public education system, it’s clear that race is every bit as relevant as readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic today as in years past, and for the foreseeable future.

TaRessa Stovall is Managing Editor of TheDefendersOnline.

Spectator Asks, 'Who Will Shoot Obama?'

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Ga. GOP Rep’s Failure to Condemn Draws Fire

Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American newspapers –

House Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) is receiving national attention after a spectator at one of his recent town hall meetings in Athens, Ga. asked, “Who will shoot Obama?”

According to The Athens-Banner Herald, the question came after the congressman first asked who had driven the farthest to attend the Feb. 22 town hall meeting. After the attendee blurted the comment, the crowd began to laugh.

Without apparently condemning the comment, Broun, according to the Banner-Herald, nevertheless responded by stating, “The thing is, I know there’s a lot of frustration with this president. We’re going to have an election next year. Hopefully, we’ll elect somebody that’s going to be a conservative, limited-government president…who will sign a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.”

After the incident drew national headlines and criticism toward Broun for not immediately condemning the comment, he released a statement Feb. 23 expressing his thoughts after the spectator’s question and his reason for not condemning it.

“I was stunned by the question and chose not to dignify it with a response; therefore, at that moment I moved on to the next person with a question,” Broun said in a statement, according to The Politico newspaper. “After the event, my office took action with the appropriate authorities. I deeply regret that this incident happened at all. Furthermore, I condemn all statements--made in sincerity or jest--that threaten or suggest the use of violence against the president of the United States or any other public official. Such rhetoric cannot and will not be tolerated.”

According to The Washington Post, Secret Service officials got in contact with the person who made the comment and found that it was an “elderly person who now regrets making a bad joke.”

Broun drew criticism last month for one of his tweets during President Obama’s State of the Union address. According to Politico, Broun tweeted, “Mr. President, you don’t believe in the Constitution, you believe in socialism.”

The next day, he declined to back down from his comments, telling CBS News, “I stick by that tweet.”

Herman Cain Slams Liberals, gets Slammed in Return

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Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American newspapers –

Herman Cain, the first Tea Party-backed candidate to take the initial steps toward a 2012 presidential run, is already making waves.

In a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Cain, an African-American, ruffled feathers with his thoughts on why he disagrees with the direction of America. “The objective of liberals is to destroy this country,” Cain said in his speech. “The objective of liberals is to make America mediocre like everybody else who aspires to be like America.”

Cain, the former chairman and CEO of Godfather Pizza is an Atlanta-based radio talk show host who formed an exploratory committee last month to weigh a 2012 presidential bid.

An Atlanta native who holds degrees in mathematics from Morehouse College and in computer science from Purdue University, Cain rose through the ranks first with the Coca-Cola Company and later as an executive with Burger King and its parent company Pillsbury in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

According to a company history, Pillsbury appointed Cain as president of Godfather’s Pizza, then a subsidiary of the food conglomerate, in 1986. But two years later, citing weakening profits, Pillsbury encouraged Cain and a group of senior managers to buy out Godfather’s and run it independently.

After turning around that company, he left to become president of the National Restaurant Association in 1994, according to his presidential exploratory committee Web site, during which time he began a political career as a lobbyist and speaker for the food industry.

He challenged then-President Clinton on the president’s health care reform proposal in 1994, and later ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in Georgia, finishing second in the Republican primary to the eventual victor of the seat, Johnny Isakson. More recently, he took the national stage last year to defend against claims that the Tea Party movement incorporated racist elements, according to Yahoo! News.

At CPAC, Cain detailed the tactics he believes liberals use to gain a political advantage. “[Liberals] only have three tactics: S.I.N.,” Cain said. “They shift the subject, they ignore facts and they name-call.”

His speech immediately drew sharp criticism from AlterNet, a progressive blog. The blog post went past Cain’s politics and, in a commentary by Chauncy DeVega, a Black progressive activist, brought race in to the discussion.

“Instead, Herman Cain’s shtick is a version of race minstrelsy where he performs ‘authentic negritude’ as wish fulfillment for White Conservative fantasies,” the posting said. “Like the fountain at Lourdes, Cain in his designated role as Black Conservative mascot, absolves the White racial reactionaries at CPAC of their sins.”

“This is a refined performance that Black Conservatives have perfected over many decades and centuries of practice,” it continued.

That response garnered national attention for Cain, as many have come to his defense. Journalist and commentator Juan Williams, appearing on Sean Hannity’s self-titled show on Fox News said the comment was “Black-on-Black” crime. “It is just so insulting,” Williams said. “And, the idea that this is Black on Black crime. It's essentially a Black-on-Black drive-by shooting in my mind. It just blows your mind. It's the start of the 21st century. He accuses Herman Cain of being a minstrel for giving a speech at CPAC. Now, if nobody spoke who was Black at CPAC, then you'd say, oh CPAC is racist.”

Cain is also a cancer survivor; he was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer in both his liver and colon in 2006, but underwent surgery and chemotherapy and has said he is now cancer-free.

Cain has temporarily left his radio talk show as he considers a possible presidential campaign, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He plans on making more appearances at Tea Party events.

Dr. Calvin C. Green, Unsung Civil Rights Hero Succumbs at 79

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By Jeremy M. Lazarus, Special to the NNPA from the Richmond Free Press –

Dr. Calvin C. Green led the fight against segregated schools in New Kent County. In the process, he would father a U.S. Supreme Court case that legal scholars now rank second in importance to the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case that outlawed racially separated public schools.

He is the unsung hero of the case known as Green v. New Kent County, which came 14 years after Brown and finally required governments across Virginia and the South to end school apartheid. Dr. Green, who also was a pastor, schoolteacherm and Army Reserve officer, succumbed to cancer earlier this month, at his residence in Quinton in New Kent County. He was 79.

“He was devoted to helping people,” said Ella Mary Osborne Green, his wife of 56 years. “He pushed education.”

Dr. Green launched the landmark lawsuit while serving as president of the New Kent NAACP branch, which he led for 16 years. He led the fight in 1964, a decade after the nation’s highest court had issued the Brown decision overturning segregated schools. But, little had changed in New Kent which, like hundreds of Southern school districts, largely ignored the Brown ruling. Fed up, Dr. Green rallied Black parents and began pushing for change based on provisions of the newly enacted 1964 Civil Rights Act. The new law contained provisions barring school segregation.

But, the most the county would offer was a so-called “freedom of choice” plan that allowed Black parents to petition for their children to attend all-white schools instead of the shabbier Black schools. Working with NAACP lawyers, notably Oliver W. Hill Sr., Samuel W. Tucker, and Henry L. Marsh III, Dr. Green rejected that approach as a sham and brought the federal lawsuit, with his youngest son, Charles C. Green, now a teacher in Winston-Salem, N.C., as the lead plaintiff.

The effort was vindicated four years later when the U.S. Supreme Court issued the Green decision.

Impatient with the slow pace of desegregation, the court used the Green case to reject freedom of choice plans and to order school systems to provide racial balance in all schools. The goal: To “convert promptly to a system without a ‘white school’ and a ‘Negro school’ but just schools,” the court wrote. In the wake of the case, the percentage of black students attending desegregated schools rose from 32 percent in the 1968-69 school year to 72 percent in the 1970-71 school year. Busing for racial purposes became commonplace.

Born into a Middlesex County family of 11 children, Dr. Green served in the Korean War and then spent 36 years as an officer in the Army Reserve. He rose to the rank of colonel and served in the medical service and as a chaplain before retiring in 1991.

He also was a schoolteacher in Richmond for 33 years. He began teaching at Armstrong High School and led the school’s JROTC program after earning a bachelor’s degree in biology from Virginia State University in 1956.

He would later add a master’s degree from North Carolina A&T and a doctorate from Nova Southeastern University. He served as chairman of the science department at Thomas Jefferson before he retired in 1990.

He also found time to follow his father, the Rev. James H. Green, into the ministry. He served as pastor of Lebanon Baptist Church in New Kent for five years and also was pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Saluda for 13 years.

He earned a master’s of theology degree from Virginia Union University, a doctorate of theology from the International Bible Institute and Seminary in Orlando, Fla., and doctorate in pastoral counseling from the International Seminary University in Plymouth, Florida.

In recent years, he operated an income tax service and computer servicing business.

In 2000, he created and ran two trusts to offer financial aid to help students attend college and victims of natural disasters.

Pennsylvania Black Reps Stiffed in Political Shake-up

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By Christian Morrow, Special to the NNPA from the New Pittsburgh Courier –

While Democrats in the state house railed against Republican measures to limit their voice last week, Black Democrats are upset with their own party for the same reason—no voice on key committees.

Though the November election saw Democrats go from a five-seat majority in the state house to a 22-seat minority, Black Caucus Chair Ron Waters, D-Philadelphia, said that should not have translated into fewer Blacks serving on house committees. “We didn’t lose. All the Democratic losses were White legislators,” he said. “In fact, we actually gained in the Black caucus because Margot Davison took a seat that was Republican for a long time.”

Waters said the most glaring omission is the judiciary committee, which has no African-Americans serving. “There are so many issues, sentencing, incarceration. We make up 12 percent of the general population, but about 60 percent of the prison population,” he said. “And we have no representation at all.”

In addition to the Judiciary Committee, there are also no African-American representatives on the Insurance Committee, the Environment and Energy Committee, the Liquor Control Committee, and the Committee on Committees. Yet other committees, Human Services, Health, have multiple Black representatives.

“If they can pack five African-Americans on the Health Committee, it seems to me that having none on Judiciary could be easily fixed,” said Waters. “There are a lot of people who were very unhappy with the Committee process.”

State Rep. Joseph Preston, D-East Liberty, said losing seats on committees comes with being the minority party. They get 10 seats per committee, the Republicans now get 15. He also said not having any African-Americans among the Party leadership could lead to such omissions.

“But you have to ask for those spots,” said Preston. “You give the leadership your four to five choices, and they try to give you at least three. Sometimes, you don’t get any.”

Preston said with the Black Caucus making up 20 percent of the Democrats in the state house, they should be more involved in the party leadership. “There were divisions in the caucus during the leadership vote and that cost us,” said Preston. “As a result, there are no people of color in the leadership. Still, we actually did gain one chairmanship, even with Ron and Dwight Evans turning down chairs.”

In addition to Preston, who chairs both the Consumer Affairs Committee and the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, the current Black Chairs are Louise Williams Bishop, Children and Youth; James Roebuck, Education; Rosita Youngblood, Gaming Oversight; John Myers, Health; and Thaddeus Kirkland, Tourism and Recreation.

Jake Wheatley, D-Hill District, who still serves on four committees but no longer chairs any sub-committees, joined Waters in asking Minority Floor Leader Frank Dermody, D-Cheswick, about the lack of balance with committee assignments.

He said Dermody has promised to address the problem following the (Feb. 1st) special election to fill the late Robert Donatucci’s seat, which his wife Maria is favored to win.

“Frank said he could tweak the process, we’ll see,” said Wheatley. “That the leadership took this in the direction it did, intentionally or not, says a lot about how we are viewed. This is an afterthought. We should not be an afterthought. We’re going to have to work even harder to change that.”

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