Sunday, May 24, 2015

A letter to the editor: Private School Tax Credits

A letter to the editor:  "Private School Tax Credits
New York Times Letter To the Editor: by DONNA LIEBERMAN, Executive Director, New York Civil Liberties Union MAY 22, 2015
Re “Cuomo Promotes Tax Credits for Families of Students at Private Schools”
The right to a meaningful public education is at the core of our democracy, and educational opportunity must be available to all children on a fair and equitable basis, no matter how poor they are, no matter what their educational needs are, and no matter their race, religion or sexual orientation. Unfortunately, the proposal by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York to divert money from public schools to private and religious schools is not about improving public education for all children. It is not about choice. It is about allowing hedge funds and millionaires to siphon money away from public schools to support their narrow idea of what education should look like.
This includes private schools for the 1 percent, religious schools that can throw children out and dismiss teachers for having the wrong faith — or no faith — and privately owned and operated charter schools that operate without accountability and would turn our underfunded public schools into a dumping ground for New York’s neediest and most challenging students.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

New SAT:The writers & the College Board on the wrong track - Joanne Yatvin

Joanne Yatvin: The SAT is on the Wrong Track

Joanne Yatvin was a teacher, principal, superintendent, and president of the National Council of Trachers of English.
She writes:
A few days ago the New York Times published an OP-Ed by Richard Atkinson and Saul Geiser about the new SAT that the College Board will implement in 1916. Although the writers approve of the direction of the new test, they argue that it does not go far enough. It will focus on students’ mastery of the subjects studied in high school, but still be norm-referenced rather than a strict measure of their performance against a fixed standard. Also, in the test a written essay is optional, not required, which allows students t o by-pass proving their competence in a skill that Atkinson and Geiser consider the "single most important one for success in college."
In my view both the writers and the College Board are on the wrong track. Primarily, they have forgotten that the A in SAT stands for “aptitude.” Originally, the test was intended to identify students with native intelligence and rich personal learning, regardless of the quality of their schools or their own home backgrounds. In tough economic times the SAT sought to give bright and dedicated young people a chance at college that they would not have otherwise. In many states scholarships went to students with high-test scores.
Another problem I see is the strong emphasis that the Common Core State Standards will have on test results in the future. Considering that several states have decided to go with their own standards and that many schools in states still dedicated to the CCSS are not up to speed, countless numbers of students will not be prepared to do well on the new SAT.
About the New SAT's stance on a written essay I have mixed emotions. I agree with Atkinson and Geiser about the importance of being able to write well, but I also recognize
that it's very difficult to do that on demand in short time frame and with no opportunity to revise. Maybe requiring an essay written separately from taking the test would be a better option.
Finally, my own personal objection to both the CCSS and the new SAT is that they misconstrue the true nature of learning. Learning is not a detailed memory of school-selected knowledge and skills, but the ability to choose what is important for your personal life, career aspirations, and the societal roles you hope to play. Learners build their knowledge and skills on that foundation and can demonstrate them on a test that honors good thinking and problem solving.
P.S. Many years ago I created a proverbial saying that expressed my belief about the true nature of learning. Although I’ve often recited it to friends and colleagues, and edited over time, I’ve never made it public. Here it is: Learning is not climbing someone else’s ladder, but weaving your own web from the scraps of meaning you find along your way.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Emergency: Save In-State Tuition for Students in Texas

BREAKING: In-State Tuition Repeal Bill Could Clear the Senate as Early as Tomorrow
View this email in your browser
SB 1819 has been added to the Senate calendar and could be voted on at any moment. We need your help! 

Call your State Senator and ask him/her to keep SB 1819 from coming to the floor for a vote. You can find your Senator's contact infohere.

Sample Script:
Hi, this is NAME. I'm calling to urge the Senator to block SB 1819, which would repeal in-state tuition for Texans regardless of status, from going to the floor. The current law helps more Texans attain a college degree. It makes sense for families, Texas businesses, and our economy. We should not repeal it - and I again urge the Senator to block SB 1819. Thank you.
Moments ago, SB 1819, the legislation that would repeal in-state tuition for Texans regardless of status, was added to the Senate Intent Calendar. That means that the bill could come up for a vote before the full Senate as early as tomorrow. 

In-state tuition repeal would be detrimental to our students and our families. We have an obligation to work to stop the legislature from repealing this smart public policy.
Please ask your Senator to "block" the bill from coming for a vote. If at least 13 Senators disagree with a piece of legislation, they can "block" a bill - or keep it from being voted on before the full Senate. 
We will keep you posted as developments occur.

Copyright @ 2015 KeepHB1403 is a Strategic Initiative of the Latino Center for Leadership Development. All rights reserved.

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Friday, May 15, 2015

485 PSJA seniors to graduate from South Texas College this weekend

485 PSJA seniors to graduate from South Texas College this weekend

PHARR – Four hundred and eighty-five Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD seniors will be receiving their Associate Degree or College Certificate from South Texas College today and tomorrow during the college’s spring commencement exercises at the State Farm Arena.

These High School students will receive their college degree two weeks prior to their high school diploma.

The PSJA School District is a leader in offering early college opportunities to its students Thirty-three percent of high school students participating in South Texas College commencement ceremonies this weekend are enrolled in PSJA schools.

PSJA ISD has expanded access to college through its Early College initiative. All eight PSJA high schools are now officially designated Early College High Schools and are providing up to two years of free college courses, including tuition and books.

A total of 215 PSJA seniors will be receiving an Associate Degree in the following disciplines: biology, chemistry, criminal justice, computer science, engineering, interdisciplinary studies, math, physics, political science, psychology, Spanish and secondary education.

A total of 270 students are graduating with a College Certificate in: computer information specialist, computer specialist, electronic health records, medical office specialist, multimedia specialist, payroll assistant, recruiter assistant and structural welding.

“We are please to provide all of our high school students with the opportunity to graduate with an Associate Degree or certificate that will help them get a head start on their post-secondary education and the career of their choice,” Dr. Daniel King, superintendent of schools said. “This year we have over 200 graduating with an Associate Degree. We should be increasing this number by at least 100 a year over the next few years.”
This ambitious plan has many PSJA graduates completing their Bachelor’s Degree in as little as two years.

PSJA ISD thanks the staff, parents and public/private funders for their support and dedication to the PSJA family and the district’s College3 initiative that is focused on graduating PSJA students College Ready, College Connected and College CompleteTM.

“PSJA’s Early College High School program offers more than just two years of college credit. These students graduate with two years of successful experience in higher education that puts them above most of their peers when they enter the university,” Dr. King said. “Many of these students complete their university work within 2-3 years after their high school graduation and go on to graduate work or professional schools at a younger age saving time and money. At PSJA, our message to high school students is ‘Start College Now! Complete Early! Go Far!”

If you would like more information about PSJA ISD’s early college opportunities, please call the district’s College Readiness Department at 354-2044.


Friday, May 15, 2015
11:00 AM
Business & Technology – Information Technology
(A.A.S. Degrees in Computer Specialist, Networking Specialist, Information Security/Digital Forensic Specialist)
(Certificates in Computer Applications, Computer & Network, Computer & Information Technologies, Multimedia, Information Security/Digital Forensic Specialist)
3:00 PM
Liberal Arts
6:00 PM
Social Science
Saturday, May 16, 2015
10:00 AM
Bachelor Program, Math & Science, Business & Technology
2:00 PM
Nursing & Allied Health

Arianna Vazquez-Hernandez
Director of Communications/Public Information
Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD

601 E. Kelly 
Pharr, Texas 78577
(956) 354-2027

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Fight for $15 PLZ RT

Fight for $15
These guys:
Help us get the word out!
are exploiting the crap out of people like me and my son.
Help us get the word out!
I'm tired of working for $7.25 an hour – barely enough to feed my son – while McDonald's and the other big fast food companies make billions off of our work. That's why I joined the fight for $15 and a union.
That's what the fight for $15 and a union is all about. Fast food workers work hard, and we shouldn't have to struggle each month just to support our families.
We gotta get more people speaking up and we gotta do it NOW. The best thing you can do RIGHT NOW is spread the word on Facebook and Twitter or just text your friends and family our website right now.
Share on Facebook

Share on Twitter
You also might want to share this with your family and friends:
Help us get the word out!
Our power comes from people like you and me. It's wrong that companies we work for make billions, while we struggle every month to pay rent. Together, we can change that.
Thank you! We'll be in touch with what's next,
Adriana Alvarez
McDonald's Employee, Chicago, IL
Fight for $15

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Public Schools Work- We Need to Focus Below the Iceberg - Michael Hynes superintendent - Patchogue-Medford School District

Public Schools Work- We Need to Focus Below the Iceberg
Everyone in American education hears the relentless and consistent criticism of our schools: Compared to schools in other nations, we come up short. But the evidence on which that judgment rests is narrow and very thin.
A January study released by the Horace Mann League and the National Superintendents Roundtable, "School Performance in Context: The Iceberg Effect," challenges the practice of ranking nations by educational test scores and questions conventional wisdom that the U.S. educational system has fallen badly behind school systems abroad.
The study compared six dimensions related to student performance—equity, social stress, support for families, support for schools, student outcomes, and system outcomes—in the G-7 nations (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States) plus Finland and China. They then examined 24 “indicators” within those dimensions.
Of the nine nations, the United States remains the wealthiest with the most highly educated workforce, based on the number of years of school completed, and the proportion of adults with high school diplomas and bachelor’s degrees.
“Many policymakers and business leaders fret that America has fallen behind Europe and China, but our research does not bear that out,” said James Harvey, executive director of the National Superintendents Roundtable.
Despite high educational levels, the United States also reflects high levels of economic inequity and social stress compared to the other nations. All are related to student performance. For example, in American public schools today, the rate of childhood poverty is five times greater than it is in Finland. Rates of violent death are 13 times greater than the average for the other nations, with children in some communities reporting they have witnessed shootings, knifings, and beatings as “ordinary, everyday events.”
Some key findings:
• Economic Equity: The United States and China demonstrate the greatest gaps between rich and poor. The U.S. also contends with remarkably high rates of income inequality and childhood poverty.
• Social Stress: The U.S.reported the highest rates of violent death and teen pregnancy, and came in second for death rates from drug abuse. The also one of the most diverse nations with many immigrant students, suggesting English may not be their first language.
• Support for Families: The U.S. performed in the lowest third on public spending for services that benefit children and families, including preschool.
• Support for Schools: Americans seem willing to invest in education: The U.S. leads the nine-nation group in spending per student, but the national estimates may not be truly comparable. U.S. teachers spend about 40 percent more time in the classroom than their peers in the comparison countries.
• Student Outcomes: Performance in American elementary schools is promising, while middle school performance can be improved. U.S. students excel in 4th grade reading and high school graduation rates, but perform less well in reading at age 15. There are no current studies comparing the performance of high school graduates across countries. All nations demonstrate an achievement gap based on students’ family income and socio-economic status.
• System Outcomes: The U.S. leads these nations in educational levels of its adult workforce. Measures included years of schooling completed and the proportion of adults with high-school diplomas and bachelor’s degrees. American students also make up 25 percent of the world’s top students in science at age 15, followed by Japan at 13 percent.
“Too often, we narrow our focus to a few things that can be easily tested. Treating education as a horse race doesn’t work,” said HML President Gary Marx.
American policymakers from both political parties have a history of relying on large, international assessments to judge United States’ school performance. In 2013, the press reported that American students were falling behind when compared to 61 other countries and a few cities including Shanghai. In that comparative assessment—called the Program for International Student Assessment—PISA controversially reported superior scores for Shanghai.
The study doesn’t oppose international assessments as one measure of performance. But it argues for the need to compare American schools with similar nations and on more than a single number from an international test. In a striking metaphor, the study defines test scores as just “tip of the school iceberg.”
A fair conclusion to reach from the study is that while all is not well in the American classroom, our schools are far from being the failure they are painted to be. Addressing serious school problems will require policymakers to do something about the huge part of the iceberg that lies below the waterline in terms of poverty and economic inequity, community stress, and support for families and schools. We must stop blaming public schools and demonizing educators. The problem is not at the tip of the iceberg, it is well below the surface.

Michael Hynes is the superintendent of the Patchogue-Medford School District and member of the National Superintendent’s Roundtable

Demonizing Teachers, Privatizing Schools: The Big Lies and Big Plans Behind the Atlanta School Cheating Scandal

Demonizing Teachers, Privatizing Schools: The Big Lies and Big Plans Behind the Atlanta School Cheating Scandal
Submitted by Bruce A. Dixon on Wed, 04/22/2015 - 14:04
·         Atlanta test scandal
·         blame the teachers
·         race to the top
·         school privatization

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
Should we be wondering if the prosecution of cheating Atlanta teachers for racketeering was racist? Or should black parents and educators be leading a movement against high-stakes standardized testing as the gateway tool to privatizing public education in black and brown communities across the country?
Demonizing Teachers, Privatizing Schools: The Big Lies and Big Plans Behind the Atlanta School Cheating Scandal
by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
When drama queen Fulton County judge Jerry Baxter demanded public post-conviction apologies from Atlanta teachers already convicted of racketeering lest he hand them double digit sentences, it struck raw nerves in parts of black America. Black pastors and community leaders called press conferences. They held rallies and issued stern statements. They denounced the judge for making “common criminals” out of black teachers. Inevitably, they wondered whether white teachers would have been prosecuted or subjected to post-conviction humiliation of this kind.
They're asking the wrong question. What they ought to ask is why the teacher perp walk is being served up in the first place. They need to ask who profits from the continuing crisis in public education in black and brown communities? The answers are not hard to find.
The whole thing, from the indictment of Atlanta Public Schools superintendent Beverly Hall,who died before the trial was complete, to the posturing of public officials and corporate media about “cheating the children” is the latest act of a long, long fake crisis. Judge Baxter's histrionics too, in which he called the cheating scandal “the sickest thing that's ever happened to Atlanta,” were a great contribution to the story our billionaire-owned media wants to paint about public education.
The one-percenters need us to believe public education in our communities is some new kind of sewer infested with incompetent teachers who are cheating children and the public every week they draw paychecks. The long, long crisis of public education has been designed, engineered and provoked by powerful bipartisan forces to justify their long game, which is the privatization of public education. That's the Big Plan.
Since at least 2001, when George W. Bush's conservative Republicans teamed up with Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy's liberal Democrats to pass and implement the No Child Left Behind Act, it's been the policy of both capitalist parties implemented by the federal Department of Education to create, to provoke and to exacerbate a phony educational crisis. This program of crisis-creation has been backed by Wall Street, by banksters and hedge fund types, by giant corporations like Wal-Mart and powerful right wing interest groups like the US Chamber of Commerce as well as the so-called philanthropic tentacles of corporate America like the Gates, Broad, Heritage and Walton Family Foundations. The solution to the fake crisis has been the whole industry of testing experts, turnaround consultants, diploma mills for fake principals, lucrative charter school companies and their contractors, and the private but government sanctioned agencies that rate school districts. Even the agencies that rate school districts are staffed by the same “run the school like a business” experts approved by the US Chamber of Commerce who were employed to write President Obama's Race to the Topprogram, which punishes school districts that don't privatize or implement “run the school like a business 'reforms'” fast enough.
High stakes standardized testing, like the tests educators cheated on in Atlanta, is an essential tool in provoking the crisis, but it's a big lie. These kinds of tests don't reflect student progress or teacher competency. They track to family income, and family income in the US correlates largely to race. So as Glen Ford put it back in 2012
“The standardized tests were bombs, designed to explode the public schools and the teaching profession. Everyone involved knew that inner city kids would fail the tests in huge numbers, setting the infernal machine in motion for the closing of schools and the wholesale firing of teachers...”
The bombs were planted not just in Atlanta, but in thousands of school districts across the nation, with predictable results. A 2012 story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution revealed that the same suspicious patterns of radical test score improvement seen in Atlanta could be found in more than 200 school districts across the country, from Philly to Portland, and from Alaska to Alabama. Clearly, cheating teachers and principals in Georgia were and likely still are doing the same things the same way as their colleagues across the country.
It's also very true that Atlanta's teachers were singled out. Other teachers in other states were merely stripped of their jobs and professional licenses. Teach For America alums Michelle Rhee and Kayla Henderson both headed Washington DC's public schools when massive cheating scandals occurred, but unlike Atlanta's Beverly Hall, neither they nor their subordinates are in any danger of prosecution. Atlanta on the other hand, is closely associated with the notion of African Americans running big cities, so making the example of black educators in Atlanta makes perfect political sense for those orchestrating the crisis. Still we shouldn't feel too sorry for the Atlanta teachers. Beverly Hall turned big chunks of Atlanta's public schools over to privatizers, and even helped divert $140 million a year for more than 20 years away from Atlanta's public school children to line the pockets of developers and gentrifiers in a lucrative boondoggle Atlantans know as “the Beltline.”
If the black political class and black educators really stood for the interests of their students and communities they would be educating black parents and students across the country abouttheir right to opt out of tests that serve no legitimate educational purpose, as teachers in Chicago and Seattle are already doing.
But that's problematic too. Opposing standardized testing would place the black political class in conflict not with the slippery nebulous demons of institutional racism, but biting some of the very real and easy-to-find hands in corporate America that feed it. Taking issue with standardized testing, Common Core and the drive to privatize education would put black educators in opposition to corporate America, to the Gates, Walton Family (Wal-Mart), Eli Broad and other foundations, and to Republicans and Democrats including President Obama and Arne Duncan, his Secretary of Education. This is not an easy thing to do when national black “civil rights” organizations from the National Action Network and the National Urban League have eagerly accepted corporate-engineered school reform with corporate dollars, and President Obama is deeply beholden to the charter school sugar daddies.
So it looks like we can count on our black political class to stick to the script on the Atlanta teachers cheating scandal. They'll talk about whether the prosecution was racist, and they'll wring self-righteous hands over teachers “cheating the children.” But they won't question those who set up the rigged game of high stakes testing or why.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and serves on the state committee of the GA Green Party. Contact him at bruce.dixon(at)
·         Bruce A. Dixon's blog
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Walk for Rural Health - June 1 Walk with us to Washington, DC to save rural hospitals in America PLZ RT

Good morning--our national partners are desperately searching for someone from the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas--ideally from Starr County, but ok if from other parts--to participate in a walk to protest the closure of rural hospitals. The details are below. Please contact Laura Guerra Cardus, MD of Texas Children's Defense Fund if you can help  (copying me please:
North Carolina conservative Mayor Adam O’Neal is organizing a WALK from North Carolina to D.C. to bring attention to the need for states to expand coverage and/or find other ways to increase funds to rural hospitals.  It looks like south Texas' Starr County is on the rural hospital list and likely represents an area at risk for hospital closure.  Having a Texas representative from a rural areas on this walk would likely bring important media attention to the need for coverage expansion in Texas. 

Is there  anyone you can think of from Starr County who would be a good representative to join this walk?  We hear most  expenses will be paid by TORCH and we can help cover the rest, so that it would be a no cost to the participant.  While the walk is two weeks long – June 1-15 - the Texas group can do a relay with several different representatives joining for 3-4 days.

Because of the short timeline, they are looking to confirm a walker by this Sunday.  Please let me know if there is anyone you can think of.  If your organizations cover that region and are up for a walk, you would all also make great candidates.  Below you can find more details about the walk and pasted at the bottom is the letter from Mayor O’Neal. 
The details:
  • The walk will be June 1-June 15, 273 miles in 2 weeks.
o   They began planning at the February 2015 National Rural Health forum, where it was estimated that 283 US hospitals face closure in 2015.  (apologies if my notes reversed any digits).
o   They also are speaking to the impact that “non-Medicaid Expansion” has in states that have not Closed the Gap, and calling on those states to come up with a plan to fill the funding gap for rural hospitals.
  • It IS Ok if 2 or more walkers want to make it a “RELAY”:  i.e., not required that one person do the whole 2 weeks, but ideally coordinate so there is a Texas rep the whole time.
  • There is a commitment from Texas to fund the $1950 costs of the motel rooms and bus transport for the full 2 weeks for a Texas walker. 
o   We would need to make sure the walkers can get to and from NC/DC and have food money.
  • The 2014 walk by Mayor O’Neal after the Belhaven hospital got coverage from WSJ, WAPO, AP, McClatchy papers.
o   He did it after the first (but sadly not last) death in his community after the ER and hospital were closed. 

PLEASE forward this email to any lists or individuals you think might be interested.
LET ME KNOW if you want to be a walker!

Anne Dunkelberg ▪ Associate Director  ▪ Center for Public Policy Priorities ▪ 512.320.0222 ext. 102

 us Database: 4235/8701 - Release Date: 12/08/14




Walk with us to Washington, DC to save rural hospitals in America.
Rural hospitals are facing the greatest challenge to their existence in the history of our country. In the next year, 283 rural hospitals face the uncertainty of possible closure. It is time to act. We are asking rural hospitals from all over the country to send a representative to our June 1st, 2015 walk from Belhaven, North Carolina to Washington DC to petition Congress to pass measures to ensure rural hospitals sustainability.
In July 2014, we saw the closure of our critical access hospital in Belhaven, North Carolina. After the closure, everyone seemed to think all hope was lost for our healthcare and the economic future in our town. With the assistance of Reverend William Barber, President of North Carolina  NAACP and Al McSurely, Civic Rights Attorney we began a walk to Washington, DC.  We received national media coverage on our walk and a White House sponsored meeting with key people in Washington to help us begin the process of reopening our hospital. This walk was solely responsible for keeping hope alive in our small town.
Now it is time for America to stand up and demand that Washington DC work on our rural hospital crisis. Our rural hospitals are just as important as any urban medical centers. We feed America and deserve to keep our current level of healthcare. When hospitals close, emergency rooms close and that means needless deaths -- our children, family members and neighbors. We have to stand up for ourselves and THE WALK will get Washington’s and the nation's attention.
THE WALK starts a national debate about the condition of rural hospitals today. Horrific damage is done to communities who lose a hospital. The potential closure in 2015 of 283 hospitals means 36,000 lost healthcare jobs, 50,000 community jobs lost, 10.6 billion in lost GDP in rural areas. Also, if you have just 10 needless deaths per closed hospital per year that means 2830 needless deaths of Americans each year. This would be equivalent to a 9/11 attack happening year after year.
Please watch the videos on this website and commit to doing something meaningful by signing up to join us on THE WALK.
This is an issue we all agree on regardless of party or politics. Let’s show Washington how we the people can cross party lines and work on this most important issue. Let’s set an example that Washington can follow now and in the future.  Reverend Barber and Mayor O'Neal have become symbols of the power that is generated when health care for poor people becomes a national moral issue.

Adam O'Neal, Mayor, Belhaven, NC
Dr. Charles Boyette, 2003 National Country Doctor of the Year
Bob Zellner, Civic Rights Activist

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Scholar of Urban Riots: Baltimore ‘Is Not the End’ of Violent Protests The Chronicle of Higher Education | May 15, 2015 A11 By PETER SCHMIDT

Scholar of Urban Riots: Baltimore ‘Is Not the End’ of Violent Protests
The Chronicle of Higher Education | May 15, 2015 A11
Last month’s rioting in Baltimore came as little surprise to Ashley M. Howard, an assistant professor of history at Loyola University New Orleans.
As a doctoral candidate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Ms. Howard researched 1960s racial unrest in Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and Omaha for her 2012 dissertation, “Prairie Fires: Urban Rebellions as Black Working Class Politics in Three Midwestern Cities.” She is now working to expand it into a book that examines how race, class, and gender factor into whether people participate in urban uprisings. The Chronicle asked Ms. Howard for her take on what happened in Baltimore. Here is an edited and condensed version of the conversation.
Q. What do you see as the key differences between the recent civil unrest in Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore and the riots of the 1960s in terms of how and why people acted out and how society responded?
A. The biggest game changer of these most recent uprisings is the advent of social media. I think this can be a very powerful tool for participants to frame their grievances, to document what’s happening, and to really shift the narrative of what’s taking place. What used to be such an isolated feeling of abuse or marginalization has now become kind of a shared national experience of despondence.
With the 1960s, you would actually have local city governments enact media moratoriums, so that, especially in local markets, they would not disseminate information about the uprisings going on in their hometown. Local-newspaper coverage would have more on uprisings occurring in other cities than they would have in their own hometown. It kind of “othered” these events.
Now, with this discursive ability of social media, you really get to see people sharing their experiences, telling alternative visions of what is going on. That has an incredible democratizing effect.
Q. Are there important lessons we failed to learn in studying the urban uprisings of the 1960s? A. Certainly. I think one of the most crucial lessons that we have neglected to learn is that violent protest is on a continuum of protest. These aren’t aberrant events. They are very much in line, and part and parcel, with more-standard organized types of nonviolent direct action.
In the past 50 years, those uprisings have really been remembered as just black rage — people going out into the streets, burning and looting — and not actually looking at the antecedent events that led people to pursue this very desperate type of protest. In fact, the violent protests and nonviolent protests often interact symbiotically. When you have people referring to protesters or activists just as “thugs,” or out there just to get goods, that really diminish the power and the political agency that these people have had.
Violent protest has been a longstanding tradition in working-class communities. In many senses, it is often lionized. When you think of the labor revolts and protests that happened in the late 1800s, early 1900s, those are seen as kind of these champion moments of the proletariat and populism rising up. But when African-Americans become the primary actors, in the 1960s, they become demonized. The uprisings did not occur in a vacuum. This came after nearly a decade of organizing in which very slow movement was taking place. There was very much a change in how people understood their communities and their roles and their rights as American citizens.
Q. Do you foresee Baltimore returning to calm in the coming months? If we could magically end police misconduct of the sort alleged there, would we end the threat of civil unrest in Baltimore and other cities?
A. I think that after Baltimore’s Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake put forth the curfew, that largely stopped the threat of unrest. But I don’t think that diminishes the fact that people are still upset that black men and black women and black children feel constantly threatened.
This is what’s difficult about rebellions. There is often no magical formula to predict what’s going to happen where. In fact, many of the uprisings that occurred in the 1960s nobody saw coming. You look at Watts, and it didn’t have the urban squalor that people associate with black urban life. You think of Detroit, which was a model city in which African-Americans had strong working-class jobs. People were wildly surprised when uprisings occurred there.
I forecast that this is not the end of this kind of violent protest. But it is going to be difficult to pinpoint where this is going to come next. The rebellions that have taken place have alerted people to this as a potential tactic. Folks across the United States may still dabble in this kind of action until meaningful changes happen. Police brutality is not the only issue that concerns  African-Americans today.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Criminalizing Poverty - Marian Wright Edelman - President - Children's Defense Fund #EdBlogNet @idraedu

“Held captive.” It was how one 13-year-old described the feeling of growing up poor in our wealthy nation, and for more and more Americans living in poverty, this feeling isn’t just a metaphor. The recent Department of Justice report on police and court practices in Ferguson, Missouri put a much needed spotlight on how a predatory system of enforcement of minor misdemeanors and compounding fines can trap low-income people in a never-ending cycle of debt, poverty, and jail. In Ferguson this included outrageous fines for minor infractions like failing to show proof of insurance and letting grass and weeds in a yard get too high. In one case a woman who parked her car illegally in 2007 and couldn’t pay the initial $151 fee has since been arrested twice, spent six days in jail, paid $550 to a city court, and as of 2014 still owed the city $541 in fines, all as a result of the unpaid parking ticket. The Department of Justice found each year Ferguson set targets for the police and courts to generate more and more money from municipal fines. And Ferguson isn’t alone. The criminalization of poverty is a growing trend in states and localities across the country.
The investigation of Ferguson’s practices came after the killing of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown by a police officer, and last month the practice of criminalizing poverty made headlines again after Walter Scott was killed in North Charleston, South Carolina. Scott was shot in the back by police officer Michael Slager on April 4 as he ran away after being pulled over for a broken taillight. Scott had already served time in jail for falling behind on child support, and on the day he was stopped there was a warrant out for his arrest for falling behind again. His family believes his fear of going back to jail caused him to run from the broken taillight stop. His brother told The New York Times that Walter Scott already felt trapped: “Every job he has had, he has gotten fired from because he went to jail because he was locked up for child support,” said Rodney Scott, whose brother was most recently working as a forklift operator. “He got to the point where he felt like it defeated the purpose.” A 2009 review of county jails in South Carolina found that 1 in 8 inmates was behind bars for failure to pay child support. Rodney Scott remembered his brother trying to explain to a judge that he simply did not make enough money to pay the amount ordered by the court: “And the judge said something like, ‘That’s your problem. You figure it out.’”
The Institute for Policy Studies recently released a groundbreaking new report highlighting the policies and practices that have led to increased criminalization of poverty, and that report and similar studies are finally shining a light on the way some municipalities are criminalizing poor people just for being poor. The United States legally ended the practice of debtor’s prisons in 1833, and the Supreme Court ruled in Bearden v. Georgia (1983) that it is unconstitutional to imprison those who can’t afford to pay their debt or restitution in criminal cases, unless the act of not paying debt or restitution is “willful.” But poor people are being increasingly targeted with fines and fees for misdemeanors and winding up in illegal debtors’ prisons when they can’t pay—and in some cases, then being charged additional fees for court and jail costs. A recent investigation by National Public Radio, the New York University Brennan Center for Justice, and the National Center for State Courts cited a study estimating between 80-85 percent of inmates now leave prison owing debt for court-imposed costs, restitution, fines and fees. In some jurisdictions defendants are charged for their room and board during lockup, probation and parole supervision, drug and alcohol abuse treatment, DNA samples, and even their constitutional right to a public defender. When poor people can’t pay those fees either, the cycle of debt and jail time continues.
The private companies providing probation services in more than half of the states are some of the biggest winners when poor people are targeted. If people on probation can’t afford the fees they are charged, they breach their probation contract; this can result in more jail time, making it even less likely that they’ll be earning the money they need, and people under the supervision of these private probation companies often become liable for charges exceeding the initial cost of their ticket or fine. Federal law also prohibits people in breach of probation from receiving a range of benefits, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), food stamps, and Supplemental Security Income—once again, exacerbating the cycle of poverty, probation, and prison.
And state and local policies establish barriers that make it more difficult for people who have served any time in prison, including those there because they were poor, to re-integrate into society. According to a study conducted by the American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section, there are more than 38,000 documented statutes nationwide creating collateral consequences for people with criminal convictions including barriers to housing, employment, voting, and many public benefits. By denying these citizens access to basic services they need to survive, our policies needlessly increase the risk of recidivism and continue to leave people truly trapped—and when we extend the cycle of poverty by criminalizing poor people, there are only a few greedy winners and many, many losers.
Marian Wright Edelman is President of the Children's Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to