Larry Miller's Blog: Educate All Students!

January 27, 2012

Walkergate: Theft, Fraud, Evidence Tampering, Secret Internet Network, Bid-Rigging, Cover-Up

Filed under: Scott Walker — millerlf @ 1:33 pm

What Did Walker Know?

Two ex-Walker aides charged with illegal campaigning

By Daniel Bice and Dave Umhoefer of the Journal Sentinel Jan. 26, 2012

Two staffers who worked directly for Gov. Scott Walker while he was county executive were charged Thursday with illegally doing extensive political work while being paid by taxpayers to do county jobs.

One of the two, Darlene Wink, cut a deal with prosecutors under which she agreed to provide information in a related investigation about the destruction of digital evidence and to aid in further prosecutions. This is the first indication that the multifaceted John Doe investigation may be pursuing charges of evidence tampering.

Milwaukee County prosecutors also made the surprising disclosure that top Walker aides set up a private Internet network to allow them to communicate with one another by email about campaign as well as county government work without the public or co-workers’ knowledge.

(more…)

January 24, 2012

Unemployment For Milwaukee’s Black Men Must Be Addressed. This Is A Criminal State Of Affairs.

Filed under: Jobs,Racism — millerlf @ 4:03 pm

Unemployment for Black Men in Milwaukee Demands Immediate Action

UWM study of 2010 census data finds record low employment in Milwaukee

By John Schmid of the Journal Sentinel Jan. 23, 2012

In the wake of the 2008-’09 recession, black male employment in metro Milwaukee plunged to the lowest levels on record, according to a new study from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

The data highlight a renewed setback to an urban region that for years has helped set national extremes for poverty and unemployment, following a decades-long collapse of the city’s manufacturing economy that left a depression in the urban core.

According to the UWM analysis of the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data, only 44.7% of the area’s working-age black males ages 16 to 64 were employed in 2010, which is “the lowest level in metro Milwaukee ever recorded in census data.” Only two of the nation’s 40 largest metro areas analyzed in the study – Buffalo and Detroit – reported lower black male employment rates in 2010 than Milwaukee.

“No metro area has witnessed more precipitous erosion in the labor market for black males over the past 40 years than has Milwaukee,” according to the report, which echoed findings in recent years by the Journal Sentinel. “The 2010 data, however, revealed a new nadir for black male employment in Milwaukee.”

Employment levels for the region’s black men declined sharply from 52.9% in 2008, which was the year when over-indebted banks, hobbled by subprime mortgage debt, curtailed lending and threw the brakes on the broader economy, triggering the deepest and longest recession since the Depression of the 1930s.

The decrease in black employment is even more drastic compared with 1970, the year when both the city and the nation approached their respective peaks in industrial employment. In 1970, Milwaukee led the nation in factory employment for black laborers with nearly three in four holding a job (a 73.4% employment rate), which is 28.7 percentage points higher than the current record low.

That 1970-2010 shift in black male employment – a “four-decade labor market meltdown” – represents the widest percentage change among the American cities in the ranking, wider than Detroit (28.6 percentage points), Cleveland (26.0) and Chicago (23.8).

The comparisons to 1970 go back to the pre-global era when national economies were more insular and China had not yet begun its reforms. Manufacturing jobs in those days often required little more than a high school diploma, while today’s factories are high-tech environments that demand skills in computers and math.

“It was a different world in 1970,” said Marc Levine, who heads the UWM Center for Economic Development, which released the report.

Other findings in the 41-page report:

Northern industrial cities such as Milwaukee, Chicago, St. Louis and Detroit fare worse for black male employment prospects than southern cities such as Atlanta, Nashville, Houston and Charlotte.

For black men in the prime of their working lives (ages 25-54), Milwaukee fell to a record low employment level of 52.7% in 2010, dropping to the bottom of the 40 major cities in the report – lower than Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, Pittsburgh and St. Louis.

In 1970, when Milwaukee boasted one of the nation’s densest concentrations of factory jobs, black male employment nearly matched the white level (73.4% vs. 85.9%, for a gap of 12.5 percentage points). By 2010, the black-white gap widened to 32.7 percentage points – the widest among the 40 major cities.

More African-American men from Milwaukee were admitted to Wisconsin correctional facilities in an average year in the 2000s than were employed at the end of the decade in factories in the city of Milwaukee.

The recession was brutal for nearly every sector of the U.S. economy. The report’s benchmark year of 2010 coincides with the end of the only decade since the 1930s that saw no net increase in jobs.

But the urban economy of Milwaukee was struggling even before the recession began. “The city of Milwaukee, where almost 90% of the region’s black males live, has lost over three-quarters of its industrial jobs since the 1960s,” the report says.

Milwaukee’s rapid exodus of manufacturers is a major reason for its low level of black employment, Levine said.

Many blacks leave the labor force for other reasons, most notably due to “mass incarceration,” it says. “An average 5,000 working-age black males have been incarcerated annually in Milwaukee since the early 2000s, a growing number for nonviolent drug offenses,” which in turn removes them from the government’s tally of the active labor force.

Another factor behind low employment rates: inconvenient and inefficient transportation links with the suburbs and surrounding counties, where manufacturing has fared better than in the city, Levine said.

Unlike many studies of employment levels, which extrapolate estimates from small monthly government population samples, the UWM study used data from the U.S. Census, which is deemed more accurate and reliable.

The study also avoids the most common barometer of jobs, which is the monthly unemployment rate, which statisticians concur is problematic. The main problem is that unemployed Americans vanish from the unemployment tally because of a statistical quirk of U.S. statistics, which only count those who actively are looking for work. That excludes those who quit looking because they are discouraged, or go to jail, go back to school or care for a child or parent.

“The mass incarceration of black males in the U.S. since the 1970s has artificially deflated the unemployment rate by removing thousands of working-age black males – who otherwise would be counted in the employment and unemployment statistics – from the labor force,” the report said.

***

To read the report, go to the UWM Center for Economic Development home page: www4.uwm.edu/ced

January 23, 2012

Bloomberg Businessweek Reports Lucrative Real Estate Investments in Milwaukee Charter Schools

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 9:04 am

Property Investors Bet on Rising Demand for U.S. Charter Schools

January 19, 2012, BusinessWeek By Brian Louis

Jan. 11 (Bloomberg) — A warehouse where workers once shaped and cut steel on Milwaukee’s north side is getting a second life. It’s being transformed into a charter school that’s scheduled to open in August.

A joint venture of Canyon Capital Realty Advisors LLC and former tennis champion Andre Agassi’s business partnerships is developing the property and will lease it to Lighthouse Academies of Wisconsin Inc. The Canyon-Agassi real estate fund has done one warehouse conversion in Philadelphia and is considering school projects in other U.S. cities, including New York and Houston.

Entertainment Properties Trust and Inland Public Properties Development Inc. also are among companies that are investing in buildings for charter schools as demand for campuses grows. More than 500 of the schools opened last year, bringing the U.S. total to about 5,600, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, a Washington-based advocacy group. The investors buy or develop properties and get income from renting to companies that operate the schools.

“We don’t find a lot of competition right now, and we like that,” David Brain, chief executive officer of Entertainment Properties, said in an interview. “We’ll be ahead of the curve when other people finally wake up to the idea and come to the party.”

The real estate investment trust, primarily a movie theater landlord, owned 34 charter-school properties as of Sept. 30, accounting for $280.3 million of its $2.9 billion portfolio. Entertainment Properties spent $36.4 million on charter schools last year through the third quarter, the Kansas City, Missouri- based company said in a regulatory filing.

‘Capacity to Grow’

Charter schools “are going to be a substantial portion of the market and we have a huge capacity to grow there,” Brain said.

More than 400,000 children nationwide are on waiting lists for the schools, the national alliance said in a December statement. Demand has increased as parents seek alternatives to traditional public schools. About 2 million students were enrolled in charter schools for the 2011-12 school year, according to the alliance.

The schools charge no tuition. They receive funding from municipal, state and federal tax dollars and operate under a charter that’s granted by the state or a local authority, according to a May report by Ernst & Young LLP. Each school has its own governing board.

Academic Focus

Charters are able to offer longer days than traditional public schools and may adopt a focus, such as the arts or preparing for careers, according to the alliance. Like public schools, they’re subject to state and federal academic standards.

For Entertainment Properties, the charter-school investment yield is 9 percent to 10 percent, according to Keith Bokota, an analyst at Principal Global Investors. That compares with November’s 7 percent average capitalization rate for commercial- property deals of more than $5 million, according to Real Capital Analytics Inc., a New York-based property research company.

The Canyon-Agassi Charter School’s Facilities Fund appeals to investors seeking a good return on their money while doing something positive for education, said Glenn Pierce, its chief executive officer. Investors in the Los Angeles-based fund — which lists Citigroup Inc., Intel Corp., the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the University of Michigan among its backers — can expect yields in the “low teens after fees,” he said.

Fund’s Goal

The fund has about $200 million in equity and will use loans to reach its goal of $500 million to spend on developing campuses, according to Pierce. It’s investing about $5.1 million in the Milwaukee project, he said. The North Point Lighthouse Charter School will have an art room, library and computer lab.

“We’re taking a former warehouse building and turning it into a state-of-the-art school,” Pierce said in a telephone interview.

The fund gives a school the option to purchase the campus once it has matured to the point where it can obtain financing. “Our whole premise is not to be a long-term owner of these assets,” Pierce said.

While school landlords may eventually profit from a sale, income primarily comes from long-term lease agreements with operating companies.

Inland Purchases

In 2010, a unit of Inland American Real Estate Trust Inc., a public, non-traded REIT based in Oak Brook, Illinois, bought seven charter-school properties for $61 million from operator Imagine Schools Inc. Arlington, Virginia-based Imagine, which runs 75 schools in 12 states and the District of Columbia, agreed to lease back the properties from Inland over a 20-year period.

For Entertainment Properties, income from Imagine accounted for 9 percent of revenue from continuing operations in the third quarter.

Charter schools are “going to be a bigger piece of the business” for the landlord in the long term, Craig Mailman, a New York-based analyst at KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., said in a telephone interview.

Box office sales in U.S. and Canadian theaters fell 3.4 percent last year, while attendance dropped 4.2 percent to a 16- year low, according to Hollywood.com Box-Office.

Entertainment Properties said it planned to start construction on as many as four campuses in the fourth quarter, according to a Nov. 2 statement.

Investor Risk

Leasing properties can entail risk because schools may be shut down for reasons including poor student achievement, low enrollment and financial troubles. About 150 U.S. charter schools didn’t reopen this academic year, according to the charter-school alliance.

“That’s just not a risk that’s typical of property owners,” said Bokota of Principal Global Investors. Its parent company, Des Moines, Iowa-based Principal Financial Group Inc., owned 1.6 million shares of Entertainment Properties at the end of September, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Investors may try to reduce risk by leasing to experienced companies that operate a number of schools. The Milwaukee school is part of Lighthouse Academies Inc., a nonprofit network of 19 schools in five states. The Framingham, Massachusetts-based operator was founded in 2003.

Even large operators can run into trouble. Last month, the charter for one of Imagine’s schools in St. Louis was revoked and four other schools were placed on probation partly because of poor academic performance. Entertainment Properties is the landlord for those schools’ campuses.

Master Lease

Entertainment Properties has a master lease “that covers all the Imagine properties in our portfolio and ensures payment should a school close,” Brain, the CEO, said in an e-mailed statement. “We have a variety of options with the facility to continue to serve the education market in St. Louis.”

The school is scheduled to close in June.

Improving academic performance “is vital to the schools coming off probation” and the 11-year-old company has taken steps to raise students’ test scores, Lori Waters, a spokeswoman for Imagine, said in a telephone interview.

Charter schools’ budgets are initially small and the schools often prefer to lease because obtaining financing for a building project is difficult and seen as risky. Many schools start out in temporary space, such as an existing public school building, shuttered retail store or former offices, said Jim Griffin, president of the Colorado League of Charter Schools.

“That’s generally their lot in life,” he said. “It’s kind of get what you can.”

Starting Small

Most new charter schools start with just a few grades and try to build enrollment over a number of years. The Lighthouse school in Milwaukee will open for the fall semester with kindergarten through fourth grade and plans to add one class each year until it reaches the 12th grade.

Demolition on the Milwaukee warehouse’s interior started last month. Classrooms and offices are expected to be finished in July, a month before classes begin, said Anna Hammernik, the North Point Lighthouse principal.

Hammernik moved back to her native Milwaukee to lead the new school, after working in New Orleans. She’s spent the past year helping to plan the curriculum and get the word out.

The old warehouse’s transformation will be a “great boost to the community,” Hammernik said.

“A lot of our kids go to school in really old buildings,” she said. “I’m super-excited for our kids to have a brand-new building.”

Linda Darling-Hammond on New NCLB Proposals

Filed under: Charter Schools,Educational Practices,NCLB — millerlf @ 8:48 am

Why Is Congress Redlining Our Schools?

Linda Darling-Hammond

January 10, 2012   |     The Nation.

With the nation’s public education system under siege, the need for qualified teachers who are committed to creating exciting and empowering schools is more urgent than ever.

Today a new form of redlining is emerging. If passed, the long-awaited Senate bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) would build a bigger highway between low-performing schools serving high-need students—the so-called “bottom 5 percent”—and all other schools. Tragically, the proposed plan would weaken schools in the most vulnerable communities and further entrench the problems—concentrated poverty, segregation and lack of human and fiscal resources—that underlie their failure.

Although the current draft of the law scales back some of the worst overreaches of No Child Left Behind, the sanctions for failing to make “adequate yearly progress” that have threatened all schools under NCLB are now focused solely on the 5 percent of schools designated as lowest-performing by the states. As we have learned in warm-up exercises offered by the Obama administration’s Race to the Top initiative, these schools will nearly always be the ones serving the poorest students and the greatest numbers of new immigrants. In many states they will represent a growing number of apartheid schools populated almost entirely by low-income African-American and Latino students in our increasingly race- and class-segregated system.

In the new vision for ESEA, these schools, once identified, will be subjected to school “turnaround” models that require the schools to be closed, turned into charters, reconstituted (by firing nearly half the staff) or “transformed,” according to a complicated set of requirements that include everything from instructional reforms to test-based teacher evaluation. The proposed array of punitive sanctions, coupled with unproven reforms, will increasingly destabilize schools and neighborhoods, making them even less desirable places to work and live and stimulating the flight of teachers and families who have options.

Meanwhile, the most important solutions for these students and their schools are ignored by NCLB and the proposed new bill, as well as by current federal policy in general, leaving their most serious problems unaddressed.

(more…)

Rethinking Columbus Noted in New York Times Editorial on Tucson Banning of Ethnic Studies

Filed under: Multiculturalism,Racism — millerlf @ 8:21 am

Rejected in Tucson

Editorial Published: January 21, 2012
The Tucson Unified School District has dismantled its Mexican-American studies program, packed away its offending books, shuttled its students into other classes. It was blackmailed into doing so: keeping the program would have meant losing more than $14 million in state funding. It was a blunt-force victory for the Arizona school superintendent, John Huppenthal, who has spent years crusading against ethnic-studies programs he claims are “brainwashing” children into thinking that Latinos have been victims of white oppression.

As a state legislator, he co-wrote a law cracking down on ethnic studies, and as superintendent he decided that Tucson’s district was violating it. School officials in Tucson and elsewhere strenuously disagree, saying he misunderstood and mischaracterized a program that brought much-needed attention to a neglected part of America’s history and culture. They say it engaged students, pushed them to excel, and led to better grades and attendance.

But their interpretation collided with that of Mr. Huppenthal, whose law prohibits programs that “promote the overthrow of the United States government,” “promote resentment toward a race or class of people” and “advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.” Unless two students win a federal lawsuit arguing that the loss of the program violates their First Amendment rights, Tucson school officials and students are going to have to enrich their curriculum another way.

To say that Arizona’s Anglo and Hispanic populations have had multiple points of collision and misunderstanding is putting it mildly. Arizona (the state that also showed some of the most bitter resistance to a federal Martin Luther King holiday) enacted the first in a recent spate of extremist immigration laws and spawned the Minuteman border-vigilante movement.

If Mr. Huppenthal wanted to diminish resentment and treat Hispanic students as individuals, he picked a lousy way to do it. His action has Hispanic critics saying they feel their culture is under attack — and has students in a well-established, well-liked program feeling dejected.

For Tucson school officials, this should not mean the end of teaching texts like “The Pedagogy of the Oppressed” and “Rethinking Columbus.” It is a challenge to draft a new curriculum whose honesty and excellence all of Tucson’s teachers and students can be proud of.

January 15, 2012

Milwaukee Metropolitan Association of Commerce (MMAC) Proposes to Create a Caste System of Schools

Filed under: MMAC,MMAC/ Howard Fuller — millerlf @ 8:57 am

By Larry Miller

This is reminder to those of you who follow K-12 education in Milwaukee: there’s a new plan waiting in the wings that includes another attempt at the takeover of Milwaukee public schools.

The plan, designed by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Association of Commerce (MMAC), was reported on by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this past November. It’s loosely designed in the image of the New Orleans “Recovery School District,” and has been a model for reform both in Tennessee and in Michigan.

While all of the specifics of the plan have not been made public, its features have been presented in an MMAC slideshow and in interviews with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. These include:

  • Create 50 high-performing schools serving 20,000 students, a mere 16% of Milwaukee’s K-12 student population. The MMAC estimates it will take a total of $48 million in capital costs and $21 million in annual operating costs to get 20,000 students in high-performing schools by 2020.
  • Establish a special turnaround district in MPS for low-performing schools that would be headed by a different superintendent.
  • Expand vocational-technical education for large numbers of Milwaukee’s children.

Basically this proposal creates a caste system for public education. 50 high-performing schools will serve a fraction of Milwaukee’s K-12 students, while the remaining 84% take their chances in other schools, including those in a designated low-performing district.

This old tune under a new name is an affront to the majority of Milwaukee’s poor and working class kids. Instead of teaching every child to be college ready, whether or not they choose to attend college, the MMAC has a very different vision. Students not attending one of the 50 high-performing schools may be tracked into a vocational program.

Whenever the captains of industry start talking about vocational training, red flags should go up about the danger of forcing low-income students of color to fill the role of a cheap labor force. Many remember the historical debate over calls for “industrial training” for African American students in the South by Booker T. Washington, so-called “enlightened” southern segregationists and the northern industrialists.

Vocational and career training can meet student’s needs. But these programs cannot be set up at the cost of dumbing down curriculum or tracking some students into high skills areas like engineering and the trades, while the rest are destined for life to tuck bed sheets or greet customers at WalMart or stock shelves at dollar stores.

Beware, plans are in waiting. Some of our city’s business and political leaders are just waiting to see the outcome of the Governor’s recall to try to set them in motion.


Milwaukee, the New Birmingham

Filed under: Poverty,segregation,Voter Suppression — millerlf @ 8:52 am

James E. Causey Jan. 14, 2012 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his letter from the Birmingham City Jail in 1963.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed a year before I was born, but I’ve always felt like he was a part of my family.

Today, his picture still hangs on my parents’ living room wall because King provided many African-American families with hope.

Many of the problems King cited in his April 16, 1963, letter from the Birmingham City Jail still exist in Milwaukee today.

I would even say that 2012 Milwaukee mirrors 1963 Birmingham in a lot of ways.

Milwaukee leads the nation or ranks near the top in several negative categories for African-Americans. Many of the problems are amplified by the city’s hypersegregation, high black male unemployment and 50% dropout rate for African-American boys.

Sunday is King’s birthday (Monday is the federal holiday observing his birth). The slain civil rights leader would have been 83. If he were alive, there is no doubt he would have visited Milwaukee to address its similarities to Birmingham.

He would have addressed:

Segregation: In his letter from the Birmingham Jail, King wrote: “Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States.”

In 2011, Milwaukee earned that dubious distinction.

There are many reasons 90% of the African-American population lives on the city’s north side. Some of the reasons stem from race and economics, but you can’t rule out factors such as suburban opposition to affordable housing, either. In New Berlin, for example, it took a federal lawsuit to get the city to rethink a workforce housing development.

The assertion that “people live where they feel comfortable” is not an excuse for the city’s hypersegregation. Race is more complicated than that. If King were alive, he would point out that segregated neighborhoods are not only bad for the health of adults; they are also unhealthy for our nation’s youngest citizens – our children.

Voting: Wisconsin voters this year could be voting in a recall of the governor, president of the United States and any number of key races that will impact them.

In December, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit stating that Wisconsin’s voter ID law “imposes a severe and undue burden on the fundamental right to vote under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”

Their biggest fear is that the law will essentially disenfranchise poor blacks, Hispanics, elderly and first-time voters from having a say in what could be tightly contested races.

In his letter, King wrote: “Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever.” King would have fought any laws restricting one’s right to vote.

I also believe King would have been more proactive by encouraging churches to get involved with the communities they are supposed to serve and register to vote those who are the hardest to reach.

Nationally syndicated radio host Joe Madison agreed.

Madison, who was active in the civil rights movement when he was a student at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, told me that black organizations can best honor King on Monday by taking his holiday “beyond the mall.”

“It’s nice to be off on Monday to celebrate King’s legacy, but we can’t just use that as a day off. Monday should be a call-to-action day,” Madison said.

Black churches and organizations should canvas neighborhoods that will be affected the most by the voter ID law.

The best gift that these groups can give to the people of these communities is a voter registration card. Let’s make sure that everyone who can vote is registered to have his or her vote and voice heard.

Poverty: The grip of poverty got even tighter in Milwaukee in 2011 with nearly 30% of its residents labeled as poor. Nearly half of the city’s children were listed as poor.

In King’s letter, he said it’s hard to understand why “20 million Negro brothers (are) smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society.”

It starts with family-supporting jobs, but elected leaders must have the will and creativity to change the city’s status quo. Milwaukee should not be the new Birmingham.

For those who don’t believe this is their problem, King said it best: “Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

Think about that, and happy birthday, Dr. King.

James E. Causey is a Journal Sentinel editorial writer, columnist and blogger. Email jcausey@jrn.com. Twitter: twitter.com/jecausey

Books Banned in Tucson: Including Rethinking School’s “Rethinking Columbus”

Filed under: Racism,Rethinking Schools — millerlf @ 8:33 am

Who’s afraid of “The Tempest”?

Arizona’s ban on ethnic studies proscribes Mexican-American history, local authors, even Shakespeare

By Jeff Biggers Friday, Jan 13, 2012 Salon

http://www.salon.com/2012/01/13/whos_afraid_of_the_tempest/singleton/

As part of the state-mandated termination of its ethnic studies program, the Tucson Unified School District released an initial list of books to be banned from its schools today. According to district spokeperson Cara Rene, the books “will be cleared from all classrooms, boxed up and sent to the Textbook Depository for storage.”

Facing a multimillion-dollar penalty in state funds, the governing board of Tucson’s largest school district officially ended the 13-year-old program on Tuesday in an attempt to come into compliance with the controversial state ban on the teaching of ethnic studies.

The list of removed books includes the 20-year-old textbook “Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years,” which features an essay by Tucson author Leslie Silko. Recipient of a Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas Lifetime Achievement Award and a MacArthur Foundation genius grant, Silko has been an outspoken supporter of the ethnic studies program.

“By ordering teachers to remove ‘Rethinking Columbus,’ the Tucson school district has shown tremendous disrespect for teachers and students,” said the book’s editor Bill Bigelow. “This is a book that has sold over 300,000 copies and is used in school districts from Anchorage to Atlanta, and from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine. It offers teaching strategies and readings that teachers can use to help students think about the perspectives that are too often silenced in the traditional curriculum.”

Another notable text removed from Tucson’s classrooms is Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest.” In a meeting this week, administrators informed Mexican-American studies teachers to stay away from any units where “race, ethnicity and oppression are central themes,” including the teaching of Shakespeare’s classic in Mexican-American literature courses.

Other banned books include “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by famed Brazilian educator Paolo Freire and “Occupied America: A History of Chicanos” by Rodolfo Acuña, two books often singled out by Arizona state superintendent of public instruction John Huppenthal, who campaigned in 2010 on the promise to “stop la raza.” Huppenthal, who once lectured state educators that he based his own school principles for children on corporate management schemes of the Fortune 500, compared Mexican-American studies to Hitler Jugend indoctrination last fall.

An independent audit of Tucson’s ethnic studies program commissioned by Huppenthal last summer actually praised “Occupied America: A History of Chicanos,” a 40-year-old textbook now in its seventh edition. According to the audit: “Occupied America: A History of Chicanos is an unbiased, factual textbook designed to accommodate the growing number of Mexican-American or Chicano History Courses. The auditing team refuted a number of allegations about the book, saying, ‘quotes have been taken out of context.’”

Freire’s work on pedagogy has been translated into numerous languages, and is taught at universities around the United States.

In a school district founded by a Mexican-American in which more than 60 percent of the students come from Mexican-American backgrounds, the administration also removed every textbook dealing with Mexican-American history, including “Chicano!: The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement” by Arturo Rosales, which features a biography of longtime Tucson educator Salomon Baldenegro. Other books removed from the school include “500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures,” by Elizabeth Martinez and the textbook “Critical Race Theory” by scholars Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic.

“The only other time a book of mine was banned was in 1986, when the apartheid government in South Africa banned ‘Strangers in Their Own Country,’ a curriculum I’d written that included a speech by then-imprisoned Nelson Mandela,” said Bigelow, who serves as curriculum editor of Rethinking Schools magazine, and co-directs the online Zinn Education Project. ”We know what the South African regime was afraid of. What is the Tucson school district afraid of?”

Jeff Biggers, the author most recently of “Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland,” is currently at work on a new book on Arizona politics and history. More Jeff Biggers

January 11, 2012

Support NAACP OneMilwaukee Initiative

Filed under: Jobs — millerlf @ 2:16 pm

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

By Larry Miller from OnMilwaukee.com blog 1/11/2012

What’s the real picture on joblessness in Milwaukee?

At a conference I attended this past weekend titled OneMilwaukee and sponsored by the NAACP, Mayor Tom Barrett estimated that there are 30,000 people out of work presently and up to 20,000 jobs lost in the city since 2007. He went on to describe the dilemma he faces as mayor. People in one community talk about the devastating lack of jobs. Then he’ll hear from employers in the city who say they cannot fill the openings they have.

OneMilwaukee conference-goers were reminded of data released recently in Milwaukee Today: An Occasional Report of the NAACP:

– More than half of all African American males in Milwaukee between the ages of 16 and 64 are unemployed.

– In 2009 there were more than 70,000 job seekers in Milwaukee for fewer than 10,000 job vacancies.

– Milwaukee employers are more likely to respond to a white job seeker with a criminal record that a black job seeker without record. (See: http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2008/08/09/study-black-man-and-white-felon-same-chances-for-hire/ )

– Milwaukee ranks last among 52 major cities in the forecasted role of minority entrepreneurs.

Business leaders like Tim Sullivan, president of the MMAC, claim, “…We don’t have a jobs crisis in Milwaukee, we have an education crisis.” But OneMilwaukee’s overview points to a more varied and urgent set of solutions.

The keynote speaker at the conference, Dr. Keenan Grinnell, Vice President and Dean of Diversity at Colgate University, affirmed that Milwaukee needs go far beyond some tweaking, advocating for economic development at the level of a Marshall plan. Dr. Grinnell outlined a number of steps with the goal of creating inclusive prosperity and eliminating the wealth gap in the city. He maintains that the business environment is not inclusive, and that there is a brain drain along with a lack of multi-ethnic approaches to solving the existing economic devastation. Among the solutions Dr. Grinnell called for was creation of entrepreneurial ecosystems connected to job creation, job and skill training in poor communities, and training all children at high levels.

This effort by the NAACP is refreshing and bold.

It seems high time for Milwaukee to come together, as OneMilwaukee, to create economic equality and justice for all communities.

What’s wrong with N.J. charter school policy

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 2:12 pm
By Washington Post Blog

This speech, given recently at a protest in Maplewood, N.J., against the state’s charter school policy, was delivered by Stan Karp, who taught English and journalism in Paterson for 30 years. He is now the director of the Secondary Reform Project for New Jersey’s Education Law Center and an editor of Rethinking Schools magazine.

As delivered by Stan Karp:

Thanks for standing up for public schools and thanks for inviting some of us from Montclair to stand with you. Montclair schools, which have often been cited as a national model of quality integrated public education, are facing a similar challenge.

An application to open the Quest Academy charter school in Montclair is now a finalist after being rejected four times. If approved, the charter school would draw over $2 million from the district budget. Quest promises to serve a small group of students with “small classes,” “individualized instruction,” and “cutting edge technology.” But, if approved, it will leave students at Montclair High School with larger classes, less individualized instruction, and less cutting edge technology. It will erode programs and staff at a high school that last year sent 93% of its students to post-secondary education including 91% of its African American students.

And that’s what’s wrong with New Jersey’s broken charter school policy.

Instead of providing better opportunities for all students, it’s providing subsidized spaces for a few at the expense of the many. Because it does not give a voice to local districts and voters in deciding where to open charters and how to integrate them equitably into the public system, it promotes polarization among parents and pockets of privilege instead of districtwide improvement.

In the past 10 years, the character of the charter school movement has changed dramatically from community-based, educator-initiated local efforts that create alternatives for a small number of students to nationally funded efforts by foundations, investors, and educational management companies to create a parallel, more privatized system. This is eroding the common ground that public education in a democracy needs to survive.

When I first moved to Montclair in the early 1980s, in large part because of the excellent public schools and the pre-K program, over 20% of the town’s school budget came from federal and state sources. There was desegregation aid, transportation aid, magnet school aid, and other support.

Today that’s all gone and instead the [state] Department of Education and the governor are promoting charters, vouchers, budget cuts, and other steps toward privatization that are hurting our kids and our schools. Montclair needs full funding of the state funding formula, including the expansion of pre-K that was promised when the formula was passed in 2008. Underfunding has cost Montclair over $10 million in the past three years; we can’t afford bleeding by charter schools on top of that.

I was a high school teacher for 30 years in Paterson so I know firsthand how much our schools need to improve and how difficult it is for them to compensate for the inequality that exists all around them. But the current push for deregulated charters and privatization is doing nothing to reduce the concentrations of 70%, 80%, and 90% poverty that remain the central problem in our urban schools.

And it’s doing nothing to address growing need and underfunding in our suburban ones. These policies are draining resources, staff, and energy for innovation away from other district schools, often while creaming better prepared students and more committed parents. This is especially a problem in big-city public systems that urgently need renewal and resources but are increasingly being left behind with the biggest challenges.

No one questions the desire of parents to find the best options they can for their children. And charter school teachers and parents are not our enemies. On the contrary, we should be allies in fighting some of the counterproductive testing and curriculum practices raining down on all of us from above. We should find more and better ways to integrate charters into common systems of accountability and support, and that has to mean giving local communities a bigger voice in where and how charters should be opened. Where practices like greater autonomy over curriculum or freedom from bureaucratic regulations are valid, they should be extended to all schools without sacrificing the oversight we need to preserve equity and accountability.

But at the level of state and federal education policy, charters are providing a reform cover for dismantling the [traditional] public school system and [have become] an investment opportunity for those who see education as a business rather than a fundamental institution of democratic civic life.

It’s time for a moratorium on opening all new charters in New Jersey until, as Assemblywoman Mila Jasey has called for, we have an independent assessment of their performance and their impact, and until we have a more democratic process that includes local approval and participation in setting charter school policy.

Now is exactly the right time for us to be joining together to strengthen, not weaken, the public and democratic character of our education system.

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