Educate All Students, Support Public Education

August 24, 2017

Join Rev. William Barber August 28 in Milwaukee

Filed under: Civil Rights Movement Today — millerlf @ 12:11 pm

Milwaukee, WI Mass Meeting

When: Monday, August 28, 7:00pm – 9:00pm (CDT)

Where: St Gabriels Church of God, 5363 N 37th St, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53209, USA

Join co-chairs Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis for a Mass Meeting for the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival on Monday, August 28 at 7:00 pm at St. Gabriels Church of God in Christ in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to learn about the inspiration, vision and strategy of the PPC. The Campaign will build a broad and deep national moral fusion movement — rooted in the leadership of the poor and dispossessed as moral agents and reflecting the great moral teachings — to unite our country from the bottom up.

January 8, 2015

Ten Things You Should Know About Selma Before You See the Film

Filed under: Civil Rights Movement Today,General — millerlf @ 10:57 am

By Emilye Crosby January 3, 2015
Zinn Education Project

In this 50th anniversary year of the Selma-to-Montgomery March and the Voting Rights Act it helped inspire, national media will focus on the iconic images of “Bloody Sunday,” the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the interracial marchers, and President Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act. This version of history, emphasizing a top-down narrative and isolated events, reinforces the master narrative that civil rights activists describe as “Rosa sat down, Martin stood up, and the white folks came south to save the day.”

But there is a “people’s history” of Selma that we all can learn from—one that is needed especially now. The exclusion of Blacks and other people of color from voting is still a live issue. Sheriff’s deputies may no longer be beating people to keep them from registering to vote, but in 2013 the Supreme Court ruled in Shelby v. Holder that the Justice Department may no longer evaluate laws passed in the former Confederacy for racial bias. And as a new movement emerges, insisting that Black Lives Matter, young people can draw inspiration and wisdom from the courage, imagination, and accomplishments of activists who went before.

Here are 10 points to keep in mind about Selma’s civil rights history.

Go to

May 17, 2014

Are we abandoning public education 60 years after historic Brown ruling?

Filed under: Civil Rights Movement Today,New Jim Crow,Vouchers — millerlf @ 4:02 pm

From Valerie Strauss’s Blog at Washington Post Updated: May 16

By Barbara Miner
In Milwaukee, one of the country’s most segregated metropolitan regions, the May 17 anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education will be particularly bitter. Like other urban areas, this city has long ignored Brown’s proclamation 60 years ago that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” We live comfortably with rampant school segregation. But Milwaukee, where more students receive vouchers than in any U.S. city, has taken the abandonment of Brown to a new level. We are abandoning the very institution of public education.
I am often involved in national discussions on education reform. When I tell people I’m from Milwaukee, I frequently notice a vague look in their eye as they try to remember something about Milwaukee beyond beer, bratwurst and reruns of “Happy Days.” If they follow policy debates they might say, “Don’t you have that school choice movement?” And I cringe, because I refuse to use the term “school choice.”
As a woman, I understand the power and importance of choice. In education, used appropriately, choice can help ensure that public schools are sensitive to the varying needs of students, families and communities. But that is not how the term “school choice” is used today.
In the 1960s, the term “state’s rights” became code for opposing Brown and federal civil rights legislation. Today, “school choice” has to many people become code for initiatives that funnel public dollars into private voucher schools or privately run charters. It is code for reforms based on individual decisions by consumers and entrepreneurs rather than the collective, democratic decisions of a community.
In Milwaukee, it is code that rationalizes three separate and unequal systems, all funded by taxpayers: private voucher schools, public schools and charter schools, which operate in a grey market between public and private.
Interestingly, the first use of vouchers post-Brown was by whites hoping to escape desegregation. For five years, until federal courts intervened, officials closed the public schools in Prince Edward County, Virginia, rather than comply with orders to desegregate. White parents took advantage of vouchers to attend a private, whites-only academy.
In 1990, with proponents arguing for more “choices” for African-American students, Milwaukee became home to a voucher program under which public tax dollars pay the tuition at private schools. Today, some 25,000 students in Milwaukee receive such vouchers, most of them to attend religious schools.
But here’s the catch. Even if every single student attending a given school is paying tuition with a publicly funded voucher, the school is still defined as private. Voucher schools are thus able to circumvent any number of democratic safeguards, from adhering to open meetings and records requirements, to providing needed levels of special education services, to respecting constitutional rights of due process and freedom of speech.
Today, Milwaukee arguably has more educational choices than any other major city. In addition to vouchers we have “open enrollment” across districts. We have district charters, schools chartered by the city, schools chartered by the local university. We have union and non-union charters, community-based charters, virtual charters, and national “McFranchise” charter chains.
When it comes to curricular choices, we have Montessori schools, art specialty schools, Waldorf schools, language immersion schools, schools that focus on science, schools that teach creationism. We seem to have it all.
What we don’t have is progress in fulfilling the constitutional guarantee of equal educational opportunity. In recent results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress— sometimes dubbed the nation’s report card—the achievement gap between black and white students in Wisconsin was the widest among states in the nation in every test category. (Roughly three-quarters of the state’s African Americans live in Milwaukee.)
Equally disturbing, a new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation cites Wisconsin as the worst state in the country in protecting equal opportunity for African-American children. The study is based on 12 key indicators, from birth weight, to children living in poverty, to educational achievement.
Which brings me back to Brown.
In laying the groundwork for its unanimous decision against segregated public schools, the Court noted that “education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments.” The justices went on to recognize “the importance of education to our democratic society,” calling education “the very foundation of good citizenship.”
Milwaukee, perhaps more than any other city, forces the question: If education is such an essential governmental function, why are we abandoning our public schools?
In Wisconsin, there is deep concern about our democratic structures, in particular attacks on the right to vote. In 2011, the Republican-dominated state legislature passed one of the strictest Voter ID bills in the country, with the issue still before state and federal courts. This spring, the legislature drastically curtailed early voting.
But undermining the right to vote is not the only way to weaken our democracy. Another way? Remove entire institutions, such as public education, from meaningful public oversight.
On this 60th anniversary of Brown, it’s essential to go beyond well-deserved concern about the separate and unequal realities shaping our public schools. We must also reaffirm our commitment to public schools as an essential democratic institution—of the people, by the people, and for the people.


November 26, 2013

North Carolina NAACP President Defends Public Education And Calls On All Of Us To Stand And Fight For Justice

Filed under: Civil Rights Movement Today,Public Education — millerlf @ 2:22 pm

In North Carolina, Republicans took the General Assembly in 2010 and the governorship in 2012. The takeover received unprecedented support from one right-wing multimillionaire, Art Pope — who, according to progressive publication, The American Prospect, singlehandedly provided about 80 percent of the funding for the state’s conservative groups.

Upon taking control, the Republicans began systematically dismantling the social infrastructure of the state. They slashed taxes on the top 5 percent and raised them on the bottom 95 percent. They eliminated the earned-income tax credit for 900,000 low-wage workers. They cut Medicaid coverage for 500,000. They ended unemployment benefits for 170,000. They threw about 30,000 kids out of pre-K, while transferring $90 million from public schools to vouchers. They voted to allow guns purchased without a background check to be carried in parks, restaurant and bars.

As the Rev. William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP, put it: “They’ve drank all the Tea Party they could drink and sniffed all the Koch that they could sniff.”

In one “omnibus bill,” the legislature would create restrictive voter ID procedures that will disqualify estimated 318,000-registered voters. They cut a week out of early voting time, ended same day registration, eliminates state-supported voter registration drives and ended pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds. They require more frequent purges of voter rolls, and prohibit extending poll hours on Election Day, even if there are long lines still waiting to vote. They even eliminated Citizen Awareness Month that encouraged citizens to register and vote. North Carolina had featured some of the most enlightened election laws and ranked in the top 15 states of voter turnout nationally.

Listen to an amazing speech by Rev. William Barber II on the call to action. His address is at the American Federation of Teachers Reclaiming the Promise Conference:

September 16, 2013

Educational apartheid a disgrace

Filed under: Civil Rights Movement Today — millerlf @ 12:25 pm

Continued budget cuts, growth in voucher schools demonstrate separate is not equal

On Sept. 21, concerned Milwaukeeans will gather for the Public Education is a Civil Right March and Rally. Participants will assemble at Milwaukee High School of the Arts and then march to Forest Home Avenue School for a rally.

It’s been nearly 60 years since the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown vs. Board of Education ruling. That decision declared “separate but equal” was not a valid construct when it came to public education. In that case, the separation was between racial groups.

Apartheid, the government-enforced system of racial segregation in South Africa, endured for almost 50 years until the election of the African National Congress led by Nelson Mandela.

So, why is it that in 2013, we in Milwaukee can’t grasp the fact that many of our city’s students, often the most needy ones, do not have the same access to a free, quality education as their peers in the suburbs? In other words, separation by socioeconomic status.

President John F. Kennedy spoke to the vital importance of truly public education.

“Modern cynics and skeptics …see no harm in paying those to whom they entrust the minds of their children a smaller wage than is paid to those to whom they entrust the care of their plumbing.”

Kennedy unknowingly presaged the current budget battles when he added: “Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource.”

Milwaukee is a city where public schools once were nearly as much a given as the right to exist or even to breathe. The native language of many of Milwaukee’s first residents contributed the idyllic word “kindergarten,” meaning “children’s garden,” to our vocabulary.

Those same early Milwaukeeans from Germany constructed some classically designed, incredibly structurally sound school buildings. That literal infrastructure, as a symbol of the esteem with which public schools were held, complemented the integral role public education played in our city’s societal infrastructure.

It is shameful that, given our history, we have to stage attention-getting rallies to make citizens aware of how budget-slashing for schools has made the “public” part of public education nearly a misnomer.

In fiscal year 2012, just 2% of the federal budget was spent on education. In that same time frame, defense and security-related international activities accounted for nearly 20% of total federal spending, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

On the state level, recent reports from teachers unions and some school districts indicate an increased number of teacher firings since Act 10 became law. And Gov. Scott Walker’s subsequent budget provision capping the amount school districts could raise put more strain on their already stretched-to-the-max funding.

If that wasn’t enough to have citizens questioning where public education was headed, expansion of voucher schools to additional counties has meant even greater challenges for school districts trying to provide quality education for all of their students, including those for whom private education simply isn’t an option.

The Public Education is a Civil Right event has a number of focal points for participants to consider as they join in the effort: full funding of public schools to provide a world-class education for every student in Wisconsin; holding all schools that receive public tax dollars, including voucher schools, accountable to the law, taxpayers, parents and children; and, in general, stopping the move to for-profit schools and the privatization of public education.

Sponsors of the event include Parents for Public Schools of Milwaukee, the Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools, Voces de la Frontera, Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope and the Institute for Wisconsin’s Future. Go to www.wisconsinsfuture.orgfor more information.

Peggy Schulz is a freelance writer and third-generation Milwaukee resident. Email

April 18, 2012

Report on New York City School District: “A Rotting Apple: Education Redlining in New York City”

Filed under: Civil Rights Movement Today,Education Policy — millerlf @ 8:29 am

Schott Foundation report April 2012

The New York City public school system is the largest in the country, with responsibility for educat­ing more than 1 million children.

The ability of the New York City public schools to meet that responsibility holds national signifi­cance. The high national profile of the city’s education reforms in recent years, and the much-echoed calls for replication in other cities, offer strong evidence of this.

Unfortunately, the city’s public school system is failing to meet its responsibilities for most of its stu­dents — particularly for Black and Latino students, and for students from low-income families. While New York will claim increases in graduation rates, yet less than 18 percent of black and brown students are proficient in reading on the National Assessment test and over two-thirds of those who graduate must pay thousands of dollars in higher education classes because they are need of remediation.

America’s urban hubs must ensure that all students have a fair and substantive opportunity to learn and achieve at high levels. In New York, few Black, Latino and impoverished students have that op­portunity.

The lack of opportunity that is at the root of this failure is tragic for hundreds of thousands of New York students and is a major contributor to the persistent failures of other school systems across the state and nation.

A Rotting Apple: Education Redlining in New York City is one of a series of Opportunity to Learn reports from the Schott Foundation. This report compiles and analyzes data for New York City and highlights existing intra-district inequities. It is useful to parents, youth, teachers, researchers, political leaders, media and other advocates interested in educational opportunity — specifically in New York City’s schools.

To view the executive summary go to:

NY Schools Redlining Report-exec-summary April 2012

February 1, 2012

Why is Booker T. Washington’s Philosophy Being Resurrected?

Filed under: Civil Rights Movement Today,Heartland Institute,Racism — millerlf @ 10:01 am

Larry Miller

Booker T. Washington: The Debate Continues

I recently heard a lecture in Milwaukee in which the speaker stated “Booker T. Washington was right.” While suggesting valuable proposals for economic development for Milwaukee’s devastated communities, the speaker went on to say he had been a disciple of Cornell West and W.E.B. Du Bois, but converted.

The comment about Booker T. Washington caused concern. So I went back to look at the philosophy and work of Booker T. Washington and the controversies that surrounded him.

Following is some historical analysis and some of my thoughts concerning the work of Booker T. Washington and its meaning today.

Washington entered Hampton Institute in 1872 at the age of 16. In 1881 he took charge of a small school in Tuskegee Alabama and began to put his theories into practice. The school became the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute. He concentrated first on teaching farming and handicrafts like bricklaying, carpentry and blacksmithing. He played down the importance of history, mathematics and science and emphasized practical skills and the virtues of hard work, patience and perseverance. Later in his career he began to emphasize the importance of entrepreneurship.

Washington organized the National Negro Business League in 1900 and became its first president. W.E.B. Du Bois was also active in the League’s formation. A major component of Washington’s philosophy was the complete playing down of political action. The general idea was that the black community should make no serious demands upon existing political injustices. He thought the black community could get more from the ruling landowners and industrialists by catering to them as opposed to fighting them. Consequently he discouraged all political activity and made no sustained fight against the evils of Jim Crow segregation, disenfranchisement and lynching. In his speeches he only occasionally mentioned these outrages.

Washington had a philosophy that in all things social African Americans “can be a separate as the fingers yet one as the hand with things essential to mutual progress.” He accepted the poll tax and literacy test requirements for voting, insisting only that these measures be applied fairly to both whites and blacks. Washington opposed African-American migration to the North.

The one place he consistently condemned Jim Crow practices was in labor unions while at the same time was a staunch enemy of trade unionism calling it a form of slavery which prevents a man from selling his labor as he pleases.

On September 18, 1895 Washington gave a famous speech at the Atlanta Cotton Exposition where he called upon black people to “…cast down your buckets where you are.” He drew this symbol from the story of a water famished ship crew off the shore of South America who when casting their buckets into the sea came up with fresh water from the Amazon River where they had thought there was only salt water. Consequently black people should make the best of the situation confronting them and by implication not seek relief through migration or political demands. He called upon the rulers of the South to also cast down their buckets into the rich labor source offered by the black masses instead of wasting their effort to attract white immigrants from Europe. In return Washington pledged black people would prove to be loyal workers.

W.E.B. Bois later characterized Washington speech as the “Atlanta Compromise.” He described the speech calling on African Americans to “…survive through submission,” asking black people to give up “…political power, insistence on civil rights and higher education.”

Washington was offering the southern white landowners and industrialists of the North and South an obedient people as a work force for maximum exploitation and cheap labor . Without unions, without political organization and without allies they would be helpless in the grips of an exploitive system.

All of this was done at a time in history when Jim Crow laws were being written into the laws of the South, lynching was at its high point and the black community was under constant attack.

Washington’s Atlanta speech was hailed by industrialist spokesmen in the North and the South as the way of the future. Washington’s popularity among the white upper classes, following his Atlanta speech, was remarkable. He was received and lionized everywhere in wealthy circles. He became the personal friend and close associate of many multimillionaires including such figures as H.K. Rogers of Standard Oil, William H. Baldwin Jr., VP of Southern Railway, Collis P. Huntington, builder of Newport News and railway magnet. He was the guest of Andrew Carnegie at his castle. He dined at the White House with Theodore Roosevelt and became the arbiter of all federal appointments relating to African Americans. Donations poured into Tuskegee from wealthy sources. Carnegie gave $600,000.

Washington received honorary degrees from Harvard in 1896 and Dartmouth in 1901. He went abroad being made much of by Queen Victoria of England and a long list of royalty.

The historian Saunders Redding characterizes Booker T. Washington’s role as “…white America had raised this man up because he espoused a policy which was intended to keep black people docile and dumb in regard to civil, social and political rights and privileges.”

Washington’s program of creating a body of trained and obedient workers dovetailed fully with the interest of the big landowners and industrial exploiters of the time who were also segregationists. The wealthiest and most powerful white Americans picked Booker T. Washington as the leader of black people.

From the time of Booker T. Washington’s Atlanta speech in 1895 there was a sharp rising opposition to his program. This was a time of growing struggle against the burning plagues of lynching, white riots, disenfranchisement, and Jim Crow laws.

Organizations like the National Association of Colored Men, the American Negro Academy, the National Association of Colored Women and the African-American Council, organized in 1899, demanded an end to lynching and the enforcement of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments. The anti-Booker T. Washington movement became concrete with the formation of the Boston Guardian, an African-American journal founded in 1901 and edited by Monroe Trotter and George Forbes. Soon after its founding the journal was endorsed by W.E.B. Du Bois and many other leaders from around the country.

Du Bois – along with Trotter, Baker and George Forbes –led the formation of the Niagara Movement in Buffalo New York in 1905. It militantly demanded the right to vote, full education, court justice, service on juries, equal treatment in the Armed Forces, health facilities, abolition of Jim Crow and the enforcement of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments. They protested against the un-Christian attitude of the churches towards African Americans and condemned the policies of the employers and trade unions excluding black people from industries and unions. The Niagara Movement selected Du Bois as its general secretary. The Niagara Movement laid the groundwork for the formation of the NAACP in 1909.

This formation marked a turning point in the history of civil rights. It stood firmly against the stifling conciliation of Booker T. Washington and was the beginning of a more militant approach. The historian Harry Haywood said “The banner of revolt was unfurled, and the modern black liberation movement was born.”

Booker T. Washington died in November of 1915 at the age of 60. Saunders Redding sums up Washington’s role saying: “after all, Washington was the white South’s man. The white South had made him, raised him up as a savior of its conscience, and when he died the South wept…”Du Bois wrote, “we must lay on the soul of this man a heavy responsibility for the consummation of black disenfranchisement, the decline of the black college, public school and the firmer establishment of color caste in this land.”


I recently read Booker T. Washington: a Re-Examination compiled by Lee H. Walker, which is the result of a symposium held at Northwestern University in 2006 celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Booker T. Washington. The theme of this conference was to re-embrace the agenda of Booker T. Washington, described as “quality education, self-reliance, character, and entrepreneurship.” The conference called for a new agenda to advance to the black community.

While Washington called forthrift and patience,” his “quality education” was a call for industrial education. The civil rights movement at the time consistently criticized Washington for depreciating the importance of college education. In reality Washington called for African-Americans in the South to get a skill for themselves and not seek equality on every level.

Booker T. Washington: a Re-Examination is published by the Heartland Institute.

Who is the Heartland Institute?

As an elected school member in Milwaukee, each month, I receive a stack of polished newspapers from a Chicago-based right-wing “think tank” called the Heartland Institute. They further the right-wing agenda at all government levels.

Under the banner of “free market” solutions to education, healthcare, taxes, the environment, telecommunication regulation and budgetary issues the Heartland Institute is a highly funded propaganda publishing house advancing the arguments of the most right-wing elements of corporate America. They are supporters of the Tea Party movement and see themselves as a “…clearinghouse for the work of 350 other think tanks and advocacy groups.” The Koch brothers help fund the Heartland Institute.

Heartland publishes 5 slick monthly newspapers supporting any demand that increases corporate profits and weakens the peoples’ movements and democratic rights. In education, vouchers are at the center of their reform demands. Their healthcare goal is to cut and privatize Medicare and Medicaid. They cheer the movement to limit voting rights. They persist that global warming is a farce.

Why does the right wing support and fund a rebirth of the legacy of Booker T. Washington?

Thrift, patience, and self-reliance are all admirable traits for individuals and communities. Du Bois and other leaders of the time never denied the need for individual discipline, independent entrepreneurial pursuit or land acquisition. But they went far beyond, demanding full equality and democratic rights.

Those resurrecting Washington describe his work outside of its historical context and his role as an appeaser to racism, segregation and exploitation.

Appeasement to racism, segregation and exploitation today is as destructive as it was in Washington’s time.

October 7, 2011

96-Year-Old Black Woman Denied Right to Vote in Tennessee

Thursday, October 6 2011, 2:06 PM EST Tags: 2012 campaign, Voter ID, Voting

96 Year Old Black Woman Denied Vote in Tennessee

Dorothy Cooper is a 96-year-old black woman who lives in Chattanooga,Tennessee. She was recently denied a voter identification card because she didn’t have her marriage certificate available — the same card that’s required by the state to vote. This coming election may be the first one she misses in 50 years.

In February, all 20 Republicans and one Democrat in the state senate passed a measure requiring Tennessee voters show a driver’s licenses or other government-issued photo identification before casting a ballot. Democrats countered that the bill’s provisions would make it tougher to many of the 500,000 adult Tennesseans — many of them poor, elderly or handicapped — who have no state driver’s license.

And this is exactly what’s happening to Cooper, Times Free Press reports:

Cooper slipped a rent receipt, a copy of her lease, her voter registration card and her birth certificate into a Manila envelope. Typewritten on the birth certificate was her maiden name, Dorothy Alexander.

“But I didn’t have my marriage certificate,” Cooper said Tuesday afternoon, and that was the reason the clerk said she was denied a free voter ID at the Cherokee Boulevard Driver Service Center.

“I don’t know what difference it makes,” Cooper said.

“In this case, since Ms. Cooper’s birth certificate (her primary proof of identity) and voter registration card were two different names, the examiner was unable to provide the free ID,” Tennessee Department of Safety spokeswoman Dalya Qualls told the Free Press. She went on to add the examiner should have provided additional forms to Cooper.

State Rep. Tommie Brown, D-Chattanooga, says Cooper’s case is an example of how the law “‘erects barriers’ for the elderly and poor people — a disproportionate number of whom are minorities,” she told the Times Free Press.

Tennessee is just one of an array of state governments across the country that have enacted new laws that make it harder for voters of traditionally Democratic demographics to register to vote. A report released earlier this week found these new laws could make it significantly harder for more than five million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.

The states that have already cut back on voting rights will provide 171 electoral votes in 2012 . That’s 63 percent of the 270 needed to win the presidency.

Dorothy Cooper is 96 but she can remember only one election when she’s been eligible to vote but hasn’t.

The retired domestic worker was born in a small North Georgia town before women had the right to vote. She began casting ballots in her 20s after moving to Chattanooga for work. She missed voting for John F. Kennedy in 1960 because a move to Nashville prevented her from registering in time.

So when she learned last month at a community meeting that under a new state law she’d need a photo ID to vote next year, she talked with a volunteer about how to get to a state Driver Service Center to get her free ID. But when she got there Monday with an envelope full of documents, a clerk denied her request.

That morning, Cooper slipped a rent receipt, a copy of her lease, her voter registration card and her birth certificate into a Manila envelope. Typewritten on the birth certificate was her maiden name, Dorothy Alexander.

“But I didn’t have my marriage certificate,” Cooper said Tuesday afternoon, and that was the reason the clerk said she was denied a free voter ID at the Cherokee Boulevard Driver Service Center.

“I don’t know what difference it makes,” Cooper said.

Cooper visited the state driver service center with Charline Kilpatrick, who has been working with residents to get free photo IDs. After the clerk denied Cooper’s request, Kilpatrick called a state worker, explained what happened and asked if Cooper needed to return with a copy of the marriage certificate.

“The lady laughed,” Kilpatrick said. “She said she’s never heard of all that.”

Tennessee Department of Safety spokeswoman Dalya Qualls said in a Tuesday email that Cooper’s situation, though unique, could have been handled differently.

“It is department policy that in order to get a photo ID, a citizen must provide documentation that links their name to the documentation that links their name to the document they are using as primary proof of identity,” Qualls said. “In this case, since Ms. Cooper’s birth certificate (her primary proof of identity) and voter registration card were two different names, the examiner was unable to provide the free ID.”

Despite that, Qualls said, “the examiner should have taken extra steps to determine alternative forms of documentation for Ms. Cooper.”Kilpatrick has had to call the state at least twice after taking someone to get a photo ID or have a photo added to the driver’s license. State law allows anyone 60 or older to have their picture removed from their license.

The state has been working diligently to make the process easy for residents, Qualls said.


State Rep. Tommie Brown, D-Chattanooga, said Tuesday that Cooper’s case is an example of how the law “erects barriers” for the elderly and poor people — a disproportionate number of whom are minorities.”What you do, you suppress the vote,” Brown said. “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out.”

The General Assembly passed the photo ID law earlier this year, with lawmakers saying it was needed to prevent voter fraud. The legislature allocated $438,000 to provide free photo IDs for registered voters who don’t have a qualified ID.

“It makes no sense in these economic times that we are shifting our time and resources to this,” Brown said.

In Nashville on Tuesday afternoon, a coalition of organizations announced an effort to repeal the law. Groups such as the ACLU of Tennessee, various chapters of the NAACP, the AFL-CIO and Tennessee Citizen Action announced a petition drive and get-out-the-vote effort.

“This is a nonpartisan issue. It’s a fair voting issue,” said Mary Mancini, executive director of Citizen Action, in a phone interview. “It’s all about the legislators seeing that the people of Tennessee don’t want this law.”


Cooper isn’t worried about the politics of the law.

“I hadn’t thought about it,” she said when asked about why legislators passed the bill.

She just wants to be able to vote.

In her decades of going to the polls, “I never had any problems,” she said, not even before the Voting Rights Act passed in the 1960s.

In her 50-plus years working for the same family, she never learned to drive so she never needed a license. She retired in 1993 and returned to Chattanooga from Nashville.Now, on occasion, one of her bank’s tellers or a grocery store clerk will ask for photo ID when she writes or cashes a check, Cooper said.

“I’ve been banking at SunTrust for a long time,” she said. “Sometimes they’ll say, well, do you have a Social Security card?”

And she shows it to them. She also has a photo ID issued by the Chattanooga Police Department to all seniors who live in the Boynton Terrace public housing complex, but that won’t qualify for voting.

Cooper’s younger sister, now 91, lives in a nursing home across town. Nursing home residents and assisted living residents are exempt from the new photo ID requirement.But Cooper, who barely needs a walker, is not.

Though she’s still able to walk around her apartment without assistance and “takes daily exercise” at a community center next door, Cooper never had any children — although she has outlived two husbands — and relies on others for transportation.

The law “is a problem if you don’t have a way of getting around,” she said. “I’ve been voting all these years.”

After Cooper was denied a photo ID Monday, Kilpatrick contacted Hamilton County’s Administrator of Elections Charlotte Mullis-Morgan, who recommended that Cooper vote with an absentee ballot rather than having to stand in line with her walker again at the state center.

Absentee ballots don’t require photo ID, and the new state law was crafted to allow that exception. A U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding a similar Indiana statute cited the absentee ballot exception as one of the reasons the Indiana law didn’t infringe on constitutional voting rights.

Still, Cooper said she will miss the practice of going to the voting precinct located in the building next door to hers.

“We always come here to vote,” she said, nodding toward a door where voting machines are set up on election day. “The people who run the polls know everybody here.”

October 6, 2011

MPS Public Hearing Tuesday October 11th on Voting Rights and the New Voter ID Requirement

A proposal to do voter education among MPS students, their families and communities is coming before the ISR committee at 5:30 on October 11th. Please come to testify and support opposition to the attempt by Scott Walker and the Republicans to disenfranchise our communities. following is the resolution that President Bonds and I have put forward for Tuesday night’s meeting:

WHEREAS, The Milwaukee Board of School Directors declares in its mission statement that it has the responsibility to educate “all students” for “responsible citizenship”; and

WHEREAS, The Wisconsin Department of Instruction charges schools within its purview with “helping children develop to their full potential as citizens… developing citizenship means becoming a productive, responsible, caring and contributing member of society…..”; and

WHEREAS, Voting is a right of all eligible voters in any country and the foremost way to exhibit good citizenship and civil responsibility; and

WHEREAS, Governor Scott Walker signed into law a new Voter Identification Bill on May 25, 2011 that requires voters to present a driver’s license, state ID, passport, military ID, naturalization papers or tribal ID in order to vote; and

WHEREAS, Although the main provisions of the Voter Identification Law will take effect starting with the 2012 elections, some changes, such as requiring voters to sign poll books and to have lived at their current address for 28 days instead of just 10, take effect immediately; and

WHEREAS, Elections play a vital role in a system of representative democracy. Young people who are involved in the electoral process affirm their support as well as acquire a stake in the system; and

WHEREAS, Voting is the only form of participation in which each citizen has an equal say (one person, one vote); and

WHEREAS, Young people may have political interests that differ from those of older voters. If young people don’t vote, they and their distinct interests are more likely to be ignored or neglected by policy-makers;  now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the Administration is directed to increase the participation of eligible students, parents, and guardians of students in elections throughout our district by encouraging voter registration, education, and awareness; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the Administration is directed to create and implement, beginning with the 2011-2012 school year, a voter registration program for both students and parents or  guardians alike; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That all MPS high schools be required to incorporate into the curriculum, lessons pertaining to voter education and the voter registration process; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That all Milwaukee Public School students, during their 12th grade curriculum, receive instruction on the voter registration process.

FURTHER RESOLVED, That all Milwaukee Public School students, who reach the age of voter eligibility during their tenure as an MPS student be offered the opportunity to formally registered to vote as a part of the civics education program of study.

FURTHER RESOLVED, That all Milwaukee Public School facilities, including but not limited to schools and administrative offices have on site, pamphlets describing and materials for completing the voter registration process.

FURTHER RESOLVED, That all public meetings, and school open houses have voter registration materials displayed and made available for public consumption, including both information specific to the Wisconsin Voter Identification Law along with the corresponding forms necessary to complete the voter registration application.

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the Administration shall report back to the Board annually at the June Board cycle on the outcomes of the voter registration program.

September 25, 2011

United Church of Christ: Education as Civil and Human Right

Filed under: Civil Rights Movement Today — millerlf @ 8:56 pm

The United Church of Christ (UCC) has taken the stand that the conventional wisdom on school reform is wrong and the church needs to care about it. In a recent message, the UCC said “all children have the right to an opportunity to learn, not as a matter of competition or where they live, but as a civil and human right. We must guarantee all students access to high-quality early education, highly effective teachers, college-preparatory curriculum, and equitable instructional materials and polices.”

The full message can be found at

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