Educate All Students: Larry Miller's Blog

November 5, 2014

Anti-Mass Incarceration Measure Passes in California

Filed under: New Jim Crow — millerlf @ 11:08 am

California Voters Deal Blow To Prisons, Drug War

Matt Sledge Huffington Post: 11/05/2014

California approved a major shift against mass incarceration on Tuesday in a vote that could lead to the release of thousands of state prisoners.

Nonviolent felonies like shoplifting and drug possession will be downgraded to misdemeanors under the ballot measure, Proposition 47. As many as 10,000 people could be eligible for early release from state prisons, and it’s expected that courts will annually dispense around 40,000 fewer felony convictions.

The state Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates that the new measure will save hundreds of millions of dollars on prisons. That money is to be redirected to education, mental health and addiction services — a novel approach that reformers hope will serve as a model in the larger push against mass incarceration.

The approval of the ballot measure could also help California grapple with massive overcrowding in its state prisons, which are still struggling to release enough inmates to comply with a 2011 U.S. Supreme Court order.

Although California once led the nation in tough-on-crime policies, like the state’s infamous three-strikes felony law, Proposition 47 has led in every poll conducted since it was certified in June. The measure’s supporters have been an eclectic bunch, from conservatives like Newt Gingrich and business tycoon B. Wayne Hughes Jr. to liberal performers like John Legend and Jay-Z.

The most vocal opponents of Proposition 47 were law enforcement officials who warned that the measure could make it harder to prosecute felony gun theft or possession of date-rape drugs.

At the same time, a few scattered law-and-order voices, like San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, did come out in favor of the proposition, dismissing those concerns.

Reformers also vastly outspent law enforcement officials and their allies. The main coalition in favor of Proposition 47 raised $7 million as of mid-October, buoyed by contributions from the likes of Hughes, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and a foundation backed by the financier George Soros.

Californians Against Proposition 47, meanwhile, garnered less than $500,000 in the same time period. The state prison guard union — often a formidable force in debates over mass incarceration — sat the ballot measure debate out.
“The country seems to have come to a different place […] I think, most fundamentally, because crime is down,” Keith Humphreys, a drug addiction expert who supported the measure, told The Huffington Post in October. “When people are not feeling terrified, they’re more willing to back off on the tough-on-crime stuff.”

More:
California Proposition 47 California Prop 47 Proposition 47 Prop 47 Prisons California Prison Overcrowding California Drug War Drug War Elections 2014 2014 Election Midterm Elections 2014 Midterm Elections Video

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.

 

April 30, 2014

Wisconsin leads U.S. in black male incarceration

Filed under: American Injustice,New Jim Crow — millerlf @ 9:20 am

America lives with the deep shame of slavery and Jim Crow apartheid. There should also be deep shame with the realization of what black men in America face today. This is a “new Jim Crow.”

A detailed analysis of state corrections records by the UWM Employment and Training Institute shows incarceration rates at epidemic levels for African American males in Milwaukee County. Over half of black men in their 30s in the county have been incarcerated in state prisons (1990-2012). Statewide, 49% of black men in their 30s have already served time in state prison.

Wisconsin’s prison population has more than tripled since 1990, fueled by increased government funding for drug enforcement (rather than treatment), investments in prison construction, three-strikes rules, mandatory minimum sentence laws, truth-in-sentencing replacing judicial discretion in setting punishments, concentrated policing in minority communities, and state incarceration for minor probation and supervision violations. Particularly impacted were African American males with 40% of black male prisoners showing drug offenses.
Given the high levels of racial and economic segregation in Milwaukee County, two-thirds of the county’s incarcerated black men came from 6 zip codes in the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee.
A third of the 26,222 men incarcerated had only non-violent offenses.
Another 27,874 men (non-offenders) have driver’s license violations, mostly for failure to pay fines and civil forfeitures, preventing them from legally driving.

View the UWM Employment and Training Institute analysis at:

Wisconsin leads in Incarceration2014

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