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    COMMENTARY: Teachers need more community, parental support

    The latest data from the Center for American Progress shows that the average salary for an attorney is more than two times that of elementary and middle school educators. The Washington Post reported last week that nearly 1 in 10 hosts who rent out their apartments, homes and spaces on Airbnb are teachers. Low salaries, compared with other college graduates, may inhibit highly-effective professionals from pursuing a career in education; specifically for people of color who currently make up just seven percent of public school teachers.

    I come from a family of educators. My mother, both of my grandmothers, and one of my sisters were teachers. However, the family tradition of educating children ended after me. None of my daughters, nieces, or nephews decided to pursue a career in education. Data comprised from surveys completed during the NNPA’s National Black Parents’ Town Hall Meeting echoed this sentiment. When asked what they believed is needed to close the academic achievement gap, respondents selected community participation and funding over the acquisition of highly-effective teachers.

    Many reasons have led to frustrations with teaching in the United States. Work-to-pay ratio, a lack of resources, and an increased focus on standardized testing has made it increasingly difficult for teachers to be highly-effective.

    This year, teacher strikes broke out in several states concerning school funding and teacher pay. Teachers in Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and West Virginia left the classroom for the state house to protest the lack of resources in the profession. NPR reported in April that teachers have begun to seek support outside of the educational bureaucracy; forming “supply shops” where teachers can swap educational materials for free or at a dramatically reduced cost.

    A first-year teacher who attended the National Black Parents’ Town Hall Meeting in Norfolk, VA, said that she stepped into the role of teaching, initially excited, but found by the end of the year she was extremely drained physically and emotionally. “I stepped into the role, mid-year, with no lesson plan. What can be done to keep teachers teaching and encourage new teachers coming into the program? I really want to teach, but there is very little support.”

    Highly-effective teachers require competitive pay, professional support, and access to innovative resources. President Barack Obama signed the current national education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in December 2015 with educators in mind. Title II of ESSA provides program grants to states and districts that can be used for teacher preparation, recruitment, support, and continued learning. ESSA also ends the requirement of states to set up teacher evaluation systems based significantly on students’ test scores which should reduce the pressure teachers feel to teach to the test. The Teacher and School Leader Innovation Program provides grants to districts that want to try out performance pay and other teacher quality improvement measures. ESSA became effective this 2018-2019 school year.

    With data compiled from 26 school districts, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) found that on average there were small differences in the effectiveness of teachers of high- and low-income students, hiring patterns and teacher transfer patterns were consistent, with only minor differences, between high- and low-income students, and that in 3 of the 26 chosen districts there was meaningful inequity in access to effective teachers in math. Data showed that access to highly-effective teachers was relatively equal across the board. Yet, inequities in educational outcomes between low-income students and students from wealthier families persist throughout the United States.

    As a new teacher, the constant challenge for me was parental engagement. A working parent’s schedule often left little time during school hours to participate in their child’s education and those who were free during school hours, failed to realize the importance of their presence and participation. Today, meaningful parental engagement remains a challenge for educators.

    So, this is a call to action for all parents. Let’s listen to teachers. They are calling for more support and increased pay. Let’s attend to school meetings to find out how to provide them additional support. Let’s attend city and the state meetings to advocate for competitive pay. Let’s vote for leaders who support the academic advancement of our children through access to additional resources.

    By Elizabeth Primas, Ph.D.

     

    Elizabeth Primas, Ph.D., is an educator, who spent more than 40 years working towards improving education for children of diverse ethnicities and backgrounds. She is the program manager for the NNPA’s Every Student Succeeds Act Public Awareness Campaign. Follow her @elizabethprimas.

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    Policy experts discuss education in the new Jim Crow era

    After decades of desegregation efforts, federal civil rights laws, and other attempts to close the achievement gap, a high quality education remains an elusive goal for most Black children.

    In an effort to engage Black parents around reaching that elusive goal, educators and community stakeholders tackled leadership, educational equity and policy in urban schools, during a recent panel discussion.

    Led by moderator Linda Tillman, professor emeritus of education leadership at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the panel discussed the challenges faced by African American teachers and leaders, as they work to educate Black children and young adults in urban communities.

    “We are here to revisit old discussions and bring fresh ideas,” Tillman said. “Jim Crow has affected Blacks in so many ways. Black education is a right [that’s] not solely based on White norms.”

    Panelist Terri Watson, a City College of New York (CCNY) educator and co-creator of the CCNY-based “Growing Our Own Doctor’s Project,” said that there’s not only a need for better education, but that there’s also a need for safer communities for Black students.

    “We have to focus on creating space where kids are informed and active, that’s important,” Watson said. “We have to let the kids know that the world is waiting for them, they’re up next and we have to change their mindset that the world views them as disposable.”

    Rodney Hopson, a professor and associate dean of education psychology at George Mason University, Sonya Douglass Horsford, an associate professor of education leadership at the Teachers College at Columbia University, and M. Christopher Brown II, the president of Kentucky State University also participated in the panel that took place during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual legislative conference.

    Both Brown and Horsford, longtime friends, said the majority of public schools are now non-White. The proliferation of charter and alternative schools has also chipped away at the effectiveness of public schools.

    The federal government has played such a major role in shaping education policy and schools now mostly prepare African Americans for prison, not college, Brown said.

    “The school’s structure that’s used is that they teach our kids how to stand in a straight line, to raise their hands when they have to go to the bathroom…you do that in prison, so that’s the training they’re getting,” Brown said.

    He then quoted what he said was a prophetic statement made by W.E.B. Du Bois 57 years ago.

    “[African American] teachers will become rarer and in many cases will disappear,” Brown said quoting Du Bois, noting that the prediction has come to pass.

    Brown continued, quoting Du Bois: “[African American] children will be instructed in public schools and taught under unpleasant if not discouraging circumstances. Even more largely than today, they will fall out of school, cease to enter high school, and fewer and fewer will go to college.”

    Horsford, like the other panelists, said no one should be surprised, because, after all, resegregation has occurred and education is the “new civil rights in the new Jim Crow.”

    “We shouldn’t operate from the assumption that our schools are broken,” she said. “They are doing exactly what they were designed to do, which is to sift and sort children into different categories for economic reasons.”

    Horsford added that African Americans must tap the potential, possibilities and gifts of the young people who truly hold the answers to society’s pressing problems.

    Even educators have suffered and are poorly valued in a system guided by high-stakes testing and performance-based accountability, Horsford said.

    “We have to engage in parallel efforts…we need to reimagine schools and school systems that support everyone,” said Horsford. “We also have to make sure that, in the meantime, we are preparing students to not only survive, but also thrive in an era of extreme inequality.”

    By Stacy M. Brown
    NNPA Newswire Contributor

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    COMMENTARY: We owe our children the best education possible

    I am a native Washingtonian. I still live on the same street that my parents brought me home to 50 plus years ago. I am a product of D.C. public schools. I began my education prior to integration. I was taught by, in my opinion, the best-prepared teachers in the city. I remember that most of my teachers had masters’ or doctorate degrees and they taught in the field in which they earned their degree. They were highly qualified, dedicated, and allowed no child to be left behind. The principal knew every student by name. She knew our strengths and weaknesses. She made sure that her teachers addressed the individual challenges of each student. I left public school well prepared to face the world.

    Through the years, I have witnessed many changes in both education and community. I have watched my neighborhood demographic change from middle class Black families, to a neighborhood where drug use, unemployment, and the lack of marketable skills has resulted in random acts of violence. Today, my neighborhood is nearly unrecognizable due to gentrification. However, my immediate concern is not growing property taxes or well-intentioned, but ill-informed redevelopment projects. My immediate concern is for the children in my neighborhood, right now; the children struggling to succeed in a rapidly changing environment and an ineffective education system; children who are taught by teachers, who do not relate to their personal struggles and lack the skill set to respond to their individualized needs.

    The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) addressed many of my concerns in education. The NNPA continues to echo the message that giving parents a voice in how the school system operates is vital to closing the achievement gap. It’s critical that parents engage with educational leaders and demand equal access to high quality teachers. Unfortunately, high-poverty schools are disproportionally staffed by unprepared, substitute, and out-of-field teachers. Although there are numerous causes for this phenomenon, the fact remains that, ill-prepared teachers undermine student achievement.

    According to an article by Emma Garcia published by the Economic Policy Institute, about eight in 10 poor Black students attend high poverty schools. Garcia found that 81 percent of poor, Black children attend high poverty schools compared to 53.5 percent of their poor White peers. It is also noted that attending a high-poverty school lowers math and reading achievement for students in all racial and ethnic groups. These discrepancies in access to adequate education expand into discrepancies in economic prospects and social mobility.

    ESSA requires states and districts to ensure that low-income students and students of color are not disproportionally taught by ineffective, inexperienced, and out-of-field teachers. ESSA requires state and school district report cards to include the percentage of inexperienced teachers, principals, and other school leaders; teachers with emergency or provisional credentials; and out-of-field teachers. Reporting this data provides states with the comparative data necessary to examine the root causes of inequities. Title II of ESSA provides program grants to states and districts that can be used for teacher preparation, recruitment, support, and continued learning. ESSA changes the distribution formula for funds by requiring that any increase in funding is prioritized to states with high rates of students living in poverty. ESSA has ended the requirement of states to set up teacher evaluation systems based significantly on students’ test scores. Growing evidence suggests that using student test scores to determine teacher effectiveness is misguided and does not improve instructional practices. ESSA includes a Teacher and School Leader Innovation Program that will provide grants to districts that want to try out performance pay and other teacher quality improvement measures.

    At some point, we must stop treating our children like widgets. They won’t all fit into a round hole; some of them are square pegs. They all have gifts and talents, but it is difficult to realize potential with a rotating door of teachers and school leaders. The cuts in the federal education budget have targeted teacher training and professional development. We owe our children the best education possible. They are our future.

    Together, we can fulfill the promise of ESSA and ensure that every student succeeds.

    By Lynette Monroe
    NNPA columnist

    Lynette Monroe is a master’s student at Howard University. Her research area is public policy and national development.
    ONLINE: nnpa.org/essa

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    Bill Cosby finally breaks silence, talks with Black press

    It’s been more than two years since Bill Cosby has spoken out publicly.

    The legendary comedian has patiently — and quietly — awaited trial on sexual assault charges in Pennsylvania while seeing those who defend him face libel lawsuits — many of which have been tossed out of court.

    Now he’s decided: It’s time to talk.

    Cosby and spokesman Andrew Wyatt of the Purpose PR Firm in Birmingham, Alabama, said they grew comfortable that the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) would be more interested in “facts over sensationalism.”

    Persistence by the Black Press — NNPA reporters had repeatedly requested interviews — also proved a factor in Cosby’s decision to speak out in a two-part exclusive interview, Wyatt said.

    While the superstar declined to address his legal case, his youngest daughter, Evin did.

    In a statement, Evin, 40, proclaimed her father’s innocence.

    “The harsh and hurtful accusations … that supposedly happened 40 or 50 years ago, before I was born, in another lifetime, and that have been carelessly repeated as truth without allowing my dad to defend himself and without requiring proof, has punished not just my dad but every one of us,” Evin said.

    Perhaps the closest Cosby came to addressing the allegations was his response to questions about his love of the arts.

    His supporters have argued that Cosby’s the victim of propaganda and many have had their views skewed because they haven’t taken time to do research.

    “The history about African-Americans is a history of the United States — but the true histories, not the propaganda that is standard in our nation’s history books,” Cosby said. “The great writer, James Baldwin, said, ‘If you lie about me, then you lie about yourself.’ The revolution is in the home. There is something about someone saying, ‘I didn’t know that,’ that could cause a change in that person’s thinking.”

    The legend did shed insight on his life and a career that he’s eager to resume.

    Stunningly, Cosby, 79, revealed his “total lack of vision.”

    Waking one morning about two years ago, he nervously called out to Camille, his wife of more than 50 years, “I can’t see.”

    His doctors confirmed that he’s blind.

    “When he would perform, we’d draw a wide straight yellow line from backstage to the chair on the stage and he’d rehearse the walk hours before the show,” said Wyatt, whose worked for years with Cosby.

    Otherwise, Cosby insisted he’s well.

    “I’m fine,” he said.

    Few have achieved the legendary status enjoyed by Cosby. His career has spanned more than six decades and includes a host of best-selling comedy albums, gold and platinum records, five Grammy Awards and even best-selling books.

    With his role in “I Spy” in the 1960s, Cosby became the first African-American co-star in a dramatic series, breaking TV’s color barrier and winning three Emmy Awards.

    After starring opposite Academy Award winner Sidney Poitier in the 1970s trilogy “Uptown Saturday Night,” “Let’s Do It Again” and “A Piece of the Action,” Cosby’s star soared even higher in the 1980s when he single-handedly revived the family sitcom — and, some argue, saved NBC — with “The Cosby Show.”

    “Bill Cosby and crew should be allowed to have their careers intact,” said Devin T. Robinson X, an actor and renowned poet who’s been featured on MTV, NBC, CBS and BET. “He represents the finest example of guilty in the court of public opinion, yet Bill O’Reilly’s image isn’t tarnished. Punishing people before they’re convicted in court only seems accurate when it serves a media narrative that doesn’t hurt a specific demographic.”

    Cosby said he thinks about his illustrious career that, at least for now, has been placed on hold because of the court case.

    “Darn right,” he said when asked if he missed performing. “I miss it all and I hope that day will come. I have some routines and storytelling that I am working on. I think about walking out on stage somewhere in the United States of American and sitting down in a chair and giving the performance that will be the beginning of the next chapter of my career.”

    He finds laughter “in the same house where the revolution is,” he said, a nod to his mother’s home where he learned the importance of a good education.

    “My mother was a domestic employee and she fixed breakfast for us and lunch and then she went off to work,” Cosby said. “She made $8 a day, I believe. When she came home, she cooked us dinner.

    “As soon as Camille and I had a home and hired someone to help us to do the cleaning, and other things, we made sure of two things that were very important to us: We always paid a generous salary to people working in our home and whether male or female, they would be addressed by us and our children not as Annie or Barbara or whatever, but as Mr., Miss or Mrs. — all of them in that manner. That there is a respect,” Cosby said.

    It’s all part of a legacy that many said shouldn’t be destroyed by allegations.

    “If the president of the United States can go on working in the White House after he has confessed to and bragged about doing gross sexually explicit and abusive things to women without their permission, justice requires that Bill Cosby should not be punished unless he is convicted of crimes,” said Dr. E. Faye Williams, president and CEO of the National Congress of Black Women, Inc. “He has been charged, but not convicted, and the charges came only after his expressed interest in purchasing a network that somebody obviously didn’t want him to have.”

    Tanisha Jones, 28, a fashion designer who works in New York, lamented the “absolute murder” of Cosby’s legacy and accomplishments

    “That’s what’s happened over the past couple of years,” Jones said. “I’m a woman who feels for any woman who has been raped, assaulted or demeaned in any way. But, realistically, we have seen no evidence that any of this is true … yet we elect a president who campaigns on and is elected on grabbing women by their private parts.”

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    Omarosa shocks, angers publishers as she walks out of ‘Black Press Week’ breakfast

    Omarosa Manigault, President Donald Trump’s director of communications for public liaison, walked out of a breakfast meeting she had requested to attend, hosted by the National Newspaper Publishers Association last week.

    The sudden move by the minister and reality star clearly shocked NNPA members and their guests in the March 23 meeting; especially since Manigault had called the chair of the historic group the night before and “asked to attend”, according to NNPA Chair Denise Rolark Barnes. During opening remarks, Manigault had praised Black journalists for historically asking “the tough questions”.

    Manigault became agitated after a reporter asked a question following up on a story published by the Trice Edney News Wire Jan. 8. The story quoted civil rights lawyer Barbara Arnwine as stating that Manigault promised the “first interview” with Trump to NNPA President Benjamin Chavis during a Jan. 4 Trump transition team meeting with Black leaders.

    Manigault doesn’t dispute having promised the interview. However, she was incensed because the story said she promised Chavis “the first” interview.

    The Jan. 8 story reports:

    ‘”Manigault’s promise of the interview was disclosed after a representative of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) stressed the importance of Black reporters interfacing with the president. Both Chavis and NABJ representatives participated in the closed door meeting held Jan. 4 at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in North West DC.
    Trump aide Omarosa Manigault listens to question from reporter Hazel Trice Edney. Photo: Shevry Lassiter

    ‘”When NABJ said we need to make sure that somebody Black interviews the President first, [Omarosa] said, ‘Oh no.  Ben Chavis and I have already spoken and he’s going to be the first interview,’” recounted Arnwine, president/CEO of the Transformative Justice Coalition, in an interview. Arnwine said Chavis then “acknowledged that that was correct – that they had already been in touch with him about it.’”

    Hearing of Manigault’s denial this week, Arnwine seemed puzzled.  “It was to me a highlight. I had hoped that it really meant that African-American journalists were being repositioned into a higher priority for the incoming administration,” she said. “And I am surprised that this representation is unfortunately being dropped or not followed through. I was in the room and it was not said once. It was said twice.”

    It is not clear whether the Trump staff recorded the meeting since it was off the record. Since the meeting, some have speculated that perhaps Manigault meant Chavis would be the first Black Press representative to interview Trump rather than the first journalist.

    After seeing one White media reporter after another interview the President, this reporter, a former NNPA editor-in-chief invited to the breakfast by Barnes, followed up on the Jan. 8 story:

    The first question pertains to “the promise that Ben Chavis would get the first interview with the president; then I have another question,” this reporter said after being acknowledged by Manigault.
    Manigault strongly responded, “Ben Chavis was never promised the first interview. He was promised an interview, but not the first. And I was very surprised because we’ve always had a great working relationship, Hazel, that you wrote such a dishonest story about a closed off the record meeting that I invited NNPA to to make sure that we had a great relationship, that we started early. I was really surprised that you made that a press story because that was inaccurate. And moreover, you weren’t in the room.”
    The publishers were in Washington observing NNPA’s annual Black Press Week, this year celebrating the 190th anniversary of the Black Press. The exchange, during a breakfast meeting at the Dupont Circle Hotel, quickly went downhill with both professionals clearly agitated.
    “It was not inaccurate, and I have my sources right here. The question is when is the interview going to take place? That’s the question,” this reporter insisted.
    Manigault responded, “We’ve been working for months because we have that kind of relationship…We had been working very closely to make sure that NNPA was on the front row and at the forefront of what happened. Your article did more damage to NNPA and their relationship with the White House because it’s not just me. So you attack me, they circle the wagons. So you can keep attacking me and they will continue to circle the wagons, but that does not advance the agenda of what NNPA is doing,” Manigault said. “I’m going to continue to work with Ben Chavis, who I adore, to make sure that we do what we said we were going to do. Interestingly enough, we were just talking about this privately over here. And so, if you want to make another headline or do another story about it, I think that is really not professional journalism.”
    This reporter responded, “It’s professional journalism.”
    Actually, the Jan. 8 story did not attack Manigault. In fact it quoted Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church as calling her a “great leader” and NAACP Vice President Hilary Shelton as saying, “I have a lot of respect for her.”
    Chavis, in the Jan. 8 story, had made it clear that the meeting was off the record for him and the other dozens of organizational leaders in the room Jan. 4, including several non-working journalists.
    This reporter and CNN’s Betsy Klein staked out the Jan. 4 meeting for more than three hours standing in winter weather outside the building on the sidewalk. Some organizational leaders spoke guardedly after the meeting that day while most, including Chavis, declined comment.
    Neither Manigault – nor any of her colleagues – would speak on the record Jan. 4 and this reporter has not been able to reach Manigault for comment since. Also, until the March 23 breakfast, Manigault had said nothing to this reporter about disagreeing with the article.
    At one point during the breakfast back and forth, Manigault turned to Chavis saying, “He’s right here. The source is here.”
    This reporter said she would not divulge her sources; then asked Chavis to recount what he had “told me”. He repeated, “What I told you was it was an off the record meeting.” He told Manigault that she had promised him an interview. She stressed that she had not said “the first.”
    This reporter’s question was not isolated as it pertained to Black Press access.
    Stacy Brown, a reporter for the Washington Informer and NNPA contributor had actually asked the first question at the breakfast, noting Manigault’s opening words about the importance of Black Press coverage. “Just as important for us is access,” Brown stated, “What kind of access can we expect from this administration? When I say we, I’m talking about the Black Press,” Brown asked.
    Manigault responded, “I know that [White House Press Secretary] Sean Spicer and the rest of the press team are working to make sure that the NNPA gets access so I think it is important that they stay engaged.”
    Referring to President Trump’s March 22 meeting with Congressional Black Caucus leaders, Manigault said she believed the White House “had a historical number of African-American journalists covering it and given access to that particular event.”
    But, Washington Informer photographer Shevry Lassiter, quickly responded, “Except us.” Lassiter said she was told that too many people had signed up for coverage, giving her the impression that “We were too late.”
    When Manigault responded, “Your paper work has got to be right,” Lassiter clarified, “It was right. We got notice and sent it in; then couldn’t get in. She said they had too many,” Lassiter said, referring to a staffer.
    “Are you bashing my young staffer?” Manigault asked. “I’m not going to let you do that. I’m not going to let you do that. I’m not going to let you do that.”
    That exchange was just before this reporter’s question and the brouhaha that followed. When this reporter asked to move on to the second question, Manigault abruptly walked out with staffers in tow a little more than 10 minutes after arriving.
    Publishers were aghast.
    “Did she just walk out? Did she leave?” someone in the audience said quietly.
    “How is she going to come in here and just walk out?” asked Chicago Crusader Publisher Dorothy Leavell, standing. The former NNPA president and NABJ Hall of Fame Inductee said, “And any other Black Press person ought to be insulted by what she did,” said Leavell. “It was totally disrespectful.”
    A man’s voice called out, “We are insulted!”
    “That’s how the Trump people act. This is Trumpism! This is Trumpism!” said another publisher.
    The criticism was not just aimed at Manigault. Some in the room said this reporter was as much at fault in the way the question was posed.
    GOP political commentator and consultant Paris Dennard, also present at the breakfast meeting, said in an interview that the question was adversarial.
    “With all due respect to you Hazel, it came off as a bit confrontational,” Dennard said. “It came off as being a little bit on the attack.”
    Dennard continued, “What I know is it was a priority for Omarosa to be here…I know that it was not her intention to come in and leave. No one gets up, comes to NNPA with people that she’s known and worked with to make a scene and leave. That wasn’t her intention.”
    Barnes had given Manigault a glowing introduction, calling her a “top strategist” who helped get Trump elected.
    “There’s so many things that I could say about Rev. Omarosa Manigault and I just want to say that some of us really do consider her a great friend. I know that she’s a supporter of NNPA. And that is why she asked to come to speak to us this morning.”
    Chavis sought to calm the group after Manigault walked out, stating that he believes the interview is still on.
    “Let’s collect ourselves,” he said. “It’s in our interest to have an interview with the President of the United States. And that’s what we’re trying to accomplish and I believe we will accomplish…If Omarosa can help us facilitate that engagement, I think it’s in our interest. But as journalists, I know you have to ask your questions.”
    Barnes, clarifying that she was speaking momentarily as publisher of the Washington Informer instead of NNPA chair, concluded that Manigault’s conduct was unacceptable.  “That was totally unnecessarily. She doesn’t start a conversation saying ask the ‘tough questions’ and then run away from the tough questions…And so we’re going to have to bypass her. She’s not the only person in the White House if we want to deal with the White House.”
    Later, in an interview speaking as NNPA chair, Barnes said, “To me, I almost feel as if we were baited…I expected a different presentation from her, which would have led us into asking a different set of questions about the issues she was going to raise and not get into this personal confrontation with a journalist. So, I’m disappointed that she didn’t – in my opinion – come in and speak on the President’s and on the administrations’ behalf about things that are important to this administration that the Black Press should be focusing on. That didn’t happen. It was a lost opportunity for the President. And it was definitely a waste of time for NNPA.”
    By Hazel Trice Edney
    TriceEdneyWire.com
    Photo by Shevry Lassiter. NNPA President Ben Chavis discusses prospective interview with Manigault during heated exchange. 
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    Lawmakers attack Obama’s education law

    Educators nationwide are voicing concern following a push by Republicans in Congress to overturn accountability regulations for ESSA which could have far-reaching consequences for how the law works in states.

    Groups supporting the move argue that it would free schools from unnecessary burdens, while opponents contend that overturning the rules could hurt vulnerable students and create turmoil in states and districts trying to finalize their transition to ESSA.

    ESSA, which also reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), received bipartisan support and was signed into law by President Barack Obama on December 10, 2015. The regulations are administered by the U.S. Department of Education and ESSA goes into full effect at the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year.

    Under the 2015 law that replaced the No Child Left Behind Act, each state will adhere to more flexible federal regulations that provide for improved elementary and secondary education in the nation’s public schools.

    “The ESSA law was established to help increase the effectiveness of public education in every state,” said Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., the president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association. “Our task is to inform, inspire, and encourage parents, students, teachers, and administrators to fulfill the intent and objectives of ESSA with special focus on those students and communities that have been marginalized and underserved by the education system across the nation.”

    Last week, the House of Representatives approved a joint resolution that would overturn ESSA accountability rules issued by the Obama administration.

    Those rules, which became final in November, are intended to detail for states the timeline for addressing underperforming schools, how schools must be rated, the ways English-language learners must be considered in state accountability plans, and other policy issues.

     

    “One of the things that should be included in any modification of ESSA is the fifth criteria for schools which is about school climate,” said Helen Levy-Myers, founder and CEO of Athena’s Workshop, Inc., a texting application for educators. School attendance is often dependent on other factors, like the friendliness of the staff, school leadership, safety of the school and neighborhood, health of the community, and the level of engagement between students and teachers, she said.

    A white paper presented by Levy-Myers noted that the “cold, hard truth is that chronically absent children end up leading harder lives.”

    Students who miss just two or three days each month in kindergarten and first grade never catch up. They become chronically absent, defined as missing 10 percent or more of the school year.

    While many Republican lawmakers have moved to strike down the implementation of ESSA, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told state school officers around the country that despite a delay, several regulations will be reviewed and changed by March 21.

    DeVos told the officers that state ESSA plans will still be accepted either in April or in September.

    In a memo to state school heads DeVos wrote: “Due to the regulatory delay and review, and the potential repeal of recent regulations by Congress, the Department is currently reviewing the regulatory requirements of consolidated State plans, as reflected in the current template, to ensure that they require only descriptions, information, assurances, and other materials that are absolutely necessary for consideration of a consolidated State plan.”

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    BLM chapters, movement grow nationwide

    WASHINGTON– The last several months have seen an outpouring of activism, with slogans coming in waves: “Justice for Mike Brown,” “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” and “I Can’t Breathe.” But the phrase “Black Lives Matter” has emerged to bind each flashpoint into one cause.

    www.blacklivesmatter.com

    www.blacklivesmatter.com

    The 2012 murder of Trayvon Martin and acquittal of George Zimmerman served as the first of these flashpoints, snowballing in August with the murder of Michael Brown. “Ferguson is the birthplace of what’s happening right now. In many ways, Ferguson is like ground zero of these protests,” said DeRay McKesson, who has been protesting and organizing in Ferguson since August. He also co-produces a daily Ferguson newsletter with Johnetta Elzie.

    “When I think of Black Lives Matter, that’s the way people talk about the work as it spreads. It’s easier to say, ‘Black lives matter,’ but I think the Ferguson Movement and Black Lives Matter are one in the same.” Although McKesson is currently focused on ending police brutality and unaccountability, he said he believes in the importance of eventually dismantling all social and political oppression, particularly the types that target Black communities. “If all lives mattered, we wouldn’t have to be here talking about Black lives matter,” he explained. “What we’re seeing is people confronting injustice. You see a collective confrontation against injustice…it’s a creating of a radical new space in Black politics.”

    Black Lives Matter has also become an organization. Three activists, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi co-founded the project in the wake of the Zimmerman’s acquittal in 2013. Initially, the partners set up BlackLivesMatter.tumblr.com and encouraged activists and organizations to share tactics and broadcast their efforts to uplift Black communities via the website. “[The website] was an interactive project and a way to really promote the need for Black organizing in our communities,” said Tometi, who also serves as the executive director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, based in Brooklyn, N.Y. “Even if you’re not working on police brutality explicitly, there are many other issues that are impacting our communities.”

    Today, there are approximately 15 chapters of Black Lives Matter across the nation and one in Canada that are focused on a range of concerns in Black communities, including housing, youth activism, and LGBTQ rights. Its other website, BlackLivesMatter.com, allows Black organizations to meet, network, and collaborate. The project has also adopted a list of demands, including the arrest of Darren Wilson, an end to supplying law enforcement with military weapons, and reinvestment in Black communities devastated by poverty. “Our lives are being systematically attacked all across the board…it is not just at the hands of police,” Tometi said. “Black Lives Matter is a movement about bringing some of those issues and people who are on the margins to the center, and not forgetting about the Black undocumented immigrants, the Black trans person or Black queer person, or disabled people. All Black lives matter. It’s not just having a movement that’s solely about Black heterosexual men, but about all of us.”

    For Chinyere Tutashinda, founding member of the Bay Area-based BlackOUT Collective, the movement is about love for Black people and a desire for justice. “It [started] around dealing with deaths, dealing with the murders, because that’s right there in your face – a life has been taken, there’s a sense of urgency to that,” she said. “But it is beyond that as well. It’s also really about how are we ending the war on Black people, and ending the way Black people are oppressed in this country.”

    On November 28, members of the Collective chained themselves to a BART train as part of a series of actions to disrupt Black Friday consumerism. The Black Lives Matter movement had declared a national day of protest and economic boycott, with some groups successfully causing the closure of shopping malls, Wal-Marts, and other retailers. The news of these protests, and the Black Lives Matter movement in general, has primarily spread through social media and Black media instead of  White-owned major mainstream outlets. Even when retailers saw an 11 percent drop in Black Friday sales, most mainstream media outlets did not include the movement’s efforts in their analyses of the profit loss. “The media follows where the fire is. They have followed the fire really well… but I think that they’ve only done that because we made sure people were out on the streets,” Tutashinda explained. “The reason that Black media and Black journalism came to be was because we understood as a people and as a community that our stories weren’t being told. It’s ok [for Black journalists] to know that their role is to help this [movement] move forward.”

    essence black outBlack media has not only amplified the voices of those on the ground, but has also attempted to further conversations, most recently seen in Essence’s February 2015 issue. The magazine dedicated its 45th anniversary issue to the Black Lives Matter movement, featuring 15 essays from luminaries such as Angela Davis, Melissa Harris-Perry, and Al Sharpton. It is the first time in the publication’s history that its cover did not feature an image, opting instead for bold words against an all-black cover. “Black media has always brought attention to conversations that are happening throughout our community, and sometimes we’ve been the only source for some of the issues that are important. But what’s happening right now is that Black social media has not only been driving the conversation, but also the movement,” said Essence editor-in-chief Vanessa K. De Luca. “A number of the people included in the package, they’re all saying that this isn’t just a movement emerging out of chaos. There really is a lot of organization and planning and thought around this whole movement,” she said. “What I think is so important, especially for Black media, is that we can surface that information.”

    In addition to the issue, the publication is launching a new Civil Rights Watch series to chronicle the movement’s developments, wins, and losses moving forward. A few gains have already been made. The Justice Department is investigating police conduct in a few cities. Seven bills aimed at police regulation and accountability have been introduced in Congress. One was signed into law: the Death in Custody Reporting Act requires states receiving certain federal funds to record all citizen deaths in police custody, and for state Attorney Generals to analyze this information and develop a plan to reduce such deaths. A handful of police indictments have also been attained, for the shootings of Rekia Boyd, Levar Jones, and recently Bernard Bailey, who was killed by a police officer four years ago in South Carolina.

    “It’s great to see publications such as Essence magazine…have a special edition issue called Black Lives Matter. Media plays such a critical role in informing our people. And NNPA publications are so important for our communities especially in rural areas and big cities; this might be the only thing that they read about this movement for black lives,” Tometi said. “[Media] thinks they have to do a balanced story… but in giving two sides equal platform it skews our understanding of how many people really agree with what. The way press culture operates provides a false sense of balance, when overwhelmingly, there’s support for the movement.”

    By Jazelle Hunt
    NNPA Washington Correspondent

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