COMMENTARY: Autism: moving from acceptance to action 

COMMENTARY: Autism: moving from acceptance to action 

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In honor of April being National Autism Awareness Month, Sheletta Brundidge shares the first of a two-part story chronicling her discovery that three of her four children were on the autism spectrum.

My son Brandon was two years old when our autism journey began. He was playing with a couple of toys in the restroom while I was nearby bathing his then-one-year old sister Cameron (I was pregnant with their soon-to-be-born baby brother Daniel at the time). She was splashing around in the tub having fun and I guess he decided he’d look for a neighboring body of water to splash around in, too.

Brandon made a bee-line for the toilet and took a nose dive. Being a germaphobe I yelled out, “Noooooooooooo!” before sprinting over to pull his head out of the bowl. His face was wet, his hair was damp and he was as happy as he could be.

I immediately took Cameron out of the tub and put Brandon in, scrubbing him as hard as I could trying to get those toilet germs off his face. I remember looking at him in the eye and pleading “Son, don’t play in the toilet, okay?”

He looked beyond me with a blank stare, as if I wasn’t standing there. I knew instantly something was wrong. The light that had been in my son’s eyes was dimmed ever so slightly.

He couldn’t figure out what I was saying to him, and worse yet, he didn’t know how to respond. He began babbling and looking around as if imaginary butterflies were capturing his attention. He couldn’t give me direct eye contact.

“Oh no,” I thought, “Something is wrong with my baby!” Then I wondered, “How long has this been going on?” I blamed myself for not noticing sooner. How could I not see that my son was slipping into darkness?

I was working full-time, raising a growing family, being a mom, a wife, a daughter, an employee. I was busy keeping my house clean and too preoccupied with chores to have a handle on my child’s mental development.

I hadn’t taken a moment to notice —until my son dunked his head in a toilet — that he wasn’t behaving like a normal two-year-old.

He was lining his food up and not eating it. He was still drinking from a bottle.

He wouldn’t make eye contact. He was babbling instead of talking. He didn’t respond to his name when I called for him. I missed all the warning signs. I ignored all the clues.

My. Son. Had. Autism.

I cried. I stopped eating. I got down to 96 pounds. I was curled up in the fetal position under the table, unable to do anything except feel sorry for myself. My momma had to come and take care of my kids. I couldn’t even fold laundry or brush my teeth, because, of course, I made it all about me. I’m a narcissist after all.

Somehow I thought I had failed as a parent and caused my son to have autism. So, instead of getting busy finding help for my child, I cowered in fear of what life had to offer a Black boy with special needs.

Since he couldn’t speak, would the police shoot him if he didn’t respond to their commands?

Would he ever be able to get a job and support himself? What about college? Without words, could he find a wife?

All the dreams I had for little Brandon were taking a nose dive out of the freakin’ window.

I had decided, that at age two, my son’s life was over and there was no hope for him.

But God reached down and snatched me out from under the kitchen table and said: “I chose you!” My spirit awakened and I realized this was a blessing: Of all the women in the world, God picked me to be Brandon’s mother. What an honor that He selected me to be the shepherd of this little life.

I had to get it together for my baby, so he could live out his God-given destiny and reach his full potential. It was all on me to get it done.

First I went to the folk closest to me for assistance. But since I didn’t have friends who had kids with special needs, nobody could tell me what to do. I tried to call on my family but that quickly backfired.

My momma brushed off my suspicions about Brandon having autism as just me being dramatic. “Ain’t nothing wrong with that damn boy. You just looking for attention; he gon’ talk when he gets ready. Your cousin Meme didn’t talk until she was 3.”

My grandmother outright blamed me for everything, “If you had just got an epidural during your pregnancy,” she quipped, “the boy would be fine now. But you wanted to do that natural childbirth [expletive]. He probably ain’t get no oxygen to his brain. That’s why he ain’t talking. It’s your fault, Sheletta.”

Since family and friends wouldn’t come to my rescue, I turned to the professionals.

Everything that I read about having an autism diagnosis said early detection and intervention is the key to success. So I made an appointment at a children’s hospital to get Brandon evaluated and tested for autism.

After three hours of checking out my son, the doctor stepped out of the room and declared, “Yep, you were right, your child has autism. Have a good life.”

Now what? What do I do with my special needs child? Does he need a prescription to keep him from flapping his hands? Or some speech sessions a couple times a week to help him learn how to talk? They didn’t give me one damn referral — not even a tip on what kind of therapy he needed or how I could go about getting services for Brandon.

I didn’t know what to do or where to turn, but I kept hearing God say, “I chose you!”

I knew this was gon’ be a “Roll up your sleeves — against all odds — me and my baby against the world” situation. So I went to my husband Shawn and asked if I could quit my job.

Without the worry of working every day, I dedicated my life to learning more about autism spectrum disorders and looking for ways to heal my child.

I didn’t want to get help for him. Forget help! I wanted Brandon healed from this autism diagnosis, so he could grow up to be the man God designed him to be without deficit or deficiency. I prayed for God to send the answer and He did.

But in the meantime, both Cameron and my newborn son Daniel were diagnosed with autism as well.

Next week, Sheletta encounters an angel who guided her through the proper therapy and medication to heal her son Brandon from the effects of his autism diagnosis. She will provide a blueprint for other parents to find services for their special needs children and scholarships that are available to pay for it all.

To learn more about autism, go here

COMMENTARY: Whites comprise nation’s highest number of teachers

COMMENTARY: Whites comprise nation’s highest number of teachers

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I spent most of my first year of grad school sitting in the back row of class with my hood up. There were nearly 40 of us in the cohort. Two were Black.

My hoodie was an act of silent dissent. Today, I completely understand when my students want to do the same, even with me in front of the room. Academia and public schools are spaces where people of color often feel underrepresented, unwelcome and unheard.

From third grade through high school, I was a student in a series of neighborhood public schools. Afterward, I went to community college and then on to a public liberal arts college where I earned my bachelor’s and eventually my master’s degree. Each phase of my educational journey shared two characteristics:

  1. The further I progressed, the fewer Black and Brown classmates I had.
  2. As I progressed, regardless of the demographics of the student population, the faculty and administrators were uniformly nearly all White.

That needs to change.

An organization I am part of, the National Network of State Teachers of the Year, recently released videos designed to provoke conversations that will lead to this kind of change. Called Courageous Conversations About Race in Schools, the videos provide an effective starting point for real discussions that should be happening in schools — particularly in colleges and universities across this country.

Research tells us that upwards of 80 percent of U.S. teachers are White. Different research tells us that nearly 80 percent of teachers are female. Obviously, those Venn diagrams overlap in a largely White and female workforce.

At the same time, because of higher birth rates among immigrant populations and the “mysterious phenomenon” of disproportionately high numbers of White children in private schools, a majority of the population of students in public school are students of color, and those numbers are headed even higher, based on enrollment numbers in lower grades.

Schools systems need to do a better job of attracting and retaining effective teachers of color. Students of color need to see more people of color in positions of expertise and authority, and teachers need to be conversant and literate in the cultural traditions that are present in their classrooms. None of these statements should be controversial.

The lack of representation is an equity issue, and to resolve it we can look to lessons elsewhere in our society. During the Vietnam War, the Pentagon realized that majority Brown platoons of soldiers and Marines wouldn’t take life-or-death orders from a uniformly White officer corps. The Pentagon thus underwent an intentional effort to diversify the officer corps. Since then, the Pentagon has submitted amicus curiae briefs in every major affirmative action case before the U.S. Supreme Court because they understand that representation matters.

Time for a representation disruption

The word “disruption” gets hurled around frequently in business and increasingly in education. Usually, it’s about handing Silicon Valley tech bros a metric ton of venture capital to sprinkle the #EdTech™ fairy dust of the moment. But I’m going to argue that when it comes to teacher diversity and representation in schools, we actually need disruption.

In my neck of the woods, the numbers are especially grim: There are only about 800 Black teachers in all of Washington State. In my 12-year teaching career, I have never worked with another Black male general education teacher.

There’s no reason for me to be alone. We see talented students of color all over higher education because universities know how to recruit them. As Jeff Duncan-Andrade says, “Look at any college football or basketball team and tell me colleges don’t know how to recruit Black talent. When I was a kid I thought Georgetown was an HBCU.”

But it can’t just be student-athletes. We need to bring in students who can increase teacher diversity. It’s imperative-and it’s well within our power.

Nate Bowling is a high school government teacher in Tacoma, Washington, who was named the 2016 Washington State Teacher of the year and a finalist for National Teacher of the Year.

Charity in honor of Philando Castile pays school district’s entire lunch debt

Charity in honor of Philando Castile pays school district’s entire lunch debt

by Kiara Alfonseca

When a child at J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School couldn’t afford lunch, Philando Castile apparently never hesitated to pull out his wallet to pay for their meal. Now, a charity founded in honor of Castile, who was fatally shot by a police officer during a 2016 traffic stop, has successfully continued his efforts.

The student lunch debt has been wiped out for all 56 schools in the Saint Paul Public Schools district in Minnesota, the district Castile worked for, according to the charity, Philando Feeds the Children.

“That means that no parent of the 37,000 kids who eat meals at school need worry about how to pay that overdue debt,” according to an update from the charity website. “Philando is still reaching into his pocket, and helping a kid out. One by one. With your help.”

Stacey Koppen, director of Nutrition Services at Saint Paul Public Schools, worked with Castile, and remembers him as a “kind and caring” person.

“This fundraiser honoring him and his memory couldn’t be more perfect,” said Koppen. “This is what he did. He did so without question or praise.”

Though all students of the district can receive free breakfast, only some students are eligible for free lunches depending on household income guidelines and district funding. That leaves some students with lunch debt if they can’t pay and don’t meet the requirements.

Philando Feeds the Children started as a college class project led by Metropolitan State University students. It has now reached approximately 3,500 donors and received over $130,000 in donations to feed the children of St. Paul. The organization said it is currently seeking official non-profit status with the state of Minnesota.

Now that Philando Feeds the Children has eliminated all of the school lunch debt in the district, charity organizer and Metro State University professor Pamela Fergus said the organization will use the rest of the money raised to help more students in the future.

Castile had a reputation at the school for caring about the students’ welfare.

“He remembered [students’] names,” Joan Edman, a recently retired paraprofessional at the school, told TIME shortly after Castile’s death. “He remembered who couldn’t have milk. He knew what they could have to eat and what they couldn’t.”

Known fondly by students as Mr. Phil, Castile had worked at J.J. Hill since he was 19 years old, and was promoted in 2014 to his position as a nutrition services supervisor, according to a statement by the Saint Paul Public Schools. Remembered as a cheerful presence in the cafeteria, he maintained close relationships with staff, students, and colleagues.

Castile’s death sparked nationwide protests and demonstrations against police brutality. He was shot five times in his car by a police officer who was later acquitted of manslaughter charges.

United Negro College Fund helps students across the nation attend college

United Negro College Fund helps students across the nation attend college

(Jonika Stowes/MSR News)
Shamarr McKinney-VanBuren

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MINNESOTA SPOKESMAN-RECORDER — “A mind is a terrible thing to waste” is the signature slogan at the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), led by President and CEO Michael L. Lomax.

Local UNCF offices across the country are mandated to raise funds for the Washington, D.C. office where scholarship funding for students is distributed. Funding comes from varying sources including special events, workplace campaigns, and individuals who are committed to the mission of UNCF.

Laverne McCartney-Knighton took on the initiative of helping UNCF raise scholarship funds in June 2017 as the new regional development director of the Minneapolis location. With 24 office locations in the Twin Cities, each is poised to bring in substantial funding to help students across the nation attend colleges. Since raised funds are distributed through the Washington, D.C. office, local offices can focus on fundraising.

McCartney-Knighton says, “Most of what we do is relational. We build relationships with key executives within corporations such as Medtronic Foundation, Cargill, 3M and so forth.” McCartney admits that this is her first time as a development director but points out that her previous positions have been in developing relationships with companies.

After 13 years at Target Corporation as a community relations executive for cities such as Chicago, Seattle and Detroit, McCartney went to work for a small nonprofit organization in the Twin Cities before taking the position at UNCF.

Here in the Twin Cities, UNCF’s two major funding events are, first, the Marin Luther King breakfast, a fundraiser through a partnership with General Mills that happens yearly on MLK Day. The other major fundraiser is the Twin Cities Masked Ball, which takes place in May of each year and in 2016 raised $770,000 in scholarship funds for students in Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. In other states this is called the Mayor’s Masked Ball, and even with these large amounts raised, according to UNCF’s website the funds provide scholarships to only one out of 10 students who apply.

UNCF is clear on its brochure that African Americans continue to show among the lowest rates of college attendance “…due to high costs of college compared to lower African American income levels and to the fact that many African Americans are not given the education before college for success in college.” Students not only receive funding to pay for tuition but can also earn scholarships towards textbooks, housing and other college expenses.

The myth of UNCF, founded in 1944, is that it only provides scholarships to students attending HBCUs. Although it significantly supports students attending one of its 37 member HBCUs, UNCF provides its scholarships to any low-income students regardless of race or ethnicity. In 2017 at the MLK Legacy Scholarship dinner, six students received funds to attend their college of choice.

One recipient, Shamarr McKinney-VanBuren, knew she wanted to stay close to home for college as the first in her family to attend. McKinney-VanBuren applied to three other in-state colleges and chose Augsburg College in Minneapolis to study computer science.

Born and raised in the Twin Cities, McKinney-VanBuren said, “This is a brand new journey for me and my family. As a first-generation college student, I was looking for ways to pay for college and came across UNCF online.”

The Gates Millennium Scholars Programs, one of UNCF’s largest funders, supports all students of color attending any college in the United States. Another myth about UNCF, due to lack of graduate-level programs at its 37 HBCUs, is that scholarships aren’t given out towards master’s and doctoral programs. Koch Scholars started in 2014 at UNCF with a $25 million dollar grant from Koch Industries, Inc.

UNCF has a national program called the Empower Me Tour that kicks off yearly in September coinciding with the school year; the Minneapolis Empower Me Tour is held at the Minneapolis Convention Center. In 2016 Caine Knuckles, a graduate of Southwest High School, left the Convention Center with a $50,000 scholarship to Philander Smith College and is now in his freshman year after being accepted at three HBCU, according to Southwest Journal.

Many students who attend this event across the nation get accepted to HBCUs on the spot, having done work prior to the event through their public high schools in making sure they are armed with their résumés and academic transcripts.

UNCF provides a host of scholarship funds for students of color who want to attend a college in the United States at any level of their academic career.

Visit to scroll through all scholarships and requirements. For more information, visit Health Fair 11’s website at This story is made possible by a grant from the Medtronic Foundation.

Jonika Stowes welcomes reader responses to

OPINION: A nation that does not stand for children does not stand for anything

OPINION: A nation that does not stand for children does not stand for anything

Minnesota Spokesman Recorder logoDear Mr. President:

According to the most recent federal data, more than 13.2 million children — one in five  — live in poverty; six million live in extreme poverty; 14.8 million children live in food-insecure households; more than one million homeless children are in our schools; 3.9 million children still lack health insurance; the majority of public school students of all races cannot read or compute at grade level; nearly 700,000 children are abused and/or neglected; nearly 50,000 children are in juvenile justice facilities or adult jails and prisons; and 3,128 children and teens were killed with a gun in 2016, enough to fill 156 classrooms of 20 children.

All these distressing outcomes disproportionately affect children of color who will be the majority of children in our country by 2020 and already are the majority of our children under five. Ensuring high quality foundations for them must be a top national priority.

These children will lead our nation forward if we ensure them a healthy, head, fair and safe start in life and successful transition to adulthood.

It is a national disgrace that children are the poorest Americans and that the younger they are the poorer they are. The Children’s Defense Fund’s new report, The State of America’s Children 2017, details the immoral, costly and preventable poverty, homelessness, hunger, health problems, poor education, and violence plaguing millions of children who deserve better.

We highlight that the United States, with the most billionaires and the highest gross domestic product among the 35 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, ranks a shameful 32nd among these countries for income inequality, meaning the U.S. has one of the largest gaps between rich and poor.

Your 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act rewarded wealthy individuals and corporations and it is now urgent for you to attend to “the least of these” — our children, our future workers, military personnel, and leadership pool. We urge you to reject policies that worsen hardships for struggling hungry and homeless children and families and stop cutting or adding restrictive eligibility requirements to programs of proven effectiveness that protect our poorest children and families.

They deserve help not cuts or bureaucratic barriers. They should be helped to move forward with hope not pushed deeper into deprivation and despair.

We need new investments in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to fight hunger no child deserves, in affordable housing to escape the overseers of cold and instability, in quality child care and Head Start to ensure children have a chance to start school ready to succeed, in quality education to ensure they are ready for college and work, in safe avoidance of the child welfare and juvenile justice systems whenever possible, and in family-like community care when placement becomes necessary.

Investments in each of these areas can help strengthen children’s futures and enable them to contribute to America’s future. I also urge you to commit to substantially increasing investments in the opioid crisis ravaging families and children’s futures that could set countless way of our vulnerable young back decades.

Finally, I urge you to recommit to supporting a bipartisan legislative fix for the futures of the nearly 800,000 Dreamers whose lives have been enriched by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program and are now threatened with deportation, and that extends to other Dreamers along with a path to citizenship.

The words of one Dreamer captures the sentiment of many. He learned at age 14 when he was denied a work permit that he was not a citizen because he came to our country with his parents at age five: “It was very hard dealing with,” he said, “because I always saw myself to be an American. It killed me inside.”

But when DACA was created, “I felt like I was finally accepted.” Now without DACA, “for me personally, my voice would be taken away. My dreams would be shattered.” We are a nation of immigrants and the DACA protections and other protections for Dreamers must be preserved.

A nation that does not stand for children does not stand for anything and will not stand blameless before God when asked to account for every sacred child entrusted to our care and protection.

Marian Wright Edelman is founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund.

For more information about the Children’s Defense Fund or see

OPINION: We already know that poverty is a math problem. So, what else is it?

OPINION: We already know that poverty is a math problem. So, what else is it?

Minnesota Spokesman Recorder logoSecond in a six-part series

By Clarence Hightower

MINNESOTA SPOKESMAN RECORDER — Poverty and poor health worldwide are inextricably linked… Poverty is both a cause and a consequence of poor health. Poverty increases the chances of poor health. Poor health in turn traps communities in poverty.  — Health Poverty Action

Poverty’s harsh effects on health start before babies are born and pile up throughout their adult lives. With stressed-filled homes, shaky nutrition, toxic environments and health-care gaps of every kind, kids in very low-income families may never catch up when it comes to their health.  — Lisa Esposito

The World Health Organization estimates that, across the globe, poverty directly contributes to the deaths of 18 million people each year. Yet, others such as The One Campaign insist that at least that many children alone die annually from malnutrition, which if true, would account for close to half of all deaths on the planet. Regardless of the actual number, it is clear that extreme poverty decimates our world through disease, hunger, and lack of access to clean water and medicine, alongside other maladies.

Of course, it is not difficult to argue that the extreme poverty that plagues much of the world is substantively different than poverty in the developed world, including the United States. And still, the extreme physical effects that poverty has on its victims in America are undeniable.

A study from the National Institute of Health reveals that “about 4.5 percent of all deaths in the United States are caused by poverty-related deficiencies and that poverty is a contributing factor in still more deaths.” Additional research from Columbia University’s School of Public Health calculates the number of yearly deaths in this from “poverty-related issues” to be in the hundreds of thousands, which some suggest make it the leading cause of death in this country.

Now, it may be rather difficult to accurately quantify such a figure; however, it is quite easy to link the relationship between poverty and the physical impact it has on the health outcomes of Americans regardless of race, sex or age. Poor Americans disparately suffer from a multitude of illnesses and chronic diseases, including various forms of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, respiratory problems, stress-related illness, and other physical disorders.

In addition to hunger and poor nutrition, substandard housing, transportation barriers, and limited access to quality health care, another critical factor that often plays a detrimental role in the health and wellness of low-income communities is the toxic environment in which they live, work, and go to school.

People residing in poorer neighborhoods are exponentially more likely to be exposed to pollutants and chemicals from industrial plants, landfills, toxic waste facilities, manufacturing mills, and other environmental hazards. Low-income children — who already suffer from significantly higher rates of iron deficiency, stunted growth, obesity, and injury — are inimitably susceptible to ecological factors.

Poor kids, especially those of color are much more likely to develop severe asthma and lead poisoning, as well as food and other allergies. Poverty is perhaps the greatest public health crisis that America faces today.

Unfortunately, the physical effects of poverty only seem to be getting worse. A 2016 study from MIT’s Department of Economics reveals that the life expectancy gap between rich and poor continues to increase drastically among both men and women.

It is troubling to me that more of our leaders and institutions do not see poverty and its effects on their fellow citizens as the calamity that it is. It is not only a public health disaster, but also an issue of human rights. And, I am not sure that anyone could capture the particular gravity of this issue better than the Canadian public health crusader Dr. Charles Hastings.

In 1918, during his address to the American Public Health Association, Hastings proclaimed, “Every nation that permits people to remain under the fetters of preventable disease, and permits social conditions to exist that make it impossible for them to be properly fed, clothed and housed, so as to maintain a high degree of resistance and physical fitness, and that endorses a wage that does not afford sufficient revenue for the home, a revenue that will make possible the development of a sound mind and body, is trampling a primary principle of democracy.”

The world may be a different place 100 years later, but some things always remain true.

Clarence Hightower is the executive director of Community Action Partnership of Ramsey & Washington Counties. Dr. Hightower holds a Ph.D. in urban higher education from Jackson State University. He welcomes reader responses to 450 Syndicate Street North, St. Paul, MN 55104

OPINION: We already know that poverty is a math problem. So, what else is it?

OPINION: We already know that poverty is a math problem. So, what else is it?

Minnesota Spokesman Recorder logo

First of a six-part series

Poverty is the worst form of violence.  — Mahatma Gandhi

Poverty is like punishment for a crime you didn’t commit. — Eli Khamarov

Poverty is brutal, consuming and unforgiving. It strikes at the soul.  — Charles M. Blow

Last August, I introduced the first column in a six-part series declaring that “poverty is not a character flaw,” but rather a math problem (and so much more). The math problems identified during the course of the series focused on America’s substantial inequities in employment, education, housing and transportation.

Then, in the final column, I began to explore the idea that, in addition to being a math problem, poverty is “so much more.” Poverty is an unrelenting assault on humanity, a wicked scourge that can have a decidedly detrimental effect on the health and wellness of those caught in its steely grasp.

In this new six-part series titled “We already know that poverty is a math problem. So, what else is it?” I will explore the impact that poverty has on the physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual well-being of people.

The series will conclude with an attempt to tackle Ruby K. Payne’s intriguing notion of the hidden rules among classes, which she describes as “the unspoken cues and habits of a group.” She adds that here in the United States, such a concept is often “recognized for racial and ethnic groups, but not particularly for economic groups.”

Still, before I begin to address these issues over the next couple of months, I would like to briefly discuss some of the inherently unique obstacles that people living in poverty face, which are generally unbeknownst to others. I am reminded of a passage from James Baldwin’s essay “Fifth Avenue, Uptown,” where he writes:

“Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor, and if one is a member of a captive population, economically speaking, one’s feet have simply been placed on the treadmill forever.”

A half-century after these words were composed by the legendary writer and activist, New York Times Op-Ed columnist Charles M. Blow revisited Baldwin’s assertion, noting that while its “original intent” was related to monetary matters (namely paying more for lesser goods), he has personally “always considered that statement in the context of the extreme psychological toll of poverty.”

To his point, consider some of the decisions people in poverty make that others couldn’t bear to imagine, like choosing between buying food, paying the light bill, or purchasing prescription medications. In fact, the threat of unexpected costs or the potential of a personal or family crisis likely figures in every choice made by those below the poverty line.

The truth is that poor households don’t have the luxury of planning for the future. For those in poverty, sometimes the day’s only objective is to survive into tomorrow.

These are just some of the reasons that the life expectancy of someone who is poor is 10 to 15 years less than someone who is not. Or why many in poverty are forced to find more than one job, often working longer hours than most and performing back-breaking work for insufficient pay. Far too many of our fellow citizens live in substandard housing, can’t find or afford nutritious food, lack access to quality health care, and are consigned to underfunded  public schools.

The stress of poverty, as demonstrated by a number of recent studies, plays havoc with the physiological, psychological, emotional and spiritual health of millions of Americans each and every day. Pure and simple, poverty is violence and it should not stand.

As Dr. King famously said upon winning the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize, “I have the audacity to believe that people everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.”

Yes, indeed.

Clarence Hightower is the executive director of Community Action Partnership of Ramsey & Washington Counties. Dr. Hightower holds a Ph.D. in urban higher education from Jackson State University. He welcomes reader responses to 450 Syndicate Street North, St. Paul, MN 55104.

Inside the ESSA Plans: What Are States Doing About Goals and Timelines?

Inside the ESSA Plans: What Are States Doing About Goals and Timelines?

By Stephen Sawchuk, Alyson Klein, and Andrew UjifusaEducation Week logo

EDUCATION WEEK — This week, Education Week is bringing its trademark analysis to the remaining state plans for fulfilling requirements of the Every Student Succeeds law. On Monday, we had a look at the states’ proposed “school quality” indicators, €”the required but nonacademic portion of each state’s plan to judge schools. Today, we’re going to take a look at states’ goals for raising student achievement and their timelines for doing so in the plans awaiting federal approval.

One thing we’ll keep stressing again and again this week: how far federal policy has moved since the days of the No Child Left Behind Act (ESSA’s predecessor). Read on.

So, what kinds of goals are states setting?

Some states chose fixed goals that aim for all students, and all subgroups of vulnerable students, such as those qualifying for subsidized school lunches or English-language learners, to reach the same target (such as 80 percent proficiency). What’s nice about this kind of goal is that it sets the same endpoint, making it easier to see over time how achievement gaps are expected to close. States in this category include: Arkansas, Hawaii, Kansas, Mississippi, (grades 3-8 only), Ohio, Minnesota, New York, Rhode island, South Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Read the full article here: May require an Education Week subscription.

Source: Education Week Politics K-12

55 years later, much work is needed to fulfill Dr. King’s dream in Minnesota

55 years later, much work is needed to fulfill Dr. King’s dream in Minnesota

Minnesota Spokesman Recorder logoby 

MINNESOTA SPOKESMAN-RECORDER — Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at a time where the words he spoke were radical, important, and needing to be both heard and said. Fifty-five years later, we still have so much farther to go.

I echo Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words — 55 years later; our communities are still not free. We are still fighting against economic disparities, unequal pay for work, and an achievement gap that is hurting the youngest of us. But, I also echo Dr. King’s words when I say I have a dream. I have a dream for our community that lifts up all of us:

Senator Bobby Joe Champion

[/media-credit] Senator Bobby Joe Champion

A dream of better opportunities for employment — for an environment where local businesses can thrive and hire community members for jobs that pay a living wage.

A dream of better education for all of us — from our youngest students to the people who never thought they would make it to college, to those that have earned a degree and are returning to our communities to give back to the people that gave so much to them.

A dream of stronger relationships with our police force, and of an unwavering commitment from our public safety officers to protect and serve all of us.

A dream of true equity that moves our entire community forward, that moves all of Minnesota forward.

This continues to be our hope, and it is the hope that I carry with me to my work in St. Paul. As we head into session, I will carry these dreams with me and I will work as hard as I possibly can to make them a reality, to make our community proud, and to make our city and our state a remarkable place for everyone.

We must grasp the fierce urgency of now

We must grasp the fierce urgency of now

Minnesota Spokesman Recorder logoby 

MINNESOTA SPOKESMAN-RECORDER — “We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., quote from his “I Have a Dream” speech, August 28, 1963.

Tina Burnside

Tina Burnside

Most people only remember the last lines of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. But the quote above, also from that same speech, is what I want to focus on in thinking about the future of the City of Minneapolis and the State of Minnesota.

Our community, city and state face serious problems of poverty, racial inequality and economic disparity. Minnesota ranks as the second-worst state for racial inequality for Black people with glaring disparities in which Blacks are incarcerated at higher numbers, have lower incomes, higher unemployment, and lower home ownership than Whites.

We can no longer take the “luxury of cooling off” to study the problem. We already know there is a problem. What we need are real solutions. Policies must be crafted in partnership with business, government and the community. This partnership must include Black voices and leadership.

We can no longer create solutions without listening to the people who are experiencing the problems, and we can no longer tell Blacks and other people of color that change must come gradually, or to wait.

It is 2018 — 55 years after Dr. King delivered his famous speech. As Dr. King said, we must be reminded of the urgency of now. There is no time to “cool off” or proceed gradually. Now is the time to make the promises of democracy a reality and not just a campaign slogan, soundbite or hashtag.

Tina Burnside is a civil rights attorney and writer.