Wiley College President Herman Felton (UNCF photo)
Tuesday, April 9, Herman Felton, Ph.D., president and CEO of Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, provided testimony before the House panel that decides the funding levels for all federal education programs. The House Appropriations Committee’s Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee received public witness testimony from only 24 individuals to inform their crafting of the upcoming bill to fund the government for fiscal year 2020. The remarks provided by Dr. Felton focused on the funding and national benefits of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
A Marine Corps veteran and lifelong educator, Dr. Felton’s testimony was the first of the afternoon to receive bi-partisan support from both Subcommittee Chairwoman Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT) and Ranking Member Tom J. Cole (R-OK). The funding leaders commended Wiley College (a UNCF-member institution) and similar HBCUs, for their work with first-generation college students, specifically for being an integral part of the American higher education fabric for decades. Chairwoman DeLauro added, concerning the $39 billion National Institutes of Health (NIH), “We will be sure that the center of our discussion and debate will be that we strengthen HBCUs.” Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) who introduced Dr. Felton to the Subcommittee prior to his testimony, noted that funding recommendations in Dr. Felton’s testimony “just make sense.”
UNCF (United Negro College Fund) worked with Congress to garner the opportunity for HBCUs to be represented in today’s proceedings. Dr. Felton echoed the priorities laid out by UNCF’s president and CEO Dr. Michael L. Lomax during the organization’s inaugural “State of the HBCUs Address” on March 5, including:
Increase funding for the discretionary “Strengthening HBCUs” Program to $375 million ($93 million increase over FY 2019);
Reauthorize the mandatory “Strengthening HBCUs” Program this year;
Fund the HBCU Capital Finance Program, including support for the deferment authority;
Double the Pell Grant award and support Second Chance Pell; and
Support funding to produce more African American health professionals and researchers, including at NIH.
“What we witnessed today was history,” commented Lodriguez V. Murray, UNCF’s vice president for public policy and government affairs. “One of our HBCU member presidents delivered remarks about the needs of all HBCUs and their students, weaving in the history of Wiley College. The goals are clear: increase resources necessary for the Pell-eligible and first-generation college students who have found an HBCU education to be a necessity; and allot the funding necessary for HBCUs to continue to remain competitive and thrive.”
Murray concluded, “The reception Dr. Felton received at the hearing showed, once again, that when we take a positive proactive agenda to Capitol Hill, bipartisanship is the response.”
This writing addresses the Oklahoma University (OU) “house cleaning” by the new administration as it led to the exit of Mr. Jabar Shumate and talk of a fraternity house being re-opened to the Oklahoma University Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) Fraternity after their involvement in a racist incident.
Mr. Jabar Shumate championed the underserved with integrity as our State Representative and State Senator in Tulsa, Ok. He was chosen to serve as OU Vice President focusing on diversity and inclusion in the aftermath of the OU Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) Fraternity members being captured on video happily singing racist words “You can hang them from a tree, but they’ll never sign with me, there will never be a n*****S-A-E.”
Former Pres. Boren banned the fraternity for fostering a hostile environment and publicly stated, “They won’t be back as long as I am president.” The cleanly swept SAE fraternity house was repurposed to benefit the nurturing of an unbiased university community and housed Mr. Shumate’s office.
Mr. Shumate, a capable Black man, embodied and promoted positive diversity, including much needed insight and cultural intelligence on campus. Concerning are the circumstances of his recent departure. Mr. Shumate maintains OU officials told him to move his office out of the house while students were away, to avoid bad exposure, as the SAE fraternity would return to OU. Mr. Shumate voiced such a move would roll back progress. While OU officials refute this conversation, they report SAE is not coming back to the campus, the University Community Center staff and Mr. Shumate were booted out of the SAE house. After Pres. Boren retired, Mr. Shumate was demoted to associate vice president.
Add to this mix, Mr. Shumate’s yearly good job performance reports, now being overlapped by a new administration audit and surfacing reports of illegal car travel. Mr. Shumate says his job routinely required much travel and he was not provided the option of corrective measures before being forced out. Is this solely about car travel or about Mr. Shumate driving home the point that OU should not lay down the welcome mat to racism and a lack of diversity at Oklahoma University?
An agreeable resolution should be reached between Mr. Jabar Shumate and the OU administration. Oklahoma University should not be affiliated with the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity as it created a hostile environment. Oklahoma University should be intentional in prioritizing culturally intelligent diversity and inclusion for generations to come.
This revolution will be televised – or at least streamed online.
And make no mistake: When you’re dealing with a group of pre-teen Black girls encouraging each other to read and write stories that portray positive images of people who look like themselves, it is nothing short of a revolution.
And that’s where the SweetPeas come in.
Started in earnest as a labor of love by a career educator and new author, the growing literary collective of young Black and brown readers and authors who take to Instagram to review books for and about people of color has accomplished its mission, and then some. Oh, and did we mention they are absolutely adorable?
“It was a great feeling watching the returns come in!” said Jonas Knotts, a high school teacher and president of the Webster County Education Association, an affiliate of the West Virginia Education Association (WVEA). “People and educators are really starting to see the power that they possess. We have a voting bloc that, if we turn out to the polls, can outvote anybody. Teachers are realizing this. It’s something that fills us with a very empowering feeling.”
Early this spring, WVEA members kicked off what NEA President Lily Eskelsen García has called an “education spring” with a statewide, nine-day strike that brought red-shirted educators from every one of the state’s 55 counties to the state Capitol.
Their massive show of solidarity, which ended with significant pay raises for all public workers, including teachers and education support professionals, and the establishment of a state task force to address public-worker health insurance, inspired educators across the nation and has been followed by statewide educator walkouts in Oklahoma, Arizona, and Kentucky, and huge Capitol demonstrations in Colorado and North Carolina.
Now, WVEA members are modeling what happens next: They’re taking their energy and passion for public education to the ballot box. In this May’s primary races, WVEA endorsed 115 pro-public school candidates for U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and the state’s House of Delegates and Senate. Of those, 99 candidates—or nearly 90 percent—won. One state lawmaker who had called union members “free riders” was shown the door.
This is exactly what public-school educators across the nation have promised to do in the mid-term elections this November. With this latest show of union strength, WVEA members have shown how it can be done—and how good it feels.
“This election was a huge vindication for the power of the movement because, of course, the opposition was saying ‘they’re going to forget, they’re going to stay home,’” said Knotts. “But we know it’s only one victory in a long war. We have to keep up those conversations, we have to keep people engaged, we have to show them how we’re working to improve everybody’s status—from teachers to support personnel to students to communities…”
The Every Student Succeeds Act is supposed to bring about a big change in school improvement. The law says states and districts can use any kind of interventions they want in low-performing schools, as long as they have evidence to back them up.
But the provision has some experts worried. They’re concerned that there just aren’t enough strategies with a big research base behind them for schools to choose from. These experts also worried that district officials may not have the capacity or expertise to figure out which interventions will actually work.
Districts, they’ve said, may end up doing the same things they have before, and may end up getting the same results.
“My guess is, you’ll see a lot of people doing the things they were already doing,” said Terra Wallin, who worked as a career staffer at the federal Education Department on school turnaround issues and is now a consultant with Education First, a policy organization that is working with states on ESSA implementation. “You’ll see a lot of providers approaching schools or districts to say, ‘Look, we meet the evidence standard,'” Wallin said…
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Duncan, Okla.— Few educators here say they want a statewide teacher strike to happen. And yet there’s overwhelming agreement from educators that it’s the only way forward.
Union leaders have given the Oklahoma state legislature an April 1 deadline to pass a funding package that includes a $10,000 pay raise over three years for teachers and a $200 million boost to public schools. If that doesn’t happen, teachers across the state will walk out of their classrooms, and will not return until they get what they’re asking for, union officials pledge.
“I don’t like that [a walkout] seems to be the only course of action—I think if there was something else, we would all jump on that, but I just think we all feel at a loss,” said Kara Stoltenberg, a high school English teacher in Norman, Okla., who also works at a clothing store to help pay her bills. “It’s so disheartening. … I want to believe the best in people, I want to be optimistic. It just feels like with one thing after another, that hope is being crushed.”
Oklahoma’s shutdown proposal came on the heels of the nearly two-week-long teacher strike in West Virginia, which concluded when the legislature there passed a bill giving all public employees a 5 percent pay raise. After that stunning victory, teachers in Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Arizona began to ask: “What if we did that here?”
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President Trump wants to arm teachers to prevent, or reduce the carnage from, future school shootings like the one at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., this month. “A teacher would have shot the hell out of him before he knew what had happened,” Trump said last week about the attacker in Florida. He’s not the only one who thinks this is a good idea: Several states are already considering legislation to allow guns to be carried into schools, ostensibly to protect kids.
But putting guns into the hands of schoolteachers would be extraordinarily dangerous for black and Latino students, who are already often forced to try to learn in hostile environments where they’re treated as threats.
How long would it be, if Trump’s plan became reality, before a teacher shoots a black student and then invokes the “I feared for my life” defense we continually hear from police officers who misinterpret young black people’s behavior with deadly consequences?
A mountain of data on persistent racial biases and disparities in education and on police presence in schools — as well as a recent increase in racial harassment in schools — makes it clear that kids of color won’t be safe if their teachers are carrying weapons…
The Oklahoma Eagle — The City of Tulsa and the Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance have teamed up to host a free STEM Summit at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 10 at the Tulsa Dream Center, 200 W. 46 th St. N.
The STEM Summit will offer hands-on fun with STEM-related activities, including science exhibits to inspire youth and machines for them to try out. All K-12 students and their families are welcome to attend the event where they can also network with college and career representatives and learn more about opportunities in their field.
The Mayor’s Office places a high priority on education and continues to work toward making Tulsa a premier place in Oklahoma for youth to receive an education that will help prepare them for their greatest success in life.
The Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance is committed to building broad, deep, and innovative pathways for students to access high-impact STEM careers.
The Every Student Succeeds Act may have kept annual testing as a federal requirement. But it also aims to help states cut down on the number of assessments their students must take by giving districts the chance to use a nationally-recognized college entrance exam, instead of the regular state test, for accountability purposes.
When the law passed back in 2015, some superintendents hailed the change, saying it would mean one less test for many 11th graders, who would already be preparing for the SAT or ACT. Assessment experts, on the other hand, worried the change would make student progress a lot harder to track.
Now, more than two years after the law passed, it appears that only two states—North Dakota and Oklahoma—have immediate plans to offer their districts a choice of tests. Policymakers in at least two other states—Georgia and Florida—are thinking through the issue. Arizona and Oregon could also be in the mix.
That’s not exactly a mad dash to take advantage of the flexibility.
Offering a choice of tests can be a tall order for state education officials, said Julie Woods, a senior policy analyst at the Education Commission of the States. They have to figure out how to pay for the college entrance exams, design a process for districts to apply for the flexibility, and find a way to compare student scores on the state test to scores on the SAT, ACT, or another test.
That’s “potentially a lot more work than states are currently doing,” Woods said. “States have to decide what the payoff is for them…”
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Arkansas, California, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Texas need to make some big improvements to their plans to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act, according to letters released publicly Friday by the U.S. Department of Education.
The most important letter is probably California’s. It’s a huge population center, and its plan, which relies on a dashboard to track school accountability, is either one of the most innovative and holistic in the country or one of squishiest and most confusing, depending on who you talk to.
The feds gave the Golden State a long, long list of things to fix. For one thing, the department says, it’s not at all clear from California’s plan that academic factors (like test scores) will count for more than school quality factors (like discipline data), an ESSA requirement. California wants to handle schools with low test participation by simply noting the problem on the state’s dashboard. The feds aren’t sure that meets the law’s requirements. And California told the department that it plans to finalize its method for identifying the lowest-performing schools in the state in January of 2018. The feds say they need it explained before they can greenlight California’s plan.
California also doesn’t have clear “interim” or short-term goals for English-language proficiency. It’s also unclear how the state will calculate suspension rates, which California wants to use to gauge school quality and student success. The state also needs to better spell out how it will make sure disadvantaged children get access to their fair share of effective teachers.
California has a long history of bucking the department. The state faced off with the Obama administration on student data systems, teacher evaluation, and more. So it will be interesting to see how many of these changes California makes, and whether the state will be approved even it doesn’t significantly revise its plan. A number of states that turned in their plans this spring didn’t make changes the department asked for, and got the stamp of approval anyway…
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