A New Year’s Resolution for Children in New York: School Improvement

A New Year’s Resolution for Children in New York: School Improvement

By Arva Rice, President and CEO of the New York Urban League

New Year’s resolutions are underway across the state of New York, and I’m one of those who are trying hard to keep the promises I made to myself. I’m focused on finding an exercise I like and can maintain, journaling more, and eliminating debt, but I am quickly learning that mapping out a clear plan with how to accomplish these will make my success much more likely. New York state officials are engaging in a similar exercise as they lay out our state’s priorities for 2019. As Governor Cuomo reflects on how our state is succeeding and where there is still room for growth, we must ensure that education and school improvement remain top priorities for New York. 

In his recent budget address, the Governor made a commitment to support an education system that distributes funding based on schools’ needs and fairness. Further, he also took the first steps to follow through on that commitment by allocating increased aid for our highest-need schools in his 2019 budget. While this can be considered encouraging progress, these priorities must remain at the forefront of Governor Cuomo and his administration’s to-do list for the upcoming year for the success of our state and our students. 

As President and CEO of the New York Urban League and a lifelong advocate for young people, I know that closing achievement gaps between our highest- and lowest-performing schools is one of the most pressing equity issues of our time. If we want to improve education outcomes and strengthen our state, we need to improve our schools and assure that every child has access to a high-quality education, no matter their zip code or the color of their skin. Especially as companies like Amazon bring more tech jobs to New York City, we must ensure that all schools promote skills like math, science, problem-solving, and innovation so that children across our city and state are qualified for such positions.

Under the most recent education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), our state has an opportunity to make the bold and innovative changes necessary to improve the trajectory of all New York students. A recent review of New York’s plan to improve low-performing schools by education experts and civil rights leaders found that New York has laid a strong foundation but can still improve the sustainability of its plan. Overall, New York’s plan focuses on equity in schools and ending segregation inequities. It also builds on proven, successful school improvement strategies and emphasizes school improvement at the local level, so that tools and techniques are tailored to local and diverse communities. However, while New York empowers local communities to lead turnaround efforts for low-performing schools, the state could take additional steps and use its authority to help ensure schools and districts make progress on their improvement goals.

As the Governor works with lawmakers on our state budget and embarks on 2019, I urge them all to put actions behind words and assure that our schools have sufficient support to increase equity and give every child a high-quality education. I also urge educators, parents, and community members to make your voices heard and advocate for the changes you want to see in your local school. We all play an important role in helping our students learn, and their success is our most important resolution for the new year.

Arva Rice is President and CEO of the New York Urban League. 

COMMENTARY: What More Can Be Done Under ESSA to Support Highly Qualified Teachers

COMMENTARY: What More Can Be Done Under ESSA to Support Highly Qualified Teachers

By Akil Wilson

As of Monday January 14th, the country’s 2nd largest public school system was being paralyzed by a teachers strike. The Los Angeles Sentinel reported that the walkout was followed by a plunge in student attendance, with about 144,000 students out of more than 600,000 students. On Tuesday that number grew to 159,000 students without instruction. This work stoppage was the latest in what has become a wave of similar protests in our nation’s public school systems.

Teacher concerns transformed into organized protests when, in early 2018, the West Virginia teacher’s strike made headlines, lasting over 2 weeks. Local education activists and teacher advocates forced the state legislature to address many of their concerns through the statewide strike. Afterwards, teachers returned to their classrooms with a 5 percent pay raise.

The strike lead to similar actions in several other school districts across the country including Oklahoma, Arizona, Kentucky and North Carolina.

Teacher grievances in Los Angeles echo the concerns of teachers in many school districts nationwide. Among their demands are smaller class sizes, an increase in support staff and higher pay.

The Los Angeles Unified School District is overwhelmingly comprised of low-income students, with over 80% of its students qualifying for free or reduced lunch.

Within this immense school system of 900 schools and roughly 30,000 teachers, classroom sizes can often exceed 32 students per teacher at the elementary level and up to 39 students per teacher for middle and high school. This student-to-teacher ratio greatly exceeds the 16 to 28 students per teacher national averages in urban school districts, according to the National Teacher and Principal Survey of 2015-16.

One of the Every Student Succeeds Act’s (ESSA) primary mandates involves building systems of support for educators through the use of additional funding and initiatives provided in Title II.

Title II funds purpose to support class size reduction, encourage performance-based pay for effective educators and develop opportunities to improve overall school conditions. In addition to funding, ESSA will enable school systems to attempt to address the shortage in classroom instructors by shifting the emphasis for teacher evaluations away from student standardized test performance — a point of stress for many educators.

Thus far, the Los Angeles Unified School District has offered a 6% pay increase as well as a classroom cap size of 35 for elementary schools and 39 for high school English and Math courses. However, in a school district as massive as Los Angeles, support staff is also vital.

Teachers in Los Angeles are also demanding that something is done to address the current state of affairs, which allows a workload of over 500 students per guidance counselor and over 2,000 students per nurse in the county. The school district has promised to address these concerns by offering one additional academic counselor per high school in the district and ensuring that each elementary school has daily nursing services.

If you are in Los Angeles or a similarly affected school district, learn more about ESSA’s impact on Title II and find out how your State Education Agency (SEA) and Local Education Agency (LEA) can support the extremely important work our educators are doing to advance our students’ success.

Akil Wilson is a Washington, DC-based podcaster and parent. He is a contributing writer for the Washington Informer in addition to providing broadcast commentary for a variety of media outlets.

Did Sen. Ted Cruz Really Cast the Deciding Vote to Confirm Betsy DeVos?

Did Sen. Ted Cruz Really Cast the Deciding Vote to Confirm Betsy DeVos?

Education Week logoU.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, who is in a fierce race for the Senate, has hit his opponent, Republican Sen.Ted Cruz, for wanting to take money away from public schools, and for being the “deciding vote” in favor of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ confirmation.

“At a time when nearly half of the school teachers in Texas are working a second job just to make ends meet, Ted Cruz wants to take our public tax dollars out of their classrooms, turn them into vouchers,” O’Rourke says in a new campaign ad. “He was the deciding vote in putting Betsy DeVos in charge of our children’s public education. I want to pay teachers a living wage. I want to allow them to teach to the child, and not to the test. And when they retire, I want it to be a retirement of dignity. Those public educators have been there for us. Now it’s time to be there for them.”

It’s true that Cruz has been a big proponent of private school vouchers. And he was the author of a provision in the new tax law that allows families to use 529 college-savings plans for K-12 private schools.

Read full article click here

OPINION: Is it time for more parents to choose homeschooling?

OPINION: Is it time for more parents to choose homeschooling?

By Ronald W. Holmes, Ph.D., Special to the Outlook

Parents have the choice to send their children to traditional public schools in their communities as a result of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling. However, these schools must offer students a quality education. They must also keep them safe from any potential or dangerous crime. When they do not, parents have the right to choose other alternatives to educate their children. One alternative is homeschooling. This type of schooling is where children obtain all or most of their education at home. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, a projected enrollment of homeschooled students ages 5 through 17, exceeds 1.5 million. 

With school shootings becoming a frequent occurrence in America’s public schools, the critical question to be asked is: Is it time for more parents to choose homeschooling?  The answer to this question will be found in my next book to be released in February of 2019. The book will explore the success stories of parents who have homeschooled their children, as well as those who are currently homeschooling their children. 

In addition to a quality education and a safe school environment, there are many other reasons parents homeschooled their children. This book will highlight the program structure, curriculum options, partnerships and other resources afforded to homeschoolers for an enriching educational experience. It will also highlight the extent of technology integrated into the instructional process. 

If you would like to participate in this book project as someone who has successfully homeschooled a child or currently having success in homeschooling a child, please contact Dr. Ronald Holmes at rwholmes18@gmail.com. 

I am a former teacher, school administrator, test developer and district superintendent. I am the author of 16 books and publisher of The Holmes Education Post, an education-focused Internet newspaper. These books include How to Eradicate Hazing; How to Eradicate Cyber Bullying; How to Eradicate Schoolyard Bullying; and How to Eradicate Workplace Bullying. These books serve as a reference guide to an online anti-bullying program that provides training for all students, parents, employees, and managers. These books are also equipped with a 24-hour Web-Based Reporting, Tracking, Training and Documentation System that allow individuals to report bullying incidents anonymously from the home, school, work, and community.

OPINION: Our Children Are at Risk

OPINION: Our Children Are at Risk

By Kay Coles James

I’m sure President Obama’s heart was in the right place.

A few years ago, his Department of Education, in conjunction with the Department of Justice, studied school discipline data and came to a troubling conclusion: African American students in the 2011-12 school year had been suspended or expelled at a rate three times higher than White students.

This news sent shock waves throughout the community and government. There were already concerns of a “school-to-prison pipeline” that funneled disadvantaged children to jail. Now, there was renewed agreement that things had to change.

And so, in 2014, the Departments of Education and Justice put public schools on notice. If they suspended or expelled students of any racial group more than any other, they could face a federal investigation. In place of discipline to punish bad behavior, they were urged to use positive reinforcement instead.

As the grandmother of five school-age kids, I watched this closely. And as one of the Black students who integrated an all-White Richmond, Va., school in 1961, I was hopeful.

I hoped this policy would lead to safer schools. I prayed it would help students get a better education. And I felt confident it would open the door to a brighter future for our kids.

But like so many other parents and grandparents, I was wrong.

The federal government’s warning had an immediate impact. Schools across America quickly changed their discipline policies and reduced their suspension and expulsion rates. In doing so, they avoided the investigation threatened by the President. But at the same time, they put our children at risk.

Today, kids who bully and assault their classmates too often do so without fear of punishment. They know teachers have lost control. And they realize they can get away with behavior that never used to be tolerated.

As a result, when this summer is over, many students will once again face the fear of going back to school. That’s a tragedy! Schools should be joyous places where learning takes place. That’s what my classmates and I fought for in 1961. And it’s what should be the reality today.

Instead, danger lurks behind schoolhouse doors.

Joevon Smith is a heartbreaking example. A 17-year-old student with special needs who attended Ballou High School in Washington, D.C., Joeven was beaten up in his classroom and sprayed with a chemical. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, but never recovered. A few weeks after his brutal assault, Joevon died.

According to media reports, Joevon’s assailants wanted to steal his cell phone. That may be so. But because they were repeat offenders, loosened school discipline policies are also at fault.

That’s the case up the road in Baltimore, too. There, Jared Haga, age 10, and his 12-year-old sister Tamar have been bullied and threatened with violence. Tamar has even been sexually harassed and assaulted. In school!

As chronicled by “The Daily Signal,” Jared and Tamar’s mother tried to get this to stop. But when she complained to the principal, she was told nothing would–or could–be done.

Joevon, Jared, and Tamar aren’t alone. According to numerous reports, public schools are now less orderly and more dangerous. As Walter E. Williams has observed, the policy President Obama put into place has allowed “miscreants and thugs to sabotage the education process.”

Teachers apparently agree. In anonymous surveys, they describe how badly school safety has deteriorated. As one stated, “We have fights here almost every day. The kids walk around and say, ‘We can’t get suspended–we don’t care what you say.’”

That sentiment was echoed by another teacher: “Students are yelling, cursing, hitting and screaming at teachers and nothing is being done but teachers are being told to teach and ignore the behaviors. These students know there is nothing a teacher can do.”

This is crazy.

Every child deserves to get the tools they need to make their dreams come true. But if they are too scared to focus, they won’t get them. Many will drop out, limiting their chance to get a job, raise a family, and pursue their life goals.

All because directives from Washington have made school districts fear they’ll be investigated for keeping their classrooms safe.

We can’t bring Joevon back, and Jared and Tamar may never forget the trauma they’ve experienced. But we can take action to fix the mistake that has been made.

For starters, the Education and Justice Departments’ school discipline policy should be rescinded. And if any threats remain, every family should be empowered with school choice, so they can choose safer learning options for their children.

I know President Obama meant well, but his administration’s action was wrong. So, it’s now time to make things right.

Our children should be at risk no more.

This article first appeared in The Milwaukee Courier.

Racial Divides Found in Student Loan Defaults

Racial Divides Found in Student Loan Defaults

By Charlene Crowell

With 44 million consumers owing student debt that now reaches $1.5 trillion and still climbing, a lot of people want to better understand how and why this unsustainable debt trajectory can be better managed. For Black consumers who typically have less family wealth than other races and ethnicities, borrowing is more frequent, and as a result, often leads to five figure debts for undergraduate programs and well beyond $100,000 for graduate or professional degrees.

Besides deep debt incurred to gain a college education, another sphere of concern presents yet another financial hurdle: student loan defaults.

New research by Judith Scott-Clayton of the Brookings Institution, focuses on explaining these defaults and what happens once they occur. Her research shows that a large racial gap exists in default rates between Black student loan borrowers and their White counterparts. This gap can only be partially explained by controlling for multiple socio-economic and educational attainment factors.

After accounting for variations in family wealth and income, differences in degree attainment, college grade point average and even post-college income and employment, a stubborn and statistically significant 11 percentage point gap remains between Black and White student loan borrowers. Before adjusting for these factors, the gap is 28 percent, with Black borrowers defaulting at a rate of more than double that of Whites—49 percent compared to 21 percent over 12 years.

The research also finds a strong disadvantage to attending for-profit colleges, in which Black students disproportionately enroll. More than a decade after leaving school, and accounting for the same background and attainment factors listed above, loan defaults of for-profit college borrowers exceed those of two–year public sector peers by 11 percent.

The author points to the need to understand what influences the “stark” remaining divide.

“The better we can understand what drives these patterns,” wrote Scott-Clayton, “the better policymakers can target their efforts to improve student loan outcomes.”

Among these influences are the widening racial wealth gap. As Black student debt is typically heavier and often takes longer to repay, the ability to build wealth becomes a heightened challenge. Years that might have been opportunities to become homeowners or begin other investments can have lengthy deferrals, due to large student loan debts.

Similarly, a new report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) that focused largely on student loan repayment reached a similar conclusion. Authored by Thomas Conkling, the new CFPB research examining borrowers who were unable to fully repay their student loans early, “suggests that their required monthly student loan payments constrained their ability to pay down other debts.” CFPB also found that the typical student loan repayment lasts a full decade with equal monthly payments.

Further, borrowers repaying on schedule are not more likely to become first-time homeowners.

A portion of the Brookings report provides useful information that could help those at risk or in default.

Loan “default is a status, not a permanent characteristic.” Four ways to get out of default are cited: rehabilitation, consolidation, paying in full, or have a loan discharged.

For my money, paying in full is seldom a practical option unless someone’s lottery numbers hit a jackpot. But the other three options offered could begin to chart a path in important ways.

Rehabilitation of student loan defaults can only be used one time. It also requires, according to Brookings, successfully making nine payments over 10 months.

A second option, consolidating defaulted loans, can end default more quickly and is used by more than half of Blacks who have defaulted.

In recent years, loan discharge has been frequently pursued, especially by former students of now-defunct for-profit institutions. Others choosing public service careers may be eligible for loan forgiveness depending upon the type of loan, servicer assistance and employment.

Any loan default will worsen credit scores and will be a part of a consumer’s credit record for up to seven years. During this time, the cost of credit for other goods and services will be higher. It will also cost many job applicants to lose out on employment opportunities. For several years, credit score screening has become a part of the job application process for many employers.

“The numbers show that our current system is not working, and that higher education is not providing the pathway to financial stability that it once accomplished,” Policy Counsel and Special Assistant to the President of the Center for Responsible Lending, Ashley Harrington said. “We need federal and state policymakers to take concrete steps to effectively address this crisis, such as better regulation of for-profit colleges.

“As for loan servicers, it is time to hold them accountable for their errors,” continued Harrington.

“Standardizing income-based repayment plans, and when appropriate, refinancing of student loans, should be offered as alternative options before allowing borrowers to default.”

Charlene Crowell is the Communications Deputy Director with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.

COMMENTARY: Education Chief DeVos: Failing to Make the Grade

COMMENTARY: Education Chief DeVos: Failing to Make the Grade

State Representative Leon D. Young


By State Representative, Leon D. Young

Before she was even sworn in as Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos emerged as one of the most controversial members of the Trump Administration. Her confirmation required a historic tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence after every Senate Democrat and two Senate Republicans voted against her. In the months since, like many others in the Trump Administration, DeVos has set about rolling back Obama-era policies, from Title IX guidance on campus sexual assault to regulations on for-profit colleges. She quickly found support from conservatives who had backed her previous work as a school choice advocate, but she struggled to build broad national support for her initiatives. DeVos, a prominent Republican donor, faced criticism from Democrats, teachers’ unions and civil rights advocates, many of whom noted that she did not have a background as an educator.

It would be an understatement to suggest that DeVos’ first year alone has sparked a number of controversies, some of which include:

  • In September (2017), DeVos rolled back controversial Obama-era guidance on how universities should handle sexual assault complaints on campus. The 2011 guidelines had instructed universities to use a “preponderance of the evidence” standard when adjudicating sexual assault complaints instead of the “clear and convincing evidence” standard, which requires a higher burden of proof and was used by some schools at the time.
  • DeVos stoked further controversy when she held meetings on campus sexual assault in July (2017), speaking with victims of sexual assault as well as students who say they’ve been falsely accused. Coupled with the acting head of the department’s Office for Civil Rights assertion that 90% of sexual assault complaints “fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk.’
  • Under her guidance, the Department of Education and the Department of Justice rescinded guidelines that allowed transgender students to use the bathrooms aligned with their gender identity.
  • In June (2017), an internal memo indicated that the department was scaling back investigations into civil rights violations at public schools and universities. In the two months that followed, the department also closed or dismissed more civil rights complaints than previous administrations had in similar periods of time.
  • DeVos has also led efforts that blocked the Obama Administration’s protections for students attending for-profit colleges. The regulations would have provided debt forgiveness to students defrauded by for-profit colleges and would have cut off funding to for-profit colleges that burdened students with loans while failing to prepare them for gainful employment.

Let’s fast-forward to now. DeVos is once again making waves and headlines as she ponders whether to allow grants from the academic support fund to be used for a highly controversial purpose: guns. The $1 billion Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants is intended for the country’s poorest schools and school districts to use the money toward three goals: providing well-rounded education, improving school conditions for learning and improving the use of technology for digital literacy.

Given the fact that the Every Student Succeeds Act, signed into law in 2015, is silent on weapons purchases, that omission would allow Ms. DeVos to use her discretion to approve or deny any state or district plans to use the enrichment grants under the measure for firearms and firearms training.

In addition, such a move would reverse a longstanding position taken by the federal government that it should not pay to outfit schools with weaponry. It would also undermine efforts by Congress to restrict the use of federal funding on guns.

DeVos is clearly an anomaly, who is ill prepared for the job. She is the first education secretary in the department’s 35-year history to not have been a public-school parent or student. DeVos attended private institutions for both grade school and college, and her four children were educated at private schools, too.

In my view, Betsy DeVos is unqualified, clearly unfit, and obviously too conflicted to serve as the U.S. Education Secretary and who, for all intents and purposes—appears bent on taking down the very institution she’s entrusted with.

This article originally appeared in The Milwaukee Courier.

COMMENTARY: You Don’t Have to Break the Bank to Give Back to HBCUs

COMMENTARY: You Don’t Have to Break the Bank to Give Back to HBCUs

By Harry L. Williams

Earlier this year, a man named Jack Weldon Patrick passed away in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. A long-time lawyer, Patrick was remembered as a family man, an advocate for social justice, and a respected community leader.

One day a check arrived by mail for the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) in memory of Jack Weldon Patrick. A few days later, another one arrived, and a few weeks later, another check. Individual donations kept coming to support the work of TMCF and our publicly-supported Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in honor of Jack. His obituary read, “in lieu of flowers the family suggests memorial donations in Jack’s name to causes he cared deeply about.” One of those causes was TMCF.

So many of us outside of TMCF headquarters and Menomonee may have never known Jack as a stalwart of access and opportunity for students attending Black colleges. Many of us aren’t even aware that Jack was part of the reason why in 2016, private giving and contracts earned by HBCUs increased for a second straight year, posting a four-year high of $320 million. But we do know he was a living embodiment of the famous quote by Nelson Henderson: “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”

While philanthropic anonymity is honorable, philanthropic leadership helps organizations like TMCF reach new supporters, encouraging new donor circles to give. Showcasing the faces and stories of those who give is an important tool in cultivating similar donors, encouraging a culture of giving around our campuses. This is a critical strategy that grows an organization’s base of support every year. For non-profit organizations, individual giving is the largest type of charitable gift – four times the amount as the next largest category in 2015, according to Giving USA.

Organizations like TMCF thrive due to the generosity of individuals who believe in our work and want to expand our impact, through monthly and annual donations, as well as the legacy gift. TMCF combines these individuals’ gifts with foundation grants and partnerships with major corporations and government agencies to provide the funds that allow us to transform lives. It takes a philanthropic village to develop young minds, and we are humbled to be good stewards of the resources that our donors and partners entrust to us.

TMCF, its 47 member-schools and the nearly 300,000 students attending them each year, want to play a role in redefining HBCU philanthropy and support. The data on finances and the number of degrees we produce in areas like STEM, education, social sciences and criminal justice already show just how productive HBCUs continue to be in graduating Black students. Seventy percent of our publicly-supported HBCUs attendees are first generation college students (like I was) and eligible for Pell Grants. In comparison, the national average is only 37 percent for all public schools. By providing this quality education, students transform their lives and prepare to enter economically sustainable careers. Now TMCF wants to illustrate that same culture within our giving networks.

Anyone believing in the power of education to transform lives should invest in HBCUs. This includes alumni who want to have a tangible way to support their schools. All people in our networks at work, at church, in our communities, fraternities and sororities, and other circles of activity are worthy of soliciting for support. Age, earnings and personality are not elements for disqualifying those who might be willing to give, or those who have the capacity to do so.

So today, we honor one man—Jack Weldon Patrick—and his commitment to HBCUs, and we thank his friends and family for their continued investment in the work of TMCF. We hope his example encourages others to consider impacting people’s lives by supporting our nation’s HBCUs.

OPINION: We Must Reform Obama’s School Discipline Policies for the Safety of Our Children

OPINION: We Must Reform Obama’s School Discipline Policies for the Safety of Our Children

By Kay Coles James (President, The Heritage Foundation)

I’m sure President Obama’s heart was in the right place.

A few years ago, his Department of Education, in conjunction with the Department of Justice, studied school discipline data and came to a troubling conclusion: African American students in the 2011-12 school year had been suspended or expelled at a rate three times higher than White students.

This news sent shock waves throughout the community and government.  here were already concerns of a “school-to-prison pipeline” that funneled disadvantaged children to jail.  Now, there was renewed agreement that things had to change.

And so, in 2014, the Departments of Education and Justice put public schools on notice.  If they suspended or expelled students of any racial group more than any other, they could face a federal investigation. In place of discipline to punish bad behavior, they were urged to use positive reinforcement instead.

As the grandmother of five school-age kids, I watched this closely.  And as one of the Black students who integrated an all-White Richmond, Va., school in 1961, I was hopeful.

I hoped this policy would lead to safer schools. I prayed it would help students get a better education.  And I felt confident it would open the door to a brighter future for our kids.

But like so many other parents and grandparents, I was wrong.

The federal government’s warning had an immediate impact.  Schools across America quickly changed their discipline policies and reduced their suspension and expulsion rates. In doing so, they avoided the investigation threatened by the President. But at the same time, they put our children at risk.

Today, kids who bully and assault their classmates too often do so without fear of punishment.  They know teachers have lost control.  And they realize they can get away with behavior that never used to be tolerated.

As a result, when this summer is over, many students will once again face the fear of going back to school. That’s a tragedy! Schools should be joyous places where learning takes place.  That’s what my classmates and I fought for in 1961.  And it’s what should be the reality today.

Instead, danger lurks behind schoolhouse doors.

Joevon Smith is a heartbreaking example. A 17-year-old student with special needs who attended Ballou High School in Washington, D.C., Joeven was beaten up in his classroom and sprayed with a chemical. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, but never recovered.  A few weeks after his brutal assault, Joevon died.

According to media reports, Joevon’s assailants wanted to steal his cell phone. That may be so.  But because they were repeat offenders, loosened school discipline policies are also at fault.

That’s the case up the road in Baltimore, too. There, Jared Haga (age 10) and his 12-year-old sister Tamar have been bullied and threatened with violence.  Tamar has even been sexually harassed and assaulted. In school!

As chronicled by “The Daily Signal,”Jared and Tamar’s mother tried to get this to stop.  But when she complained to the principal, she was told nothing would – or could – be done.

Joevon, Jared, and Tamar aren’t alone.  According to numerous reports, public schools are now less orderly and more dangerous.  As Walter E. Williams has observed, the policy President Obama put into place has allowed “miscreants and thugs to sabotage the education process.”

Teachers apparently agree.  In anonymous surveys, they describe how badly school safety has deteriorated. As one stated, “We have fights here almost every day.  The kids walk around and say ‘We can’t get suspended – we don’t care what you say.’”

That sentiment was echoed by another teacher: “Students are yelling, cursing, hitting and screaming at teachers and nothing is being done but teachers are being told to teach and ignore the behaviors. These students know there is nothing a teacher can do.”

This is crazy.

Every child deserves to get the tools they need to make their dreams come true.  But if they are too scared to focus, they won’t get them.  Many will drop out, limiting their chance to get a job, raise a family, and pursue their life goals.

All because directives from Washington have made school districts fear they’ll be investigated for keeping their classrooms safe.

We can’t bring Joevon back, and Jared and Tamar may never forget the trauma they’ve experienced.  But we can take action to fix the mistake that has been made.

For starters, the Education and Justice Departments’ school discipline policy should be rescinded.  And if any threats remain, every family should be empowered with school choice so they can choose safer learning options for their children.

I know President Obama meant well, but his administration’s action was wrong.  So it’s now time to make things right.

Our children should be at risk no more.

Kay Coles James is the president of The Heritage Foundation. You can follow Kay on Twitter @KayColesJames.

OPINION: New ‘Poor People’s Campaign’ revives Dr. King’s vision

OPINION: New ‘Poor People’s Campaign’ revives Dr. King’s vision

Minnesota Spokesman Recorder logo

I must remind you that a starving child is violence. Suppressing a culture is violence. Neglecting school children is violence. Punishing a mother and her family is violence. Discrimination against a working man is violence. Ghetto housing is violence. Ignoring medical needs is violence. Contempt for poverty is violence. – Coretta Scott King

Something is wrong that we have to feed so many. Why should there be poverty with all of our science and technology? There is no deficit in human resources – it is a deficit in human will. – Coretta Scott King

It was not my intent to retread some of the thematic ground I’ve covered over the past couple of months, but current events both locally and across the nation, cause me to do so.

The two columns that were published here in April marked 50 years since Dr. King’s assassination, and subsequently, the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act of 1968. The discussion of the Fair Housing Act is particularly relevant today, as there have been numerous efforts in recent years, both underhanded and overt, to undermine and ultimately overturn this essential law (as ineffectual as it has sometimes been).

Another 50-year milestone that has just passed is what history has come to know as “The Roads to Resurrection City.” It was on Mother’s Day, May 12, 1968, that Coretta Scott King led thousands of demonstrators from far and wide to Washington, D.C. demanding that the U.S. Congress pass an Economic Bill of Rights, an idea originally proposed by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1944.

The centerpiece of Dr. King’s “Poor People’s Campaign,” the Economic Bill of Rights called for, among other things, full employment and a living wage; sufficient and affordable housing; and the right to health care, social security, and quality education. Of the Poor Peoples Campaign, Dr. King said, “We believe the highest patriotism demands the ending of the [Vietnam] war and the opening of a bloodless war to final victory over racism and poverty.”

Of course, Dr. King was not around to witness the culmination of this campaign or the establishment of Resurrection City on the National Mall where he helped to lead the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom nearly five years earlier. In late June of 1968, six weeks after setting up camp in Resurrection City, demonstrators were violently evicted by the local police and National Guard. Nearly 300 of them, including Dr. King’s most trusted aide Rev. Ralph David Abernathy, were arrested.

Today, history is repeating itself as a new movement (inspired by Dr. King’s original vision), The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, has emerged in communities throughout the United States. This campaign restates the demands of 50 years ago and adds several more. It highlights the rising social and racial inequities in employment, education, housing, economic security, access to health care and health-related outcomes, human rights, and environmental justice.

On Monday, May 14, thousands of protestors, including 13 near the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, were arrested as they engaged in a national groundswell of nonviolent civil disobedience. According to the Minnesota Poor People’s Campaign, this calls for “new initiatives to fight systematic poverty and racism, immediate attention to ecological devastation, and measures to curb militarism and the war economy.”

The national Poor People’s Campaign, along with its state and local affiliates and supporting partners, will continue these demonstrations over the next several weeks before convening at the United States Capitol Building on Saturday, June 23. Dating back to the Women’s March on Washington in January of 2017 up to the student-led March for Our Lives this spring, this will be at least the 22nd major demonstration to take place in Washington, D.C. over the last year-and-a-half.

I am curious to see how America reacts to the upcoming June march as well as to all of the related events leading up to it. Why? Well, let’s be frank for a minute.

An enduring theme throughout the history of this nation is that people living in poverty are somehow to blame for their own plight. There are a number of journalists, scholars and activists, including John A. Powell and Arthur Brooks, who have recently declared that “America can’t fix poverty until it stops hating poor people.”

Please indulge me for a moment while I shift gears to reinforce this point. I chose the two quotes above from Mrs. King specifically for their bold and straightforward assertions. Number one: Poverty is violence. And second, as her husband acutely noted, “Poverty has no justification in our age.”

Why then, do we not have the will to end it? Why do we choose to hate instead?

On a couple of occasions, I have used this space to reference insights from comedian W. Kamau Bell’s CNN documentary series “United Shades of America.” In the third season’s premier episode, which aired at the end of April, Bell visits the U.S.-Mexican border to engage locals about their thoughts on “illegal immigration” and “the wall.”

He visits with a pair of Border Patrol officers who, above all, view their principle responsibility as saving lives. They cite the hundreds of migrants, determined to make a better life for themselves and their families, who die every year from dehydration, heat stroke, and even hypothermia.

It is very common for activists and even concerned citizens who live on the border to leave water out in the hope they might possibly save the life of a fellow human being. Yet, Bell contrasts this good will with images that have been captured of Border Patrol agents who think differently than the two he interviewed.

Knowing full well why the water is there, one Border Patrol agent is shown on film casually kicking gallon after gallon of water down a steep desert hill. Another agent is shown simply dumping water into the sand while he smiles and speaks directly into the camera.

Whatever he was muttering was unintelligible to me, but he was obviously quite proud of himself. Apparently, that was his idea of justice, or national security, or whatever.

Let that sink in. And while we do, let us not forget that poverty is violence. Poverty kills. Hate kills.

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