School District Moves Forward With Aggressive Equity Agenda Despite $17M in Budget Cuts

School District Moves Forward With Aggressive Equity Agenda Despite $17M in Budget Cuts

Tyese Hunter, Metropolitan Nashville Board of Education Budget and Finance Committee chair

Tyese Hunter, Metropolitan Nashville Board of Education Budget and Finance Committee chair

NASHVILLE, TN — Many school districts across the nation are feeling the squeeze that smaller budgets and higher expectations for achievement are placing on their already challenged learning environments. While there is a constant push to do more with less, committed board members, administrators and teachers continue to fight through those challenges to remain focused on the goal of elevating student achievement. 

This scenario is a strikingly familiar one for Metro Nashville Public Schools, a chronically underfunded district tasked with the expectations of meeting rigorous state and national achievement standards despite scarcity in resources. Out of thousands of school districts across the nation, MNPS stands as the 41st largest educating 86,000 students from diverse communities. Like other large districts, the directive to meet growing educational demands has become a stark reality, even when the funding does not compliment this top priority. 

Tyese Hunter, who represents District 6 and serves as the Metropolitan Nashville Board of Education Budget and Finance Committee chair, said although it was a difficult budget process this year, the misperception of all doom-and-gloom is inaccurate. She said while the decrease in funding is significant, the board was diligent in laser-focusing on priorities to have the greatest impact for all students.

“Despite what some have communicated, a lot of progress was made in this budget, even with all its challenges,” Hunter said. “We engaged in some very tough conversations and worked really hard to determine which priorities would be most impactful to students and families.” 

She added, “Leadership is about meeting the tough challenges and not allowing a few vocal voices to get in the way of progress. There were some very brave conversations this year around equity across our district, and I commend my board colleagues for being courageous enough to address this critical issue by voting for a budget that prioritized students who have been underserved for decades.”

In a tight budget year, the district looked at how it could provide its poorest and neediest schools with a boost through how it allocated its Title I funds.  Title I funds are dollars given to school districts by the Federal government to help poor students perform better in schools.  The Board voted 7-2 for a budget that provided equity and access to some of the district’s most vulnerable students, which led to a total of $7.2 million additional dollars being allocated to schools with $5.2 million being given to special education and $2 million for English Language Learners.  Thanks to the Metro Council, an additional $2 million was provided to increase paraeducator pay and to ensure all students can take and earn credit for advanced coursework at the high school level like Advanced Placement courses, International Baccalaureate courses, and dual credit courses through Nashville State Community College, as well as industry certifications – for free.  Over the past two years, the district has allocated an additional $14 million directly to schools. 

These bold moves coupled with the work the Board of Education approved last year providing resources to ensure each elementary and middle school had Encore, which is offered through Gifted and Talented programs, and teachers and qualified literacy experts in every building. New literacy curriculum in all schools will ensure that Metro Nashville Public Schools is serving the needs of all students without taking anything away from all students. 

“We want to make sure all students, regardless of their academic status and background, are not left behind,” said Dr. Shawn Joseph, director of schools. “Our most accelerated learners are not getting short-changed because we are addressing the needs of special education and ELL learners. We believe we can, and we will, provide equitable services across this district that ensures every single child’s educational needs are met.”

Hunter, who represents one of the city’s most diverse school populations, said Metro Schools has made strides over the past two years. Reading and math scores are up, ACT scores are moving in the right direction with more students taking the test, more are taking and passing AP and IB tests, and additional funds toward special education, gifted and talented services, and English Language services are areas that are being addressed. 

“As budget chair this year, we had a hard conversation about equity in this district. We sent more money to our neediest schools and held 10 community budget meetings to ensure we received input and concern from parents and the community,” Hunter said. “This is unprecedented and resulted in nearly every cluster receiving an increase in funding over the previous year.”

Reports from organizations such as the Nashville Public Education Foundation and the Nashville Chamber of Commerce link Nashville’s future to its success with education. How the city invests in this key economic driver which is tied directly to job creation and global competitiveness will determine its ability to hold on to the “it-city” persona that has caught fire across the country. According to the U.S. Department of Education, increasing educational attainment by a single grade level boosts lifetime income, is a potent weapon against poverty and illiteracy, shapes active citizens, and builds safer, stronger and healthier communities, among other benefits.

“Education is an investment, and while MNPS did not receive the level of funding we wanted from the city, we expect this district’s administration to ensure the funds we have been provided are put to good use,” Hunter said. “Further, as we move ahead, it is important that we continue to exhibit this type of courage and decision making on the board, and to keep at the forefront what is best for children over politics.”

Former HISD superintendent blasts district

Former HISD superintendent blasts district

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Former Houston ISD superintendent Richard Carranza is speaking out about his disappointment in HISD’s failure to pass major reforms while he was here. Carranza, who now leads the New York public school system after abruptly quitting HISD, said the district lacked the appetite for changes that would boost outcomes for lower-income and minority students.

“As soon as I left, it seemed like people just didn’t have the stomach to take the fight,” Carranza said.

In an interview with Atlantic Magazine, Carranza who was with the district for 18 months, said HISD leaders resisted changes that would benefit historically underserved students, creating inequitable access to quality education among students from all backgrounds.

The Atlantic article largely focused on his immediate reform efforts in New York City, but Carranza didn’t mince words as he talked about HISD’s current campus funding model and the geographic layout of its magnet schools, which he said have favored students from more affluent and white backgrounds. In the months before his departure from HISD, Carranza proposed shifting toward a more centralized funding model that largely would benefit schools in lower-income and predominantly Black and Hispanic neighborhoods.

“You would think if you want to integrate schools and really provide a robust push for the entire system, you would place some really sexy magnet schools in those African-American neighborhoods. No! They were all concentrated in white, upper-middle-class neighborhoods, so that if you’re an African-American student, you have to leave your neighborhood to go to those programs,” he said.

Carranza’s comments cut to key questions about the district’s dedication to impoverished and minority students, while also raising the specter that Carranza’s abrupt departure contributed to the proposals stalling. During his tenure the district dealt with

Ultimately, HISD trustees tweaked the district’s current campus funding model and shelved the magnet proposals, to Carranza’s dismay. However, it is arguable whether trustees resisted Carranza’s proposal because they “didn’t have the stomach to take the fight.” Some trustees embraced Carranza’s proposal, but others thought the district administration was moving too hastily and did not provide enough details about the proposal’s merits.

“Carranza didn’t leave any definite plans on the table. Only ideals,” HISD Board President Rhonda Skillern-Jones said. “For me, there were conceptual changes that were never fully vetted or fleshed out by the administration.”

The district also was dealing with a large budget deficit and a looming threat of a state takeover of the school system resulting from a state law that required the Texas Education Agency to control operations of any school district in which one or more schools failed to meet state academic standards for five consecutive years, prompting a few trustees to question whether HISD was tackling too much at one time.

GAO: Action Needed to Improve Participation in HBCU Capital Financing Program

GAO: Action Needed to Improve Participation in HBCU Capital Financing Program

What GAO Found

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), stakeholders, and planning documents identified extensive and diverse capital project needs at HBCUs and GAO found HBCUs rely on a few funding sources—such as state appropriations and tuition and fees—to address those needs. HBCUs responding to GAO’s survey reported that 46 percent of their building space, on average, needs repair or replacement. Based on a review of master plans—which assess the condition of HBCU facilities—and visits to nine HBCUs, GAO identified significant capital project needs in the areas of deferred maintenance, facilities modernization, and preservation of historic buildings. The Department of Education’s (Education) HBCU Capital Financing Program has provided access to needed funding for some HBCUs and has helped modernize their facilities to improve student recruitment. However, fewer than half of HBCUs have used the program, according to Education data,

Capital Projects at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)

Capital Projects at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)

Note: The Department of Education’s HBCU Capital Financing program provides low-cost loans to eligible HBCUs.

Education has undertaken several efforts to help HBCUs access and participate in the HBCU Capital Financing Program. For example, Education conducts outreach through attending conferences. However, some HBCUs in GAO’s survey and interviews were unaware of the program. Moreover, public HBCUs in four states reported facing participation challenges due to state laws or policies that conflict with program requirements. For example, participants are required to provide collateral, but public HBCUs in two states reported they cannot use state property for that purpose. In March 2018, a federal law was enacted requiring Education to develop an outreach plan to improve program participation. An outreach plan that includes direct outreach to individual HBCUs and states to help address these issues could help increase participation. Without direct outreach, HBCUs may continue to face participation challenges. In addition, two HBCUs recently defaulted on their program loans and 29 percent of loan payments were delinquent in 2017. Education modified a few loans in 2013 and was recently authorized to offer loan deferment, but has no plans to analyze the potential benefits to HBCUs and the program’s cost of offering such modifications in the future. Until Education conducts such analyses, policymakers will lack key information on potential options to assist HBCUs.

Why GAO Did This Study

HBCUs play a prominent role in our nation’s higher education system. For example, about one-third of African-Americans receiving a doctorate in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics received undergraduate degrees from HBCUs. To help HBCUs facing challenges accessing funding for capital projects, in 1992, federal law created the HBCU Capital Financing Program, administered by Education, to provide HBCUs with access to low-cost loans. GAO was asked to review the program.

This report examines HBCUs’ capital project needs and their funding sources, and Education’s efforts to help HBCUs access and participate in the HBCU Capital Financing Program. GAO surveyed all 101 accredited HBCUs and 79 responded, representing a substantial, but nongeneralizable, portion of HBCUs. GAO analyzed the most recent program participation data (1996-2017) and finance data (2015-16 school year); reviewed available HBCU master plans; visited nine HBCUs of different sizes and sectors (public and private); and interviewed Education officials and other stakeholders.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends Education (1) include direct outreach to individual HBCUs and steps to address participation challenges for some public HBCUs in its outreach plan, and (2) analyze the potential benefits and costs of offering loan modifications in the program. Education outlined plans to address the first recommendation, and partially agreed with the second. GAO continues to believe both recommendations are warranted.

For more information, contact Melissa Emrey-Arras at (617) 788-0534 or

New eCourse bundle: Working with Children of All Ages

New eCourse bundle: Working with Children of All Ages

Chicago—ALA Publishing eLearning Solutions announces a new eCourse bundle, Working with Children of All Ages. R. Lynn Baker and Brooke Newberry will serve as the instructors for three, 4-week eCourses starting on Monday, September 10, 2018.

Save 20% when you purchase the bundle!

When you work in youth services, you’re serving a large community of users—from babies and toddlers to preteens. Children of different ages have different needs and perspectives and require different types of expertise. If you want to learn a practical approach to working with children of all ages, our new eCourse bundle is for you. Over a three-month period, you will work closely with expert instructors that will take you from creating baby storytimes all the way through to readers’ advisory for grade-school kids. Courses included in this bundle are

Creating Meaningful Programs for Infants and Caregivers with R. Lynn Baker – 4-week eCourse; begins Sept. 10, 2018

Early care expert and education trainer R. Lynn Baker’s teaches you how to create a school readiness program that prepares children for a successful transition into kindergarten.

Planning Programs and Services for Toddlers and Preschoolers with Brooke Newberry – 4-week eCourse; begins October 8, 2018

In this course, learn the basics of storytime and programming, best practices for serving children ages 2-5, how to build a strong collection, and the basics of child development for toddlers and preschoolers.

Practical Library Services for Grade School Kids (Kindergarten through second Grade) with R. Lynn Baker – 4-week eCourse; begins Nov. 5, 2018

Learn how to create intentional, literacy-based programs for children in kindergarten through second grade.

By participating in this group of three courses, you’ll earn a Certificate of Professional Development in Childhood Development and gain a broad set of skills that will serve you throughout your career.

You can purchase for these eCourses individually or as a bundle.

eCourse outline

Creating Meaningful Programs for Infants and Caregivers with R. Lynn Baker. Starts Monday, September 10, 2018

  • Week 1: Infant Development—Birth through 18 months
  • Week 2: Choosing Interactive Activities for Infants and Caregivers
  • Week 3: Choosing Developmentally Appropriate Books for Babies
  • Week 4: Creating an Effective Program Plan for Your Infant-Caregiver Program

Planning Programs and Services for Toddlers and Preschoolers with Brooke Newberry, Starts Monday, October 8, 2018

  • Week 1: Child Development for toddlers and preschoolers
  • Week 2: Storytime
  • Week 3: Beyond Storytime
  • Week 4: Collection Development

Practical Library Services for Grade School Kids (Kindergarten through second Grade) with R. Lynn Baker, Starts Monday, November 5, 2018

  • Week 1: Beginning Reading Skills that Grow from Early Literacy Practices
  • Week 2: Types of Programs for Children in Grades K-2
  • Week 3: Field Trips, Outreach, and Specialized Programs for Children
  • Week 4: Creating an Effective Program Plan for a K-2 Program

About the Instructors

R. Lynn Baker is the author of Counting Down to Kindergarten: A Complete Guide to Creating a School Readiness Program for Your Community and Creating Literacy-Based Programs for Children: Lesson Plans and Printable Resources for K-5. With a background in early childhood education and library programming for children, Baker provides training to early childhood educators and librarians. She holds her bachelor’s in Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Education; a trainer’s credential; and her Master’s in Library and Information Science. Baker is an adjunct professor for Northern Kentucky University, teaching Library Programming for Children.

Brooke Newberry holds a Master’s Degree in Library Science from Indiana University, and is the Collaborative Consultant for the Winding Rivers Library System (West Salem, WI). She currently teaches a course dedicated to serving babies in the library, previously was the Early Literacy Librarian at the La Crosse (WI) Public Library, served as chair for the Early Childhood Programs and Services Committee for the Association of Library Services to Children (ALSC), and co-wrote the Collaborative Summer Library Program Early Literacy Manual for three years.

Registration for this ALA Publishing eLearning Solutions facilitated eCourse bundle, which begins on September 10, 2018, can be purchased at the ALA Store. Participants in this course will need regular access to a computer with an internet connection for online message board participation, viewing online video, listening to streaming audio (MP3 files), and downloading and viewing PDF and PowerPoint files.

ALA Publishing eLearning Solutions (ELS) produces high-quality professional development events and materials for the library profession. ELS events cover modern issues on a wide variety of topics in formats that include live workshops, asynchronous eCourses, and print publications. We help ensure that today’s library employees have access to the professional development opportunities they need, whether they are brushing up on the basics or expanding their horizons with cutting-edge tools. Contact us at

ALA Store purchases fund advocacy, awareness, and accreditation programs for library professionals worldwide.

COMMENTARY: Five Steps for Building a Better School

COMMENTARY: Five Steps for Building a Better School

By David Gamberg

I am convinced that the foundation of a good education is about the concept of building—building a school, building a community, building relationships, and building a sense of self. School works for many students to provide a pathway into the future. It offers a foundation of rich experiences that inspire and form the basis of students’ life stories. Education and schools, however, can never be fully responsible for the outcomes that our students achieve. We cannot blame schools and teachers for the very complex mix of factors that result in any one person’s success in life.

I’ve been thinking recently about how we can alter the school experience for students and staff to better meet the needs of our learning communities. Some of the very structures and experiences that harken back to an earlier era in education may in fact be part of the future of teaching and learning. While it may be counterintuitive in our sophisticated high-tech world, building, manipulating, and creating inside the physical spaces of our school environment are essential in future learning.

“Some of the very structures and experiences that harken back to an earlier era in education may in fact be part of the future of teaching and learning.”

So what is in store for students, teachers, administrators, policymakers, and the taxpaying public that supports public education in the decades ahead? I suggest five steps for how school learning communities must move forward to build a better school.

Read full article click here, may require ED Week Subscription

Birmingham City Schools Amends Dress Policy, Gives Students More Freedom

Birmingham City Schools Amends Dress Policy, Gives Students More Freedom

By Erica Wright

Birmingham City Schools students will now have more freedom to wear clothing they want during the upcoming school year, which began Aug. 6.

The Birmingham City Schools board voted to change the uniform policy for the upcoming school year. Under the new policy, effective immediately, K-12 students will have the option to continue wearing uniforms such as the solid blue, white, black and khaki shirts, pants and skirts or clothing that meets the dress code such as jeans and other items.

“Giving students choices in what they wear will free up administrator’s time that has previously been spent on enforcing the dress code policy and will give them more time for instruction . . . as well as student achievement,” said Adrienne Mitchell, Strategy and Communications Officer for BCS.

The board’s decision was influenced in part by students and parents asking to change the policy for the last few years. The BCS has required students to wear uniforms since 1996.

Though students will now have more freedom to choose, some of the policies will remain in place such as having students wear closed-toe shoes, no clothing with obscene writing and no tight fitting clothing, Mitchell said.

“This is a year of transition so families and students that choose to wear uniforms, can still wear uniforms, however families that choose to follow the dress code policy can make some choices in the clothes they wear but there are still guidelines that all students must follow,” Mitchell said.

This decision means that some families, parents, can take advantage of shopping for clothes during the Tax-Free weekend starting Friday, July 20 through Sunday, July 22.

Reaction on social media to the change has been mixed. Many have applauded the change while others expressed concern that the new policy may lead to bullying.

Mitchell said she doesn’t see that happening.

“Our administrators are extremely watchful about behaviors that occur in schools and we fully expect them to continue to enforce the rules and the guidelines in school,” Mitchell said. “We anticipate that students will take this freedom and flexibility and use it responsibly. Making choices are a part of what we’re teaching students because it’s going to be a significant thing that they are going to have to do in life.”

For more updates on the dress code and additional announcements parents can download the Birmingham City Schools app through the App store on any Apple device and on Google Play for any android device.

This article originally appeared in The Birmingham Times.

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 

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.

Twin-boys shine to become valedictorians in their graduating class, headed to MIT

Twin-boys shine to become valedictorians in their graduating class, headed to MIT

By Victor Ochieng

It is no secret that the Black man in American society must work harder than his counter-parts. And at the height of all the racial discrimination, Black males have lived with fear affecting their academic performance directly. However, during all these, there are those who are rising above the current and are proving to society that “yes we can.” One good example is the story of two Black boys- twins who have been named Valedictorians at their high school graduation.

The two brothers who were born 11 minutes apart, Malik and Miles George, went to Woodbridge High. They both scored excellently on their SATs and were both named valedictorians of their graduating class. Because of their good work, they will both be attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on scholarship. They had a choice between scholarships from five prestigious schools, and they chose MIT as their preferred school.

And Thursday at their graduation, they shared the stage, crediting their success to their parents. They also shared their love for science and the fact that they dedicated their time and effort to school work. Speaking to ABC7, Malik said of their parents, “Seeing them always doing their best to care for us has definitely made a good imprint on us,” Malik told the news station. “Whether it’s academics, athletics, some form of art, whatever passion someone has, my best advice would be just to explore it and do your best, and the success will come.”

Miles also talked of their efforts and one of the reasons they excelled so well. He said, “We worked hard, every course, studying, paying attention in class, asking questions is one of the most important things, being an active student in our own education, because that’s what the teachers are there for.”

The two boys have excelled not only in class but also beyond academics. The two have for a long time been science research fans and were also named first doubles tennis partners.  This just goes to show that if you really give it your all, then you can achieve your goals.

The Woodbridge High School principal, Glenn Lottmann, spoke to ABC7, bragging of how wonderful the two boys were. She said, “I don’t know how long this segment is before I talk about what they’ve done right. I don’t think I have enough time… But I could tell you what they’ve done wrong, nothing!”

It is very encouraging to see young boys overcome the adversities that face the African American communities, and aim for their goals without fear. Malik also encouraged others not to fear ideas, he said, “Whether its academics, athletics, some form of art, whatever passion someone has, my best advice would be just to explore it and do your best and the success will come.”

This article originally appeared in the Westside Gazette.

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.

COMMENTARY: Kids Count,  But Not Enough

COMMENTARY: Kids Count, But Not Enough

By Barney Blakeney

For years I’ve done an annual story about the Kids Count report. The report is compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a national organization that since 1948 monitors and reports on the well-being of children. My former editor, Jim French used to provide me a hard copy of the report each year.

We’re both old school journalists – Jim and I. Before retiring, somewhat reminiscent of Andy Rooney, French used to type his stories on a Smith Corona typewriter. Being a generation behind French, I first used a typewriter, then a word processor and now use a computer to write stories. But I still like hard copy materials for references. This year I got the report in an email. I am not tech savvy. So pulling out the information has been a task in itself. Unfortunately, even with my limited computer skills, I could tell not much has change for Black kids – they still are our state’s worst off.

A funny thing about reports like Kids Count, they usually confirm what most people already know. The numbers change, but the reality doesn’t. Each year I wrote the Kids Count story I almost could use the same wording and just plug in the updated numbers. The Avery Institute’s report on racial disparities in Charleston County confirms that little has changed about such disparities since the 1940s.

That’s why I find it so hard to understand how some folks don’t realize that the lifestyle they enjoy today was created by slavery, that their lifestyle is a direct result of slavery and that the City of Charleston’s attempt at an apology for its role in slavery is but one effort to acknowledge that reality. I just read a July 17 Post and Courier letter to the editor from an individual who just doesn’t get that his parents’ wealth-building only occurred because Black slaves created the economic environment in which their business was able to flourish. The Kids Count report always reaffirms for me how that travesty continues. Reading letters from people like that individual reaffirms why it continues. About 30 percent of the state’s children under age 18 are Black. About 55 percent are white. To start with, the median income for white households in South Carolina is highest at about $73,000 annually. Asian Pacific household median incomes come second at about $69,000 and Black household median incomes come in dead last at about $32,000. Black kids start out in households with much lower household incomes – less than half the median household income of their white counterparts. And it doesn’t get any better.

The report says establishing the conditions that promote successful educational achievement for children begins before birth and continues into the early elementary school years. With a strong and healthy beginning, it is much easier to keep children on track to stay in school and graduate, pursue postsecondary education and training and successfully transition to young adulthood. The infant mortality rate for Black babies doubles that for Hispanic and white babies. About 15 percent of Black babies are born with low birth weight compared to about 10 percent of all babies and about eight percent of white babies. About 12 percent of Black children are not in excellent or good health compared to about five percent of white children. The data doesn’t show results for other races or ethnicities.

When it comes to students who don’t graduate high school on time, the rate for Black kids is comparable to other groups. About 20 percent of Black kids don’t graduate on time while some 16 percent of white kids don’t graduate high school on time. About 20 percent of Hispanic or Latino kids also don’t graduate on time and some 26 percent of Native American kids don’t graduate on time. The experts agree the problems start earlier. According to the report, 85 percent of Black fourth graders are not proficient readers and 78 percent of Hispanic fourth grade students are not proficient readers while 60 percent of white fourth grade students don’t read proficiently. The report also indicates the percentage of Black kids’ fourth grade reading proficiency is increasing while the numbers for white kids is pretty constant. In all cases the numbers are unacceptable. Maybe that’s why we’re seeing more initiatives like the Cradle to Career Collaborative. Our public education system also fails most white students. Many of them also are not prepared for the new industries locating in our community.

When I got the latest Kids Count report its promoters said, “South Carolina achieved its highest placement to date in an annual nationwide survey of child well-being. Improvements in measures of strong families and children with health insurance placed South Carolina at 38th in the nation for child well-being. We are seeing incremental improvements over time, and this shows us that the investments we are making in children, families and communities are adding up.”

Well, forgive me if I seem pessimistic, but I try to be realistic – if I’m in a hole 10 feet deep and you give me a six-foot ladder you’ve helped. But I’m still in a hole. Our children still are in deep doo-doo. We’re not moving fast enough to improve the lives of all our children. And when I see people who so intentionally are oblivious to the reality of modern-day slave dynamics, I’m inclined to think too many of us don’t want to make those improvements.

For the past couple of hours I’ve caught hell trying to unravel the Kids Count stats. The Avery report told me things haven’t changed since the 1940s. I probably could have just used my last Kids Count story and plugged in the new numbers.

This article originally appeared in The Chronicle.