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A Call to Curb Expansion of Charter Schools in Black Communities

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charterchart

By Freddie Allen
Senior Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Parents, students and advocates for strong neighborhood schools continue to pressure civic leaders to end the expansion of charter and contract schools in Black and Latino communities across the nation.

Jitu Brown, the national director of Journey for Justice Alliance, a coalition of community, youth and parent-led grassroots organizations in 21 cities, said that the fight for public education – which suffers with the expansion of charter and contract schools –is a human and a civil rights issue.

As voices from the community were increasingly drowned out by philanthropic groups seeking wholesale educational reform, the state takeover of schools, corporate charters and appointed school boards have become the status quo, Brown said.

According to Education Week, a magazine published by Editorial Projects in Education, a nonprofit that produces K-12 educational content in print and online, more than 60 percent of philanthropic donations funneled into education young people in the United States went to charter and contract schools in 2010. Less than 25 percent of funding went to those programs about 15 years ago.

“What would actually be revolutionary, brand new, and fresh is if community wisdom was listened to and [corporations] worked with the people who are directly impacted by the institutions that they have to live with everyday,” said Brown.

Brown described two separate and unequal sets of expectations, one for White and middle class children and another, lower set of expectations for Black and Latino children that often influence education policy. Those disparities will continue until society finds the courage to confront them.

“We want what our friends in other communities have, said Brown. “They don’t have contract schools, they don’t have charter schools in middle class White communities they have world-class neighborhood schools.”

Daniel del Pielago of Empower DC agreed.

As the education organizer for Empower DC, a grassroots group that supports low- and moderate-income District residents living in the nation’s capital, said that when communities work together, and when they’re given the chance to put together solutions that work, they find success that doesn’t require corporate intervention.

That success is embodied by the community school model championed by groups such as the Alliance.

According to the Coalition for Community Schools, a network of educational groups that provide support for youth development family and health services, community schools feature an “integrated focus on academics, health and social services, youth and community development and community engagement” that promotes “student learning, stronger families and healthier communities.”

Helen Moore, the co-chairperson of the Keep the Vote/No Takeover Coalition in Detroit, Mich., said that the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently working its way through a Republican-led Congress still at odds with President Barack Obama, should give communities the power to control the destinies of their children.

Moore said that neither “No Child Left Behind” Act, George W. Bush’s education initiative, nor President Obama’s “Race to Top” fulfilled what was supposed to really happen: giving Black and Brown school systems the power and resources they needed to implement high-quality educational programs for their children.

“What’s lost in the minutiae of school closures is the dismantling of good neighborhood schools,” said Brown. “There were actually solid well-performing schools in our community that were receiving schools for students that lost their schools due to closures.”

Two years later, Brown said, those schools often saw their test scores plummet, creating a cascading effect. Overcrowded classrooms make it harder for teachers to do their jobs lowering morale and have a negative impact on an already stressful learning environment.

“One of the casualties of corporate education interventions is the removal of Black teachers a significant part of the Black middle class. And who are they replaced by? They are replaced by newer, younger, Whiter and more transient teachers,” said Brown. “We are all for teaching diversity, but we also know that that is a civil rights issue. Children have the right to look at their teachers and dream that they can be that they should be able to see themselves.”

Earlier this month, the Alliance hosted a conference in Newark, N.J. in an effort to strengthen national networks and equip activists, parents and other community stakeholders with the tools to organize and combat myriad inequities that exist in public school systems nationwide.

The group also advocates for more penalties for schools that lean too heavily on zero tolerance policies that disproportionately suspend and expel students of color for minor infractions. It favors more federal support for schools that implement restorative justice and student leadership development programs.

“We know that these attacks on our schools and our public education system is an attack on our communities,” said del Pielago.

Brown said, “We should have positive student development and discipline policies. That doesn’t mean that if a student brings a knife or a gun, we’re going to throw rose petals at the child. We need to treat our young people like discipline is supposed to teach a lesson and suspending children is not teaching them anything. What teaches them something is creating a culture where they learn how to be accountable for their actions.”

Although Brown said that he supports parents who seek innovative educational alternatives for their children, he called for a federal moratorium on all charter and contract school programs.

“What’s lost in the minutiae of school closures is the dismantling of good neighborhood schools that they were actually solid well-performing schools in our community that were receiving schools for students of school closings and you look two years later and their scores plummet,” said Brown.

“The prerequisite to choice is stability,” said Brown. “You can’t anchor a community with schools where people have contracts to run them. [School] privatization and community schools cannot coexist. They are like oil and water.”

Bay Area

Sept. 11, 2001, 20 years later: ‘Remembrance’ held aboard the USS Hornet Sea, Space & Air Museum

The USS Hornet Sea, Space & Air Museum, moored at the City of Alameda, hosted a “Remembrance” ceremony of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, on board the ship on the 20th anniversary, Sept. 11, 2021.

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U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard, 23rd Marine Regiment: Sgt. Tristan Garivay, Sgt. Michael Her, Cpl. Adrian Chavez and Cpl. Quentavious Leeks. Photo by Russell Moore, USS Hornet Sea, Air & Space Museum, Community Events & Outreach

Quintin Jones, Colonel, USMC, Commanding Officer, 23rd Marine Regiment. Photo by Russell Moore, USS Hornet Sea, Air & Space Museum, Community Events & Outreach

The USS Hornet Sea, Space & Air Museum, moored at the City of Alameda, hosted a “Remembrance” ceremony of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, on board the ship on the 20th anniversary, Sept. 11, 2021.

The ceremony recognized the impact and consequences of the series of airline hijackings and suicide attacks committed on 2001 by 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Queda against targets in New York City and Wash., D.C. Nearly 3,000 people died that day and 6,000 were injured.  This was the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil in U.S. history. 

The ceremony aboard the USS Hornet began with the presentation of the colors by the U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard, 23rd Marine Regiment. (Pictured above.)

Leon Watkins, co-founder of The Walking Ghosts of Black History, was the Master of Ceremonies. He spoke about the extensive death and destruction which triggered the enormous U.S. effort to combat terrorism.

Daniel Costin, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, spoke of the lasting impact of 9/11 terrorists attack on first responders. He recounted incidents where first responders rushed into the scenes of the attacks, many at the sacrifice of their own lives. More than 400 police officers and firefighters were killed that day: 343 members of the New York City Fire Department and 71 members of their law enforcement agencies.

Quintin Jones, Colonel, USMC, commanding officer of the 23rd Marine Regiment, spoke about the recovery efforts at the Pentagon following the terrorists’ attack where 125 people perished. He reflected on the actions of three first responders who recovered the U.S. Marine Corps flag from the commandant of the Marine Corps’ office at the Pentagon. This flag was still standing after the attack. It was a symbol of America’s resolve.

At the end of the formal presentations, the Marine Corps Wreath Bearers went to the fantail of the Hornet. After the playing of ‘Taps,’ they tossed a wreath into the San Francisco Bay to give final honors.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Community

Many in Black Communities are Choosing Vaccination 

Inequities in health outcomes have always been with us. COVID-19 morbidity and mortality rates among African Americans rival or exceed those in heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses. Blacks sit atop most bad lists and at the bottom of most good lists. 

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Vaccination/Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock

The trail of illness and death left amid the spread of COVID-19 in Black and African American communities should come as no surprise.

Inequities in health outcomes have always been with us. COVID-19 morbidity and mortality rates among African Americans rival or exceed those in heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses. Blacks sit atop most bad lists and at the bottom of most good lists.

COVID-19 vaccinations offer us an opportunity to better balance the scale.

Unfortunately, even with widely available testing, highly effective vaccines, and extraordinary efforts by health departments to educate and encourage people of color to get vaccinated, many Black Californians remain skeptical.

We can only hope that the FDA’s full regulatory approval of the Pfizer vaccine on August 23 for those 16 and up convinces more to get the vaccine.  It’s worth noting that emergency-use authorization also remains in place for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots, as well as Pfizer’s for 12- to 15-year-olds – and that all of these vaccines are safe and effective in protecting against COVID-19 and its highly contagious variants.

Eddie Fairchild and Steph Sanders were skeptical about the COVID-19 vaccine but came to understand why vaccination benefits our entire community.

Fairchild, a Sacramento insurance agent, said he knew of research that found Black and white people are often treated differently for the same health conditions leading to poorer health outcomes.

“I was hesitant,” he said. “I was going to wait and see how it panned out with everyone else.

But when a Black friend in the health care field told him he’d opted to get vaccinated, Fairchild asked him why.

“He said, ‘Risk-reward, and the risk is death.’ At that point I didn’t have to ask him what the reward was.”

With a finance degree and a belief that numbers don’t lie, Fairchild looked at the data. He learned that until 2020 the average number of Americans who died each year was about 2.6 million, but in 2020 that figure was 3.4 million. There was only one possible explanation for the death rate surge, he said.

“COVID is absolutely real,” he said, adding that three of his cousins died from the virus. “Taking all that into consideration, I decided that it’s risky to engage in the world and not be vaccinated. It made sense for me to get it.”

Racial gaps in vaccination have thankfully narrowed in recent weeks. But as of September 1, while Black people account for 6% of the state’s population, they account for 6.6% of COVID-19 deaths, which is 11% higher than the statewide rate, according to state department of public health data. Only about 55% of Black people in California have had at least one dose of the vaccine.

Reasons for the discrepancies run the gamut, from conspiracy theories like Black people are getting a less effective vaccine than whites or that the vaccine will eventually be deadly, to challenges in health care access. 

Mostly, it’s based on a lack of trust in medical and scientific institutions, which have a long history of racism and mistreating Black people.

So even when it comes to good things like vaccines, which are scientifically proven to be good for the community, it always comes back to trust.

Sanders, a Vallejo school principal, was hesitant because of the Tuskegee syphilis studies in which Black men who had the disease were intentionally not treated with penicillin. And he was dubious that an effective vaccine could be developed so quickly. 

In fact, the science and technology enabling development of the COVID-19 vaccines was in development for a more than decade before the virus emerged in 2020. The FDA authorized three vaccines for emergency use after they underwent a rigorous process and were proven through trials to be safe and effective at preventing severe COVID-19, hospitalization, and death.

He decided to get vaccinated when his school board decided last spring to bring students back into classrooms.

Today, he’s a fervent vaccine advocate. He holds “lunch and learn” forums for educators, encouraging vaccination.

“I’m a leader and people are relying on my knowledge,” he said. “I tell them, ‘Don’t make this about you, but about the people you love and care about. It’s about protecting them.’”

There is still a long way to go before Blacks achieve true health equity, but vaccination against a virus that is taking a terrible toll on our communities is a critical step in the right direction.

 

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Activism

Bay Area Officials Condemn Texas Abortion Restrictions, U.S. Supreme Court Ruling

Bay Area and state officials lambasted both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Texas state government after the high court declined to approve an emergency petition to stop a Texas law banning abortions six weeks or more after conception.

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Law Books/Clarisse Meyer Via Unsplash

Bay Area and state officials lambasted both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Texas state government after the high court declined to approve an emergency petition to stop a Texas law banning abortions six weeks or more after conception.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed the law, Senate Bill 8, in May, but it went into effect September 1 at 12:01 a.m. local time.
Late that night, the court issued a 5-4 ruling, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the court’s three liberal justices in the minority, declining to rule on the petition, which was filed by Texas abortion clinics.
The court could still strike the law down in the coming days as unconstitutional, but abortion rights activists expressed skepticism that the court would do so after letting the law go into effect in the first place.
The law effectively overwrites the precedent set in 1973 by the court’s ruling in the case of Roe v. Wade by preventing pregnant people from seeking an abortion after their sixth week of pregnancy, a time when many people are not yet even aware that they are pregnant.
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, called SB 8 “one of the most severe attacks on reproductive rights” in U.S. history.
“SB 8 is an appalling violation of human rights and reproductive rights, and will put the health of millions of people in jeopardy, especially for low-income people and people of color,” Lee said in a statement.
SB 8 does not make exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest and allows people to sue doctors, medical staff and even a patient’s ride to a medical clinic if they suspect the patient has had an abortion after six weeks.
Plaintiffs also are not required to show damages or have a connection to the patient to file a lawsuit under SB 8, and are entitled to $10,000 and their legal fees if a judge rules in their favor.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said the law constructed a “vigilante bounty system” that could keep people from seeking reproductive health care of any kind.
“This provision is a cynical, backdoor attempt by partisan lawmakers to evade the Constitution and the law to destroy not only a woman’s right to health care but potentially any right or protection that partisan lawmakers target,” Pelosi said in a statement.
Vice President Kamala Harris echoed that sentiment.
“This decision is not the last word on Roe v. Wade, and we will not stand by and allow our nation to go back to the days of back-alley abortions,” Harris said in a statement. “We will not abide by cash incentives for virtual vigilantes and intimidation for patients.”
Jodi Hicks, the CEO and president of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, argued in a statement that the Supreme Court’s decision will inevitably lead to other states passing their own abortion restrictions.
Nearly a dozen states have already passed so-called “abortion trigger laws” that would fully outlaw the practice in the first and second trimesters as soon as Roe v. Wade is overturned.
“The inaction by the Supreme Court on a blatantly unconstitutional ban has taken away a crucial right to millions of people in Texas and without a doubt threatens their ability to make decisions about their body, their lives, and their futures,” Hicks said.
On September 2, Pelosi announced that the House of Representatives will formally take up legislation to codify abortion rights in federal law instead of relying on the court decision alone.
However, that bill, the Women’s Health Protection Act, is unlikely to find enough support in the U.S. Senate to reach President Joe Biden’s desk for a signature.
Biden said in a statement on September 1 that SB 8 “blatantly violates” the decision in Roe v. Wade and pledged to defend abortion rights across the country, but did not elaborate on what that might entail.
California Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, D-Oakland, argued in a Twitter post that the purpose of SB 8 is clear: “to intimidate women (and) providers.”
“It cannot stand,” she said.

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