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California Ed Chief Tony Thurmond’s Equity Initiatives Gain National Recognition

California is the winner of the 2022 Frank Newman Award for State Innovation. In his press release announcing the win, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said, “This is an incredible honor, and while the work continues, we’re proud of this national recognition that shows how California is improving educational outcomes for its students, closing equity gaps, and transforming education for students from pre-kindergarten to adulthood.”

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State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond

By Joe W. Bowers Jr., California Black Media

California is the winner of the 2022 Frank Newman Award for State Innovation.

The nation’s preeminent education award for innovation, it recognizes a state for enacting reforms or implementing programs that go beyond marginal or incremental changes to improve student outcomes on a large scale.

According to the Education Commission of the States, California is being recognized for “its coordinated approach to educating all students from preschool to postsecondary, with explicit attention toward whole-child supports and services, as well as its historic financial investments to ensure educational equity.”

In his press release announcing the win, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said, “This is an incredible honor, and while the work continues, we’re proud of this national recognition that shows how California is improving educational outcomes for its students, closing equity gaps, and transforming education for students from pre-kindergarten to adulthood.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom, whose administration has made funding public education a priority, acknowledged receiving the award by saying, “California is transforming education from pre-kindergarten through to college and beyond, empowering students and families with more supports, more choices, and more opportunities. This award recognizes the hard work that’s gone into this transformative change by leaders throughout the state…. and the winners here are California’s kids and parents.”

The Newman Award announcement coincided with school districts finalizing their 2022-23 budgets which were due at their County Office of Education by June 30. Their budgets are bolstered by the highest level of funding in state history for all K-12 education programs – $128.6 billion is being allocated. Per pupil spending is $22,893 an all-time high.

The award recognized California’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) as one of the nation’s most equitable formulas. LCFF allocates more resources to school districts educating low-income students. In this year’s state budget, school districts are receiving a $9.0 billion increase in ongoing LCFF funding, a 13% base increase over 2021-22 rates.

The award noted that in the last two years, California has approved increases to the LCFF allowing school districts to add more teachers, counselors, paraprofessionals, and other student support providers.

A letter nominating the state for the award read, “… [W]e believe there is no other state doing as much to advance educational equity for its neediest students as California is doing today.”

Since taking office in 2019, Thurmond has championed and created initiatives taking into consideration the unique needs California’s students. In order to achieve equity and transformative change he has promoted mental health programs, community schools, literacy, expanded learning programs, professional development, anti-racism training, and universal schools and universal meals programs.

Thurmond told California Black Media (CBM) that, “Starting out my goal was to figure out how to support Black students wherever they are in the state.” His Task Force on Closing the Achievement Gap has been the source of a number of recommendations advancing equity for all students.

Task Force recommendations include:

Supporting literacy as a strategy for closing the gap. In 2021 Thurmond launched a campaign committed to ensuring all students read by third grade by 2026. This effort includes securing funds for literacy supports and school libraries as well as for family engagement supports for literacy. This year’s budget includes $250 million to be spent over 5 years to hire literacy coaches and reading specialists for low-income elementary schools, and to implement evidence-based literacy strategies for preschool through third grade students and their families.

Diversifying the teacher workforce. Thurmond developed and sponsored AB 520 (Mike Gipson, D-Carson), which called for expanding male educators of color. This bill was embedded into the 2021 budget which allocated $350 million in residency grants for teacher preparation programs with an emphasis on diversifying the teacher workforce. $184 million in new funding for teacher residencies is included in the 2022-23 budget and eligibility is expanded include to counselors.

Expanding funding for Community Schools. In 2019 Thurmond wrote and sponsored AB 1196 (Gipson) to fund Community Schools. In 2021, Thurmond worked with Newsom on a proposal to expand community schools. The 2021 budget allocated $3 Billion for Community Schools and the California Department of Education (CDE) is currently implementing the community schools’ strategy. An additional $1.13 Billion was authorized in this year’s budget.

Providing professional development to help close the achievement gap. Thurmond helped to secure $1.5 Billion in Educator Effectiveness Grants to support professional development for educators to help close learning gaps. CDE has awarded the Educator Effectiveness Grants and is working with districts to implement this strategy.

Expanding mental health programs. Thurmond sponsored SB 1229 (McGuire, D-Healdsburg) which would fund $25,000 grants to add 10,000 mental health clinicians to serve California students. Provisions of SB 1229 have been folded into the 2022-23 budget legislation as part of teacher and school counselor residency programs. The current Golden State Teacher Grant Program is expanded to include mental health providers authorizing them to receive grants up to $20,000.

Expanding Pre-school programs. Thurmond sponsored AB 22 (McCarty, D-Sacramento) a bill that guarantees Universal Transitional Kindergarten. Thurmond and CDE are now implementing the policy. This year’s budget expands transitional kindergarten eligibility and rebenches the Proposition 98 Guarantee to $611 Million to accommodate enrollment increases. Also, $383 Million is approved to reduce the adult-to-student ratio for transitional kindergarten.

Expanding Dual language immersion programs. Thurmond wrote and is sponsoring SB 952 (Limón, D-Santa Barbara) a bill that helps schools expand into dual language immersion programs. This bill is a priority bill for the Latino Caucus.

Piloting implicit bias programs. Thurmond secured $10 million in the 2021 state budget for funds for districts to provide anti-bias training.

Reducing chronic absenteeism. Thurmond secured grant funds to provide Oakland and Inglewood Unified School Districts resources needed to contact families with chronically absent students.

The Education Commission of the States will present California leaders with the Newman Award at the 2022 National Forum on Education Policy being held July 13-15 in Washington, D.C.

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Activism

California-Hawaii NAACP Conference Sues Sec. of State Shirley Weber 

The Elections Code provides for a 20-day period to review the ballot materials and file any legal challenges. Because all legal challenges to ballot materials for the November 8, 2022, statewide general election must be completed by August 15, 2022, the lawsuit was filed on August 1.

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Rick Callender, California-Hawaii conference president of the NAACP, and Shirley Weber, California Secretary of State.
Rick Callender, California-Hawaii conference president of the NAACP, and Shirley Weber, California Secretary of State.

By Edward Henderson, California Black Media

The California – Hawaii State Conference National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (“NAACP”) NAACP and Conference President Rick Callender have taken legal action against California Secretary of State Shirley Weber asking that a statement included in the Argument Against Proposition 26 in the ballot pamphlet for the Nov. 8, 2022, statewide general election be removed.

Prop 26 would permit federally recognized Native American tribes to operate dice games, roulette and sports wagering on tribal lands. On-site wagering at privately operated horse-racing tracks in four specified counties for betters 21 years or older would become legal as well. The proposition also imposes a 10% tax on sports-wagering profits at horse-racing tracks and directs portion of revenues to enforcement and problem-gambling programs.

The lawsuit is challenging a statement from the “No on Prop 26” opposition using a quote from Minnie Hadley-Hempstead, former president of the NAACP’s Los Angeles branch. Hadley-Hempstead’s opposition statement read as follows:

“‘We oppose Prop 26 to protect young people from developing lifelong gambling addictions that often lead to ruined finances, relationships, even homelessness and crime.’ Minnie Hadley-Hempstead, retired teacher and President Emeritus of the Los Angeles NAACP Branch.”

The lawsuit claims the quote gives “the false and misleading impression” that the NAACP opposes Prop 26. The NAACP endorsed Prop 26 in February 2022. In addition, the Los Angeles branch of the NAACP has not endorsed the No on Prop 26 campaign. The NAACP bylaws prohibit local branches from taking positions contrary to the state branch. The lawsuit also raises concern about how the quote was obtained.

“The NAACP is proud to stand with Indian Tribes in strong support of Prop 26 to help further Indian self-reliance,” Callender said in a statement given to California Black Media (CBM). “We are outraged that the card room casinos and their No on 26 campaign would deceptively use the NAACP name in its arguments despite our strong support. We are suing to have these dishonest statements removed from the ballot arguments so it does not mislead voters.”

Callender’s lawsuit further points out that the position ‘President Emeritus’ does not exist within the NAACP and the only branch that can clear use of the trademarked term NAACP in support or opposition of any legislation is the state branch of the organization.

A declaration in support of the lawsuit from Hadley-Hemp. stead describes how she believes she was misled or misunderstood when she was asked to give the statement by Betty Williams, former President of the Sacramento Chapter of the NAACP.

Hadley-Hempstead declared that she was under the impression that Williams still worked for the state branch and believed that her statement against Prop 26 was in solidarity with Callender and the position of the state branch.

In her declaration, Hadley-Hempstead says “If I had known that Ms. Williams wasn’t working on behalf of NAACP, I would have said no right away…… As a long-time NAACP member, I would not agree to lend my name to a public document that took a contrary position to the official NAACP position and would not knowingly violate the NAACP’s bylaws.”

“The card room casino operators responsible for the deceptive No on 26 campaign have a well-documented and deplorable track record of flouting the law,” Callender told CBM. “They’ve been fined millions for violating anti money-laundering laws, misleading regulators, and even illegal gambling. We are suing to prevent their misleading statements from appearing in the voter information guide sent to tens of millions of voters.”

The Elections Code provides for a 20-day period to review the ballot materials and file any legal challenges. Because all legal challenges to ballot materials for the November 8, 2022, statewide general election must be completed by August 15, 2022, the lawsuit was filed on August 1.

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Activism

Domestic Violence Group Honors Community Advocates from Around the State

The California Partnership to End Domestic Violence (CPEDV), a coalition representing over 1,000 survivors, advocates, organizations, and allied individuals, was one of the organizations whose proposal for funding was omitted from the budget. Nonetheless, they remain dedicated to seeking recognition for individuals and organizations that are creating safe havens and providing services for individuals affected by domestic violence, the group’s leadership says.

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The California Partnership to End Domestic Violence (CPEDV), is a coalition representing over 1,000 survivors, advocates, organizations, and allied individuals.
The California Partnership to End Domestic Violence (CPEDV), is a coalition representing over 1,000 survivors, advocates, organizations, and allied individuals.

By Edward Henderson, California Black Media

As the ink dries on the California state budget recently signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, many special interest organizations are deep into planning for how they could use funds allocated towards their respective causes. While some have been left frustrated by the omission of their initiatives from the state spending plan, their important work in California communities continues.

The California Partnership to End Domestic Violence (CPEDV), a coalition representing over 1,000 survivors, advocates, organizations, and allied individuals, was one of the organizations whose proposal for funding was omitted from the budget. Nonetheless, they remain dedicated to seeking recognition for individuals and organizations that are creating safe havens and providing services for individuals affected by domestic violence, the group’s leadership says.

At their annual membership meeting, they presented the ‘2022 Partnership Awards’, a ceremony honoring seven women who have challenged root causes of domestic violence and infused equity into how they’ve engaged survivors and communities.

LaRae Cantley (recipient of the Bravery Award) advises the nation’s largest U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD Continuum of Care,

LaRae Cantley (recipient of the Bravery Award) advises the nation’s largest U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD Continuum of Care,

LaRae Cantley (recipient of the Bravery Award) advises the nation’s largest U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD Continuum of Care, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), on the creation of their lived experience boards. With deep roots in Los Angeles, Cantley’s voice has been heard across the state and nationwide in her systems change work.

“I’m living proof of how the truth will bring a change about you,” Cantley reflected upon hearing the news of her award. “The organization I’m working with, the Full Frame Initiative, continues to pursue brave efforts as we partner to build a world where everyone has a fair shot at wellbeing.”

Dr. Amber Gray (recipient of the Equity Award) of Lake Elsinore started the Volunteer Services Unit at Gray's Trauma-Informed Care Services Corp

Dr. Amber Gray (recipient of the Equity Award) of Lake Elsinore started the Volunteer Services Unit at Gray’s Trauma-Informed Care Services Corp

Dr. Amber Gray (recipient of the Equity Award) of Lake Elsinore started the Volunteer Services Unit at Gray’s Trauma-Informed Care Services Corp, allowing individuals to earn volunteer hours while resourcing domestic violence agencies with the needed staffing. Her organization focuses on educating providers on the latest evidence-based trauma-informed care research. She has worked in violence prevention and intervention for 26 years.

Cat Brooks (recipient of the Partnership Award) of Oakland leads the Anti Police-Terror Project and Justice Teams Network

Cat Brooks (recipient of the Partnership Award) of Oakland leads the Anti Police-Terror Project and Justice Teams Network

Cat Brooks (recipient of the Partnership Award) of Oakland leads the Anti Police-Terror Project and Justice Teams Network, providing survivor-centered interventions designed to decrease criminalization and end violence cycles.

Colsaria Henderson (recipient of the Karen Cooper Beloved Community Award) of Newark is a leader in local, statewide, and national anti-violence, anti-poverty, and racial justice advocacy efforts.

Colsaria Henderson (recipient of the Karen Cooper Beloved Community Award) of Newark is a leader in local, statewide, and national anti-violence, anti-poverty, and racial justice advocacy efforts.

Colsaria Henderson (recipient of the Karen Cooper Beloved Community Award) of Newark is a leader in local, statewide, and national anti-violence, anti-poverty, and racial justice advocacy efforts. As Board President of CPEDV, she helps ensure that a diverse coalition strategically unites to promote the shared goal of ending domestic violence in California.

Yojo Kim (recipient of the Cultural Responsiveness Award) of San Francisco has provided consistent case management, emotional support, and survivor-centered advocacy for queer and transgender survivors of domestic violence at the Asian Women’s Shelter.

Lidia Salazar (recipient of the Equity Award) co-facilitates organizing work to end criminalization at Community United Against Violence, as well as programming and community-based training in Healing Justice that raises consciousness and allyship across the broader San Francisco Bay Area. Her work as an advocate for survivors of violence began 12 years ago in Los Angeles and includes leading a non-profit organization, managing programs, providing counseling to survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and hate violence, facilitating support groups, providing training for community members and service providers, and supporting the leadership of LGBT Black and Latinx survivors of violence.

Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (recipient of the Bravery Award) was one of the founders of Domestic Violence Solutions for Santa Barbara County in 1977. Jackson, who served in the California State Senate from 2012 to 2020, representing the 19th District in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, was a steadfast champion for survivors and a range of issues impacting women and girls while in government.

“I am most honored to receive this award from you today. Thank you so much”. Jackson said as she received her award. “I hope that someday, as a result of the work you’re doing, we can end domestic violence.”

Learn more about The Partnership and the work they are doing in California to fight Domestic Violence.

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Activism

The California Department of Aging: There Is Help for Elder Californians

Part of the statewide plan for addressing the Black elder community is to partner with ethnic media organizations to spread the word about the resources that are available to Californians in the advanced phase of their aging process. DeMarois, much like Nevins, acknowledged that a large portion of the state’s plan to reach Black elders is through local churches.

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Sharon Nevins, director of San Bernardino County’s Department of Aging and Adult Services, Cheryl Brown and CDA Director Susan DeMarois talk to a group of community members. CBM staff photo.
Sharon Nevins, director of San Bernardino County’s Department of Aging and Adult Services, Cheryl Brown and CDA Director Susan DeMarois talk to a group of community members. CBM staff photo.

By Aldon Thomas Stiles California Black Media

The St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church’s Commission on Social Action held a community meeting on aging last Thursday in San Bernardino with representatives from the California Department of Aging (CDA) and the Bernardino County’s Department of Aging and Adult Services.

Held in the sanctuary, the discussion featured state representatives and Social Action Commission members led by former Assemblymember and Commission Chair Cheryl Brown, who represented the 47th Assembly District in San Bernardino County from 2012 to 2016.

Brown spoke with community members and leaders from San Bernardino and Riverside counties about programs and resources available for elderly Californians and the caregivers who look after them.

“The state has set aside millions of dollars to help older Californians have a better quality of life through the Master Plan for Aging. And caregiving is fourth of the five goals established in the state’s Master Plan for Aging,” Brown told California Black Media.

CDA Director Susan DeMarois also attended the meeting.

CDA administers programs that serve older adults, adults with disabilities, family caregivers, and residents in long-term care facilities throughout the state. It has a $450 million budget and according to its Strategic Plan, CDA’s first objective is to advance Gov. Gavin Newsom’s California Master Plan for Aging.

Newsom’s master plan was introduced as an executive order in the summer of 2019. Conceptualized as a five-point plan, its framework encompasses housing, health, equity, caregiving “that works” and affording aging.

According to DeMarois each point of the governor’s master plan has its own budget and will be implemented over the next eight years.

During the meeting — titled “Lunch, Listen and Learn” — community members expressed their concerns and suggestions specifically regarding how to take care of elderly Black people in the Inland Empire. A major theme of the discussion was ensuring familiar (traditional) modes and channels of communications that were being employed to reach Black elders.

Sharon Nevins, director of San Bernardino County Department of Aging and Adult Services, spoke about ways in which the county has been involved in addressing those concerns.

“We have staff out there in the community, putting information in hands,” said Nevins.

Nevins emphasized the significance of Black churches and their unique influence on Black elders in California.

“We definitely reach out to the churches. We’ve always done that,” Nevins said.

DeMarois hailed San Bernardino as a model for the rest of the state because the city has been “meeting the needs of the whole person.”

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), California was tied with Hawaii in 2019 for the states with the nation’s highest life expectancy at an average of about 81 years.

Riverside County has a life expectancy of 80.3 years and San Bernardino County has a lower expectancy at 78.8 years.

Part of the statewide plan for addressing the Black elder community is to partner with ethnic media organizations to spread the word about the resources that are available to Californians in the advanced phase of their aging process.

DeMarois, much like Nevins, acknowledged that a large portion of the state’s plan to reach Black elders is through local churches.

“It’s multi-pronged,” said DeMarois. “We know in the Black community faith is a proven path.”

One of the organizations mentioned during the community meeting – an organization that DeMarois claims she took note of – is the Inland Empire Pastor’s Association.

DeMarois expressed the need for the state and local agencies to implement “coordinated strategies” to approach challenges facing the state’s aging population.

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