Pain, Anger, and Confusion at the NAACP Hearing on Quality Education in New Orleans

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The NAACP’s nation-touring ‘education task force‘ recently held their penultimate (6th of 7) hearing on quality education in New Orleans. The hearing, which took place on April 6th in the City Council Chambers, ended up serving as a venting session for a community that is clearly hurting and seemed ready to pounce on the historic civil rights organization’s education panel.

Alice Huffman on the Education Task Force

Following the NAACP’s highly divisive call for a moratorium on charter schools, the education task force was assembled to tour the country and “take a deep look at the issues facing public schools, as well as the pros and cons of charter schools”. Alice Huffman, chair of the task force, noted that following the final stop in New York, the national body would be reviewing all the information gathered and putting forth a document they hope will guide policy around charter schools.

Like previous stops in New Haven, Memphis, Orlando, Los Angeles, and Detroit, the city of New Orleans would provide a unique landscape for the education panel to survey, provided they were willing to analyze the history, data and facts objectively. No doubt NOLA was picked because of its one-of-a-kind system in which the entire district is nearly all charter.

The Crescent City hearing followed a similar arc as the others, with a majority of the time spent alternating between testimony of “experts” making their case for and against the NAACP’s moratorium. The “for” speakers (meaning anti-charter) included state rep Joseph Bouie, Loyola University law professor Bill Quigly, Attorney Willie Zanders, Walter Umrani of the ‘New Orleans Peacekeepers, and Adrienne Dixon who was listed as speaking for the American Federation of Teachers, but clarified that was a mistake, as she was speaking on her own behalf (oops!).

Those against the motion included charter schools leaders Niloy Gangopadhyay of Success Preparatory Academy, Jamar McKneely of Inspire Schools, and Kate Mehok of Crescent City Schools. Orleans Parish School Board member John Brown was listed as a speaker, but didn’t end up giving testimony.

The presentation portion of the hearing would go more or less the same as at all the other stops, with the “for” speakers warning of the dangers of privatization, decrying what they see as the nefarious practices of charters, and answering the same questions about “creaming”, discipline, and segregation that the task members have asked at each stop.


Like in the other cities, local charter school leaders highlighted their track records of success, and asked the board to not throw the baby out with the bath water, seeing the moratorium as generalizing, reactionary and unnecessary when some charters are finding such a high level of success with marginalized students.


But, the most important and emotional point of the forum would come when a group of students took over the floor, and in turn the meeting. The young speakers spoke passionately about the lack of resources, support, and in some cases, teachers at their school. They highlighted shoddy school conditions and the self-doubt they feel from their educators’ lack of belief in their abilities. They spoke out against arbitrary cutoffs for measuring their success and decried counselors and leaders who aren’t putting them in situations to succeed.

This stakeholder takeover of the forum, something that has been missing from some of the other stops, showcased the pain and frustration of the community. It also caused confusion, as it seemed many community members had come to air grievances with the local chapter of the NAACP, rather than the national body the task force represented.

Things got testy when parents and students called out their local chapter for not responding to calls for help and not being in their schools to see what’s really going on. The task force, seemingly unhappy to be called out, wanted the audience to know that most of the organization is made up of volunteers and that they couldn’t possibly get back to everyone.


Questioned on how she could support charter schools, by the students and heavily anti-charter audience, task force head Alice Huffman was irate. “I wrote the resolution calling for this moratorium”. Lost in the justifiable anger of the students and parents, were a few things. The taskforce was in fact calling out charter schools, and has lost most of its pretense of holding unbiased, objective hearings (“I would close them all if I could” -Alice Huffman) and the horror story shared by the students was that of a TRADITIONAL district school, one of the only five remaining in NOLA. Unfortunately, it’s not clear if the task force left understanding the distinction.

Watch a portion of the public comment period at the hearing below, or follow us @EdCitizen (and the hashtag #NAACPHearing) on Twitter for more coverage of the quality education hearing.

Rock The Schools #WomensHistoryMonth Feature: Honoring Mrs. Coretta Scott King With Dr. Bernice A King.

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“Coretta Scott King was the architect of the King legacy”

Listen to a special Women’s History Month edition of the ‘Rock the Schools” podcast, in which Dr. Bernice A. King highlights the life, legacy and work of her mother, Mrs. Coretta Scott King.

In the wide ranging discussion, Dr. Bernice King conveys a message for today’s youth of persistence through struggle and notes the importance of bringing to life examples from history to give hope to the next generation.

“struggle is a neverending process, freedom is never really won, you earn it and win it in every generation”

The conversation also focuses on rethinking the education system and how ‘The King Center‘ continues to promote her father’s philosophy of non-violence to future generations. Listen to the full podcast below:

Congress Passes Bill Scrapping Teacher Preparation and Accountability Regulations, Ignores Civil Rights Concerns

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A bill aiming to dismantle Obama-era regulations on accountability and teacher preparation has squeaked through Congress and been presented to President Trump.

The joint resolution targets two rules in the Every Student Succeeds Act that define how States must implement the provisions that “require them to have an accountability system based on multiple measures, including school quality or student success, to ensure that States and districts focus on improving outcomes and measuring student progress”.

A press release for the bill, H.J. Res. 57,  argues that the ESSA regulations “dictate prescriptive accountability requirements and violate prohibitions on the Secretary of Education’s authority.”

Before the bill passed senate by the slimmest of margins (50-49, along party lines), The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights sent an advocacy letter to U.S. Senators asking them to continue the implementation of the ESSA regulations and reject H.J. Res. 57.

“These regulations will help states, districts, and schools to faithfully implement the law and meet their legal obligations to historically marginalized groups of students including students of color, students with disabilities, and students who are English learners, immigrants, girls, Native American, LGBTQ or low-income.”

Instead of fully implementing the ESSA regulations around accountability, the Betsy DeVos led Department of Education has already released new, watered-down “guidelines”. EdWeek notes that the biggest difference between the templates is around the requirement of outreach. In the Obama template, the language dictated states must engage in “meaningful consultation” with stakeholders who “reflect the geographic diversity of the state”. The Trump template: “if you feel like it, go for it”.

While comments from the Trump administration line up with the Republican talking point of “federal overreach”, the Leadership Conference and the 45 co-signing Civil Rights and education organizations note that the regulations came about as a result of the bipartisan crafting of ESSA and that federal oversight is necessary for state cooperation in advancing equity.

But, in the new administration, one thing is clear: ‘state rights’ Trump civil rights.

 

 

Chance The Rapper Announces $1 Million Dollar Donation to Chicago Public Schools.

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Grammy award winning artist Chancellor Johnathan Bennett A.K.A Chance the Rapper stopped by Wescott Elementary School in his hometown of Chicago earlier today to announce a $1 million dollar donation to Chicago Public Schools.

The press conference follows his meeting last week with Illinois’ governor, Bruce Rauner. Chance came away from that meeting less than pleased and noted that the governor gave him a series of vague responses to questions about public education funding. Frustrated with the lack of progress, Bennett announced he would continue to fight for the children of Chicago and would be making a major announcement about how he would do so.

That announcement came today as he handed over a giant 1,000,000 check to a group of ecstatic elementary students, drawing applause from the media, faculty and families in attendance. Chance also had another message for governor Rauner:

“Do your job.”

Watch the full press conference, streamed on periscope here:

The Historical Importance of HBCU’s – A Discussion with Van Jones and Dr. Michael Lomax

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Historically Black Colleges and Universities have received increased attention this week, after a majority of the 104 HBCU presidents accepted an invitation to the oval office to meet with President Trump.

A lot of people weren’t happy with that meeting and a statement from John Silvanus Wilson Jr., president of Morehouse, seems to indicate that the meeting and Trump’s executive order on HBCU’s won’t signal much of a change in funding, or address issues like boosting pell grants or setting up an HBCU innovation fund as the presidents had hoped.

Rather than highlighting the important work that HBCU’s do and have done throughout their existence, the meeting mostly led to social media outrage.

Back in October of 2016, we had political commentator and activist Van Jones as a guest host on the ‘Rock the Schools’ podcast to lead a discussion with Dr. Michael Lomax of the UNCF about the historical and current importance of HCBU’s and a report they released titled “Building Better Narratives in Black Education”.

Instead of getting caught up in social media driven controversy such as the feet-on-couch-scandal, take a listen to the full conversation: