Tenicka Boyd: I can’t imagine a world where the NAACP would say ‘let’s pause’ on schools succeeding with black children

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Tenicka Boyd, a New York based education activist and long-standing member of the NAACP, testifies on behalf of families who are well-served by charter schools. This was the first of seven public hearings held by the NAACP to hear from stakeholders about charter schools and “privatization” in public education. This hearing was done in Connecticut on December 3, 2016.

Local property tax policies affect education funding and equity in a major way

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A new report from EdBuild titled “Building Equity: Fairness in Property Tax Effort for Education” analyzes the way public schools are funded via property taxes and how this affects school funding equity.

“Close to half of public school dollars in the United States are raised locally, mostly from local property taxes. But not all property tax bills are created equal. In some states, tax rates are fairly similar across districts, while in other states, property owners in one district may be putting in twice the tax effort as those in another.”

Those disparities in “tax effort” for education funding are a key emphasis for the report, which aims to determine whether the burden put on poorer districts is more than their wealthier counterparts. The findings do show a “regressive” tax rate overall in education funding from property taxes, meaning a majority of the states studied had lower tax rates in wealthier neighborhoods, but that’s not the main takeaway.

The key problem highlighted in the report is the taxation of non-residential property, like businesses, factories, and farms. The state-by-state analysis shows that districts “often fail to effectively leverage the non-residential property tax base for school funding.”

Simplified, it often occurs that districts fail to have progressive tax rates on high value properties, meaning they need to make up the difference in education funding with higher taxes on areas that already have smaller tax bases.

So, while equitable education funding should look like this:

Instead, it ends up looking like this:

When this happens, the state’s education funding is inherently unfair. Higher value properties and parts of town aren’t contributing their fair share of school funding, either limiting overall funding or increasing the burden on needier areas.

This report shows that states have a real capability to increase equity in education funding (or do the opposite) based on a few key policies:

  1. Including non-residential property taxes in the conversation around funding.
  2. Guiding and limiting districts’ local tax rates to promote fairness in tax effort.
  3. Taking into consideration the income levels of local taxpayers and setting relative, progressive tax rates for education funds.
  4. The final point of policy revolves around how the state determines each district’s needed budget, and how much they pay toward that total. Essentially, this will determine the tax burden that is put on the local taxpayers.

The general concept of property tax driven education funding seems to be intrinsically inequitable. But, if it is to continue to serve as the model, states must take steps to craft policy that balance the dollars going to districts and the tax burden placed on all citizens.

“If public education is meant to provide every child, no matter his or her background, with the opportunity to learn, grow, and thrive, then funding for public schools must be raised in a way that is aligned with this mission: fairly and equitably, in a manner that supports rather than harms needy communities.” – Building Equity: Fairness in Property Tax Effort for Education

How is it fair that poorer communities shoulder a greater tax burden than wealthier ones, while often still having their students receive fewer resources?

To see the full report and how states vary on their levels of fairness in educational funding: read more.

 

School district teams with Sandy Hook mom to teach empathy

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Nelba Marquez-Greene believes the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, which killed her 6-year-old daughter, could have been avoided if more had been done years earlier to address the social isolation and mental health problems of the shooter, Adam Lanza.

To help other vulnerable youths, Marquez-Greene, a family therapist, is working with a Connecticut school system on a program to help students connect with one another.

“I want people to remember that Adam, the person who did this, was also once 6 and in a first-grade classroom, and that if we had reached out earlier then maybe this could have changed,” Marquez-Greene said.

Marquez-Greene’s Ana Grace Project foundation, named for her slain daughter, is working with four elementary schools in New Britain, a city just west of Hartford, to teach empathy, combat bullying and help socially isolated children.

Her Love Wins campaign, created with a local teacher, builds on the existing curriculum and also brings therapists and interns into the schools to help identify children who need extra help with social skills.

She is one of several people touched by the December 2012 shooting inside Sandy Hook who have become involved in the broader movement to incorporate social and emotional learning in American schools.

Read the entire article at the Houston Chronicle.

NAACP’s Charter School Task Force Meets Resistance in Los Angeles

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Hands off our charter schools!

That was the message delivered to the NAACP by charter parents, students and educators in an outdoor press conference ahead of the civil rights organization’s education hearing held at the Los Angeles Police Department Headquarters. The NAACP is currently engaged in a series of hearings around the country to hear from a variety of experts and community members about the organization’s call for a moratorium on charter schools.

That moratorium, passed by the historic civil rights group in October of 2016, has received heavy push-back from the African-American community as well as charter advocates who argue that it doesn’t align with the well-documented attitudes of parents who want more educational choices for their children.

The news conference, organized by the California Charter School Association, featured signs, t-shirts and pointed speeches condemning the NAACP policy. Students shared success stories of overcoming adversity at home and in their communities which they attributed to their charter schools. Educators spoke of the flexibility they have to customize their programs to the needs of their students.

“Black children have found solace in attending charter programs and many are finding greater acceptance and achieving greater victories” – Carmen Taylor Jones, National Council of Negro Women.

Educators and administrators from local charter schools also gave impassioned pleas to the NAACP to reconsider their call for a halt on expansion of the sector, noting charters are a viable option having positive results for many marginalized communities in California.

Following the press conference outside, the community members filled in the L.A. Police Department Auditorium, to take part in the hearing on charter schools and educational quality.

Margaret Fortune, CEO of Fortune School of Education, a network of K-12 public charter schools focused on closing the African American achievement gap, gave perhaps the most passionate testimony to the task force. In a reoccurring theme for the charter advocates that spoke, she noted that she is a card-holding member of the organization, but could not wrap her head around the idea that they would call for a halt to a system that is showing results with so many Black children.

“The charters and public schools today have to work together. Charter schools exist because of dissatisfaction with public schools” – George McKenna, LAUSD District 1 Board Member. 

Fortune and several others who gave testimony lamented the division caused by the moratorium, noting that it was a “distraction” that was dividing, rather than empowering the community to work together to fight for quality education regardless of school type.

Similar to the most recent hearing in Orlando, Florida, the task force listened to testimony from a variety of speakers advocating both for and against the moratorium. Speakers at this event included charter school founders and advocates, teachers union representatives, school board members and unlike the previous hearing, a relatively large group of parents, teachers, and students.

The final segment of the hearing, a time designated for comments and questions from these stakeholders, showed more of the division between those in attendance, with speakers alternating between supporting and condemning the charter moratorium.

One thing was clear from the outset: these California charter families and advocates have and will continue to organize to stop the NAACP and any other body from limiting their educational options.

NAACP: Who Exactly Are You Working to Advance When You Ignore Black Parents?

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By Khulia Pringle

It is my prayer that the NAACP hearing on their charter school moratorium happening today in Los Angeles goes far better than the ones I recently attended in Orlando, Florida and Memphis Tennessee.  It would be an understatement to say that both were appalling experiences for me as a black woman and an educator.

NAACP members revealed themselves in both cities to be woefully uninformed, consistently asking questions about charter schools that they should have known the answers to long before their organization voted to put a moratorium in place. It’s as if they decided to put the brakes on something without knowing a damn thing about what it is and how it works.

That takes some nerve when you think of how many parents and children are impacted by their ignorance.

My disappointments and frustrations are many when it comes to these hearings. In Memphis, the most appalling thing I saw was that parents were almost completely shut out of the discussion. The hearing lasted four hours and yet, somehow, they only allowed for twelve minutes of public comment.

Twelve minutes for the people most impacted by their decision. Twelve minutes for people who sat and listened to their uninformed questions and comments for four hours.

The first thing I noticed in Orlando was that the agenda was almost identical to the one I’d seen in Memphis. Some pro-charter people and some anti-charter people. But something really disturbing jumped from the page in Orlando: Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, was on the agenda.

Do Your Homework

One thing was crystal clear very quickly. NAACP members had not done their research, their homework, before voting on the charter moratorium resolution. Most of them didn’t know anything.

Here’s a taste of what they asked:

Do Charter Schools accept students with IEPs?

Do Charters schools cherry pick kids?

Do Charter Schools kick kids out leading to a school to prison pipeline?

Do Charter schools keep the money if a child leaves the school?

Do Charter school teachers have to be trained?

Not only did this line of questioning, directed exclusively to those seen as “pro-charter,” expose a remarkable level of ignorance but it also revealed to me that not enough folks were asking the right questions.  

I would have liked to have heard some questions like this:

Are traditional public schools held accountable for failing poor students and students of color?

What are  the suspension rates for traditional public schools?

When kids are kicked or pushed out of the traditional system, where do they go?

If charters are not accepting students with IEP’s, then why?

What is the level of racial diversity  of teachers in traditional public schools? Are kids currently seeing themselves in their teachers and school administrators?

Are teachers required to take cultural competency and implicit bias training? What are the repercussions for a teacher being blatantly racist and/or a bullying children?

What does  the curriculum like in a  traditional public schools? Are all kids learning about themselves in history class?

What are traditional public schools doing to retain families and encourage parents to choose them instead of a  charter school?

But the worst part of the whole thing, for me, was the arrival of Randi Weingarten who was quite literally treated like some rock star by the NAACP panel.

“We have a very special guest, that has just arrived, Can we all stand up give Randi Weingarten, a standing ovation.”

Are you kidding me? I am now being told to stand for someone who is singlehandedly trying to prevent black and brown kids from having better and more quality school options?  I looked around and everyone, except for me and education advocate Rashad Turner, did as they were told and stood up. I literally said out loud, why are y’all standing?

Randi started out talking about all of her concerns about charter schools and all the reasons why they aren’t the solution. And then she mentions that she owns a charter school in Brooklyn. Say What? Well ain’t that the pot calling the kettle black.

I couldn’t stomach any more, so I left.

It is my hope, my prayer, that the Los Angeles hearing is different today.  But I ain’t gonna lie; the fact that it’s being held at the Los Angeles Police Department headquarters is not a very good start.

Khulia Pringle is a mother, teacher, and parent organizer in St. Paul, Minnesota