WILL FEDS BUY WAKE SCHOOL BOARD’S RESPONSE?
By Cash Michaels
When citizens stepped forward Tuesday evening during the Wake School Board’s public comment period, many of them made it clear that they weren’t buying the recent numbers the Republican majority have been trying to sell “proving” that poor black and other disadvantaged students were more hurt than helped by the previous socioeconomic diversity (SES) policy, just because they were “forced” to take 10-mile or more long bus rides to school.
“I am personally distressed by the intellectual dishonesty shown by this board majority by releasing purposely misleading data to support its bad policies,” Rita Anita Linger, who works in Southeast Raleigh, told the board.
Other speakers also accused the board majority of “lying” with statistics.
But the question isn’t whether a politically divided public believes the board’s contention or not, but rather if investigators with the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR), which is investigating the Wake School Board, do.
Especially when, after over forty years of school busing for desegregation across the nation, South and North Carolina, there are no credible independent studies proving the board majority’s point.
Nothing that confirms, beyond conservative board members own “feelings,” and the dubious statistics school system staff was directed to produce, that undeniably details how academically debilitating a school bus ride from Southeast Raleigh to Cary can be.
“I know of no research linking bus lengths and academic achievement,” Richard Kahlenburg, senior fellow and SES advocate at The Century Foundation in Washington, D.C., told The Carolinian last week after he was forwarded a copy of the Wake School Board’s March 22 46-page response to the US Dept. of Education’s probe into the NC NAACP’s federal racial bias complaint.
In that response, not only did the conservative board majority deny any racial animus in its move from the school system’s previous student diversity policy to the neighborhood schools policy it has adopted, but it also boldly proclaimed that, “…the use of SES in student assignment was an ineffective tool to meeting the educational needs of students and that students would benefit more from improving educational opportunities in the schools within their own communities.”
Translation - poor black and Hispanic children can learn better by attending school in their own high poverty neighborhoods.
But when OCR - which is tasked to ensure that all agencies receiving federal dollars abide by the US Civil Rights Act of 1964 - goes over the Wake School Board’s defensive response with a fine tooth comb, despite the lengthy legalese the board’s attorneys contrived, it will find many other areas where the board maintains it has done nothing wrong, despite compelling evidence to the contrary.
OCR may also want to check the public record on Wake Public Schools against the school system’s negative portrayal in the board majority’s response. Throughout that document, reference is made to black student achievement since 2007, when there was a definite decline because of the system’s struggles with tremendous growth.
But the board’s response interestingly omits the steady growth of black and Hispanic student achievement in Wake Public Schools between 2000-2005 which reached 81 percent at or above grade level. It was during that time that the school system’s SES was making national headlines in the NY Times and Forbes Magazine for academic achievement.
In the board’s OCR “Factual Background” version of Wake’s achievement history of that period, there is no reporting of the school system’s 91.5 percent overall student achievement accomplishment or number one status above 114 other North Carolina school districts. Only that Wake “received positive attention in the media and some prominent national figures for its past student assignment practices…”
Clearly, it would be hard for OCR to believe that black and economically disadvantaged students have been always hurt by SES, if it were also told that before growth and lack of resources impeded the system’s progress, those students were, in fact, achieving and graduating at impressive numbers for several years.
The board’s OCR response maintains that “None of the board’s (majority) decisions was made with discriminatory intent.”
But just last December The Carolinian exclusively reported how Republican board members schemed to have thousands of mostly black students reassigned out of the upper-middle class, predominately white schools they were attending in the county, and back to Southeast Raleigh neighborhood schools, without allowing the parents of those students to weigh in.
The scheme, approved by Board Chairman Ron Margiotta and executed by his board lieutenant John Tedesco, was so obvious, fellow Republican Debra Goldman, board vice chair, exposed it, and then joined the board’s four Democrats in voting against it.
The board majority also maintains to OCR that there is “overwhelming evidence that neither the board nor any of its members was motivated by racial animus in considering and deciding any student assignment issues.”
But when OCR investigators come back to interview board members next month, they may ask John Tedesco why he saw fit last year to angrily criticize the NC NAACP and other black leaders in a letter where he inferred he knew better what was best for the education of black children because he had had numerous “black girlfriends.”
Why an elected school board member felt the need to boast about how his past inter-racial dating history enhances his sworn educational duties, is a question that OCR will no doubt ask.
While the board, in its response, alleges that a majority of the public, and especially parents, did not approve of the prior SES system, it interestingly omits the results of its own 2010 informal survey of system parents that showed that 94 percent were happy with their children’s school and the way things were operating under SES.
And despite the board’s relentless portrayal of poor black students continuing to fail at disturbing rates throughout the system because they’re not attending neighborhood schools, charts that are still posted in the school system’s own boardroom as of this week clearly show that the academic achievement gap between black and white students in Wake County has actually and significantly been narrowing for at least the past two years.
Corresponding news reports in both The Carolinian and The News & Observer from July 2009 and July 2010 confirm that black students in both years have made incremental gains in their state end-of-grade test scores. The gains were attributed not only to allowing students to take the tests twice in a 48-hour period (the results of which are officially counted), but also to recommended strategies from the curriculum management audit Wake Public Schools employed in 2007 under SES when black student scores dropped.
And yet, the board majority, according to the scathing AdvancED accreditation review report (which OCR has also undoubtedly seen), has refused to acknowledge this evidence of academic growth nailed to the wall of their own board room, instead depending on their own “facts and figures” derived independent of the school system’s staff.
Observers are also quick to note how, in making “minor” changes to the third year of the prior school board’s three-year SES student assignment plan, the board majority created a $25 million super high poverty elementary school in Southeast Raleigh with a projected 81 percent free-and-reduced lunch student population, 52 percent of whom are classified as “low achievers.”
Democratic school board members say that didn’t have to happen, and there is real doubt beyond its first year after Walnut Creek Elementary opens this August, that the school system will have the requisite funding and resources to fully support what it has created come year two and beyond.
Especially when just over a year ago, the board majority voted down a request to begin fiscally planning for the numerous high poverty schools its neighborhood schools policy could create.
Per the recent AdvancED report, beyond depending on the federal Renaissance program funding for next budget year for four additional high poverty schools currently on line, none of the board’s Republicans could offer a plan as to how to fund the system’s high poverty schools beyond that.
There are other areas in the Wake School Board majority’s OCR response that raises questions, if not eyebrows, as to how they reinterpret events. In the final analysis, has this board operated in a manner that has been detrimental to the education of the system’s poor black and economically disadvantaged children?
OCR will have to decide.
Manning Marable Dies
By Cyril Josh Barker
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News
Famed African-American studies scholar Manning Marable has died. Marable served as director of the Institute for African-American Studies at Columbia University, which he founded. He was 60.
Marable was famous for his progressive political views and writings penning more than 10 books. He was working on his latest work, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, set for publication a few days after his death.
Active in the political movement, Marable was elected chair of the Movement for the Democratic Society, sat on the board of the Hip Hop Summit Network, and was a member of the New York Legislature's Amistad Commission.
Battling recent health problems, he had suffered from lung disease causing him to get a lung transplant last summer. Last month Marable was hospitalized for pneumonia.
OBAMA AND THE CBC - President Barack Obama meets with the Congressional Black Caucus Executive Committee in the Oval Office, March 30, 2011. Attending the meeting are, from left; Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y.; Rep. Donna Christensen, D-V.I.; President Obama; Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo.;Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind.; and Rep. G. K. Butterfield, D-N.C. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
NCNAACP BLASTS BILL TO “REFORM” RACIAL JUSTICE ACT
By Cash Michaels
As expected since the Republicans won control of the NC General Assembly last November, a bill has been introduced this week to gut the NC Racial Justice Act (RJA), and the NC NAACP doesn’t like it.
"The extreme right-wing that has apparently seized control of the North Carolina Republican Party chose April 4th, a day that lives in infamy in the hearts and minds of all justice-minded Americans, to introduce a law against Racial Justice," said Rev. William Barber, president of the NC NAACP, in a statement referencing the 43rd anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.
“This extreme right wing race-baiting attack is misguided, mean, and malicious especially when we know the death penalty is too often applied in a way that is a modern day form of racism and classism,” Rev. Barber continued.
Through the measure, Republicans counter that they’re ensuring that racism in capital cases by prosecutors be proven, as opposed to being statistically determined.
Over the objections of local district attorneys and prosecutors, the NC Racial Act was passed in 2009 in reaction to numerous instances of innocent men, falsely convicted in North Carolina for crimes later proved they did not commit, being released from prison years after the fact.
A commissioned Michigan State University study of hundreds of NC capital cases proved that the race of the convicted, many of whom were black, and the race of the victim, played a role in how prosecutors litigated their cases.
“The Michigan State Study found that defendants accused of capital crimes against white people were 2.6 times as likely to receive the death penalty than those defendants who were accused of a capital crime against a black victim,” Barber said.
The RJA permits judges to review data after a conviction to determine on a case-by-case basis whether there was evidence of racial bias.
“In most cases this racial bias does not make it into the paper record of the proceedings,” said Rev. Barber. “Instead, it happens during investigations, evidence handling, mandatory evidence- sharing with defense, negotiations with the D.A., jury selection, jury discussions, prosecutor's body language before the jury, and other tactics that have been the themes of many films and books about "Southern Justice." These classic discriminatory tactics are not mentioned in official court records that are reviewed by appellate courts.”
“Under the RJA,” Barber continued, “if a defendant can show racism in the processes leading to his conviction, his or her death sentence can be commuted to life in prison without parole. The RJA does not allow for any defendant to be released from prison.”
Recently, a Forsyth County Superior Court judge ruled that the RJA was constitutional.
Prosecutors countered that the allegation of racial bias in how they select juries or handle evidence for trial is unfair, and say the law was just another way to cripple the death penalty, and prolong the agony for the families of victims.
Prosecutors added that those cases that saw exculpatory evidence proving innocence withheld by authorities in order to ensure the conviction of a black suspect, are too few to count.
House Republicans agreed, and filed House Bill 615 titled, “No Discriminatory Purpose in Death Penalty”
Sponsored by Rep. Justin Burr, a Republican representing Montgomery, Stanly and Union counties, the official title is, “An act to reform the Racial Justice Act of 2009 to be consistent with the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in McCleskey v. Kemp.”
That is a 1987 case where a convicted black murder suspect in Georgia who killed a white police officer, alleged a statistical study of the state’s capital sentence process showed blacks who killed whites there were 4.6 times more likely to get the death penalty than whites who killed blacks, in violation of his 14th Amendment right to equal protection under the law.
But the High Court, led by Justice Lewis Powell, ruled that despite what the study proved, the defendant failed to prove that there was any “conscious, deliberate” racial intent in his particular case.
Justice Powell, upon his retirement, later told a biographer that he wished he could take back his McCleskey ruling, lamenting that the racial effect of the Georgia death penalty process, intent or not, was not held accountable by the court.
Historically, McCleskey v. Kemp is considered by liberal legal scholars to be one of the worst US Supreme Court decisions in history.
But to the GOP sponsors of HB615 in the NC House, it is the ticket to dramatically change this state’s RJA.
“…to prevail in a discrimination claim under the 10 equal protection clause, a capital defendant must prove that decision makers in the defendant's 11 case acted with discriminatory purpose…the bill states.
NC NAACP Pres. Rev. Barber says if RJA is effectively repealed, proven racial bias in NC capital cases will be given a pass.
“Findings of systemic perjury within the State Bureau of Investigation crime labs in the Swecker Report, released last fall, and the recent report of SBI interim director by Judge Joe John emphasize why the RJA is so important,” Rev. Barber says. “It found the State Bureau of Investigation, the main investigating agency for prosecutors and courts across the state, had a policy of perjury and that SBI agents routinely misrepresented SBI lab results to prosecutors, judges and juries. This culture of perjury and "conviction at any cost" mentality at the SBI has existed for years. Out of the 269 people who were victims of the SBI's culture of perjury, the State has executed three; four are on Death Row; and several died while in prison. All were denied their constitutional right to a fair trial.”
Rev. Barber continued, “In the last few years, the State was forced to release seven men from Death Row --five African Americans; one Latino; and one European-American. In a recent six-month period, our courts released three Black men off N.C.'s Death Row, with no apologies. Jonathon Hoffman served 12 years on death row before all charges against him were dismissed in December 2007; Glen Edward Chapman served 14 years on death row before being released in April 2008; and Levon "Bo" Jones, who served 15 years on death row, was released a month later in May 2008.”
TRIANGLE NEWS BRIEFS
COMMUNITY OPEN HOUSES ON SCHOOL BOARD REDISTRICTING
The League of Women Voters of Wake County and Great Schools in Wake Coalition are sponsoring three community open houses on Wake School Board redistricting April 11, at Grace AME Zion Church in Raleigh, April 12 at Eva Perry Library in Apex, and April 19th at Cameron Village Library in Raleigh. Citizens can drop by on those dates between 4-7 p.m. to ask questions about the redrawing of redistricting maps. For more information contact Ms. Betty Ellerbee at 919-606-6610 or email her at email@example.com.
MANGUM CHARGED WITH ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY WEAPON
Crystal Mangum, the woman at the center of the infamous Duke lacrosse alleged rape case five years ago, has been charged with repeatedly stabbing her boyfriend Sunday with a knife. Magnum, 32, was arrested and taken to Durham County Jail, her bond later reduced to $300,000. Police later found several knives and a pair of brass knuckles in her home. Her boyfriend is listed in serious condition in the hospital with multiple stab wounds. Mangum was recently convicted of child abuse when she set fire to her home in an argument with a different boyfriend. She was released with time served.
SBI PROBING WAKE COUNTY JAIL ALTERCATION
An inmate in the Wake County jail is in a coma after an altercation with a Wake detention officer, and the State Bureau of Investigation wants to know why. Officials with the Wake Sheriff’s Office aren’t saying much, other than confirming that Joshua Martin Wrenn, 29, of Apex, was arrested early Sunday morning and brought to the jail, and four hours later, got into a fight with a detention officer. He was later admitted to Wake Med, reportedly after being struck on the head. Officials say Wrenn started the fight.
STATE NEWS BRIEFS
NCAE CALLS FOR BOYCOTT OF MAXWAY AND ROSE’S STORES
[RALEIGH] The NC Association of Educators is calling for a boycott of the businesses of former NC House Rep. Art Pope, alleging that the Republican conservative is funding efforts to hurt public education across the state. Pope, who helps fund the conservative John Locke Foundation and Civitas Institute, admits that he is a “constructive critic” of public schools, but is supportive of teachers. Pope helped elect the conservative majority on the Wake School Board in 2009. He owns Maxway and Roses Stores, many of which are located in poor communities of color.
FORMER LEGISLATIVE ASSISTANT ALLEGED TO HAVE PLACED ANTI-HOLDEN FLIERS
[RALEIGH] The legislative assistant to a state House Republican allegedly placed those pro Ku Klux Klan fliers opposing a pardon for the late Gov. William Holden on the desks of NC senators last month. Carlton Huffman, the legislative assistant to freshman Rep. Jonathan Jordan of Ashe, was fired this week, legislative officials confirmed. Rep. Jordan says he knew nothing of Huffman’s actions. The bill to pardon Holden, who was impeached and removed from office in 1871 for fighting the KKK, has been shelved because of opposition from right-wing members of the GOP.
REX HEALTHCARE PUNISHED BY FEDS FOR MEDICARE OVERBILLING
[RALEIGH] Rex Healthcare of Raleigh was forced to pay a $1.9 million settlement to the federal government for allegedly overbilling Medicare patients between 2004 and 2007. The US Justice Dept. charged that the hospital knowingly misclassified numerous cases as inpatient admissions in order to charge the government health care program more money. Hospital officials admit no wrongdoing, saying the problem arose when the government changed Medicare requirements in 2007, and made them retroactive to 2004.
CASH IN THE APPLE
By Cash Michaels
STUART - Back in April of 1988 while I was program director of the now-defunct WLLE-AM in Raleigh, a young UNC-CH graduating senior dressed in suit with an attaché’ case came to the station the same day Mrs. Coretta Scott King made a visit, asking for a job as a sportscaster.
We didn’t have any open positions, but, as is my practice when it comes to students, I made time to sit down and talk with this eager young man about the career he so badly wanted to have.
When he left, we shook hands as I wished him the best and godspeed.
A few years later, who should show up working for WRAL-TV news in Raleigh by that same young man. We reconnected, he told me how hard it was to get a sportscasters job, which is why he went into news instead.
His heart was still beating to do sports.
He left WRAL, went to work at an Atlanta TV station, and then, before I knew it, he finally ended up on ESPN2, before ultimately proving himself enough to be promoted to the main ESPN channel.
From then on, Stuart Scott has been a star.
The last time he and I saw each other and spoke was in the late 1990’s when Coach Dean Smith announced his retirement from the UNC Tar Heels.
I have been very proud of Stuart, and have smiled as his star has risen to the top at ESPN and ABC Sports.
Should be end of story, right?
Except that now, my friend Stuart is fighting for his life.
He has cancer. Actually this is the second time that Stuart is dealing with it. He beat it a few years ago, only to have it return. He’s in chemotherapy, and determined to fight hard to live.
Stuart is only 45.
So please pray for a young man who has made us all proud.
And if you see him, tell Cash said “Hi.”
SHUTDOWN - This is being written Tuesday afternoon, as cries of “government shutdown” grow louder and louder. Reportedly, if some deal isn’t reached within 24 hours from now, a shutdown is exactly what will happen come Friday night a midnight.
That means with the exception of services dealing with national security, mail delivery, and Social Security checks, anything else that requires federal government oversight or services, stops on a dime because Congress didn’t fund it.
If this happens, the Republicans are going to take the lion’s share of the blame, though you better believe that they’ll be working overtime to heap healthy chunks of a lot of it towards the president’s way.
To be clear, the House GOP is trying to leverage billions in cuts for the remainder of THIS federal budget year. The $5.8 trillion in proposed GOP budget cuts you’ve been hearing about is for the 2012 federal budget. That proposal is nuts, but we’ll deal with that later.
On Tuesday, Obama told House Speaker John Boehner and the GOP to “act like grownups” in trying to reach a deal to prevent a government shutdown. One of the rare times the president has ever chastised the Republicans publicly.
Most times, no matter how much they out-and-out lie about him, he’s still willing to play pattycake with them in the interest of keeping the peace.
Now assuming that a shutdown will indeed occur, why am I dealing with it here?
Because the manner in which this president handles yet another, and this time more serious challenge from his political adversaries, will be what voters will remember hen they go to the polls in 2012.
Obama announced earlier this week that he will file papers for re-election. I think it’s fairly obvious that given the mindless cast of characters that have thus far been touted as prospective Republican opponents, the president will keep the black vote and the youth vote, provided both groups return to the polls in the extraordinary numbers that they did in 2008.
But here’s the president’s problem - his base is not all that happy with him, right now. Obama promised a lot when he ran in 2008, and the first black president of the United States has accomplished a lot, no question, with health care reform being the biggest achievement.
But far too many times during the past two years, the president has decided not to engage in the theater of the presidency. Some would say that’s a good thing. No question that a leader who engages in too much theater without strong results is a problem.
However, Obama’s problem is he abhors theater altogether (defining “theater” as seizing the timely moment during a crisis or challenge to not only reassure the country about his grasp and leadership, but also fire up his base to stay supportive of his policies), so by the time someone advises him that he really should say something, or be seen doing something, it’s too late. Folks have already asked, “Where is the president on this and why haven’t we heard from him?”
That is a requirement of the office that Barack Obama just doesn’t believe in, and as a result, many in his base are frustrated with him. Oh they’ll vote for him in 2012, no question. But will they vote for him with the same enthusiasm, and in the same numbers, particularly in a hard fought gutter match campaign that the Republican candidate and his/her crowd is sure to put on?
So how the president stands up to Boehner and the House Republicans on the shutdown deal will be a true test. Obama must publicly draw the line on what he will and will not accept in a budget deal, and stick to it! If he’s seen getting rolled by the GOP, it seriously weakens his image as a leader even more.
The part that bothers me about all of this is that Barack Obama IS a strong leader. He wouldn’t be president if he weren’t, given all of the hatred that has been thrown his way.
But in order to own Washington, you first have to break Washington like a bucking bronco. “Please” and “thank you” doesn’t work in the halls of power. You have to be seen standing strong, or else no one really listens.
Obama must assert himself more if he’s to change Washington.
Let’s see how he does on this test! If he beats the Republicans, then 2012 will be looking better and better.
And that’s EXACTLY what Obama’s adversaries don’t want!
ON THE OTHER SIDE - What’s even more interesting than what the president will do or won’t do with the Republican when it comes to a prospective government shutdown this week, is what the rabid right-wing Tea Party folks are doing.
This bunch of cracked nuts is pushing the traditional GOP leadership to cut more and more and more, and NOT to compromise with the Democrats one inch.
Not even a half an inch!
Their leverage? That the Tea Party will run ultra-conservative candidates against key Republicans who do not do what they say.
Yep, the TP has a gun at the collective heads of Boehner and the House Republicans. That’s why the House speaker keeps talking tough about more cuts “will create jobs.”
Funny, if “more cuts” will do all of that, then why not cut the massive oil industry subsidies fat cats like Exxon, which reported $149 billion in profits last year?
Because that’s the crowd the GOP says “Yassuh Massuh” to.
Them and the Tea Party, so stay tuned.
Make sure you tune in every Thursday afternoon at 4 p.m. for my talk radio show, ''Make It Happen'' on Power 750 WAUG-AM, or online at www.Power750.com. And read more about my thoughts and opinions exclusively at my new blog, ‘The Cash Roc” (http://thecashroc.blogspot.com/2011/01/cash-roc-begins.html). I promise it will be interesting.”
Cash in the Apple - honored as the Best Column Writing of 2006 by the National Newspaper Publishers Association, by Cash Michaels, honored this year as well by NNPA for Best Feature Story Journalist of 2009.
Until next week, keep a smile on your face, GOD in your heart, and The Carolinian your life. Bye, bye.