HAVE WAKE COUNTY SCHOOLS CHANGED FOR GOOD, OR BAD?
By Cash Michaels
It’s the change that no one who embraced the heralded and productive socioeconomic student diversity policy even wanted to see - Wake County Public Schools, moving as far away as possible from the old mission - making sure that no child was trapped in an unhealthy school.
The changes have steadily come in a blur after a period where it seemed the Republican majority on the contentious school board couldn’t do anything right. And even though the US Dept. of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has yet to weigh-in on the NCNAACP’s federal complaint alleging racial bias against the Wake School Board, it is clear that the board isn’t waiting around for the results - good or bad.
This week, rookie Wake Supt. Anthony Tata unveiled a “community-based” school choice student assignment plan that allows parents the ability, he says, to choose their child’s school from a host of options. Based on online testing with parents, Tata says, proximity to the closest school seems to be the clear priority. However, for Southeast Raleigh and eastern Wake parents, allowances will have to be made for their children to attend schools that will not result in high poverty.
Tata hopes the board will sign off on the plan by the fall so that implementation can begin for the 2012-2013 school year.
Can that happen, especially, as is known to happen with school choice plans elsewhere, there will schools that are not chosen because they will not be high performing?
Southeast Raleigh District 4 school board representative Keith Sutton, who favored a more addressed-based approach to student assignment similar to the prior student assignment plan, isn’t so sure if the plan doesn’t help to enhance student achievement, and ensure against a proliferation of high poverty schools.
The question is, is this choice plan, and the many other changes that the board, and Tata, are ushering in, good or bad for African-American students?
Add to that Tata’s assertion this week that contrary to internal administration reports, Wake’s racial achievement gap since 2006 has not narrowed at all. Tata contends that a Harvard University study, commissioned by the Broad Academy - the group that trained Tata less than five years ago to become a superintendent after he left his US Army career - shows that, based on raw data, while all of Wake’s student subgroups have incrementally improved academically over the past four years, the wide gap between black and white students persists.
What Tata intends to do about this, and how his student assignment plan plays into his remedy, remains to be seen.
With the October Wake School Board elections looming, and the prospect that the Republican majority might add to their numbers on the nine-member panel, the only way to put the brakes on what seems to be a clear direction towards possibly leaving low-achieving students behind is the elections.
All four Democratic seats, including that of Sutton’s, are up for grabs, along with Republican Chairman Ron Margiotta’s, who formally announced for re-election this week.
No Democrat has announced a challenge to Margiotta in his District 8 Apex area thus far, and two of the Democratic incumbents - District 5’s Dr. Anne McLaurin and District 6’s Dr. Carolyn Morrison - have announced that they are no running this fall, leaving their seats wide open for well-funded Republican candidates to pickup.
Unless Democrats are able to sweep all five open seats in October, school board Republicans will have more than enough of a majority margin to further change the school system.
Tuesday night, Chairman Margiotta was reelected chair by his majority, but can only serve as such until this December when the new board is sworn in. In a long, drawn out process, Margiotta’s chief lieutenant on the board, District 2’s John Tedesco, was voted in as board vice chair, replacing fellow Republican Debra Goldman, who fell out of favor with her fellow GOP’ers when she supported the Democratic minority last fall on several measures.
Tedesco, who has emerged in the almost two years that the Republicans have held the majority as their most prominent spokesperson, has also finally found a job.
Last week the conservative District 2 Garner representative announced that he has been hired as president and chief executive of the nonprofit North Carolina Center for Education Reform, which will be headquartered in Raleigh.
The purpose of the organization, Tedesco says, is to reform public education across the state. But beyond Tedesco, there is very little information about who or what he’s supposed to be leading.
But sources researching what little is known, say there are definite right-wing connections, connections that come as no surprise given not only Tedesco’s Republican politics, but penchant to travel statewide promoting the ultra right-wing Tea Party.
According to sources, the attorney listed on the incorporation papers for Tedesco’s new group is Austin M. Chestnut, a lawyer with the Shanahan Law Group, the law firm run by Republican Wake School Board special counsel, attorney Kieran Shanahan. That firm was recently commissioned by Chairman Margiotta to redraw the redistricting map.
In his bio, among other things, Chestnut once served as “an officer with the Campbell University Chapter of the Federalist Society.”
According to it’s own website, “…the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies is a group of conservatives and libertarians interested in the current state of the legal order. It is founded on the principles that the state exists to preserve freedom, that the separation of governmental powers is central to our Constitution, and that it is emphatically the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is, not what it should be.”
Both Chestnut and Shanahan are closely affiliated with the “Liberty and Law Institute,” a “non-profit, non-partisan educational dedicated to teaching successive generations of young Americans the text of our Founding Documents — the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution…”
The conservative connections to Tedesco’s new organization don’t stop there.
Even the group’s website designer is Stephen Cannon of “Right Foot Forward,” “Cannon Vending” and “Beyond Political Consulting.”
A visit to Beyond Political Consulting’s website reveals a long list of Republican clients throughout the South which include the North Carolina Republican Party, a number of Republican and Tea party candidates for Congress, and Heather Losurdo, Republican Wake School Board candidate for District 3, currently Democratic incumbent Kevin Hill’s seat.
In fact, one of BPC’s managing partners is Betsy McCorkle, the campaign treasurer for Losurdo’s school board bid.
Tedesco has told local media that there are no major donors thus far, so funding is coming from “small level contributions from local donors and supporters.” He vows that there is no conflict of interest with his position on the school board, and says that a list of the center’s board of directors thus far will be on its website by this Friday.
Meanwhile NCNAACP Pres. Rev. William Barber, who has been lamenting the Wake School Board’s changes and right-wing political influence, has agreed to meet with Supt. Tata about his student assignment recommendations. But Tata has also challenged Barber to prove that the NAACP has worked to recruit black teachers and principals, and has helped with school system community outreach.
Ironically, and apparently Supt. Tata is unaware, but the NCNAACP was rebuffed several times by Chairman Margiotta when it offered over a year ago to work with the conservative majority when it took over, discuss key issues, and fashion a comprise to the Republican-led board’s goal of neighborhood schools.
The educational efforts of the NAACP, the NCNAACP’s parent organization, are well known, consisting of it ACT-SO program promoting student achievement; Sadie Bates national conference which was last held in Raleigh in December to assist teachers, principals and school officials nationally deal with barriers to education; and its legal battles nationally to ensure equal educational access for all students.
Here in North Carolina, NCNAACP has partnered groups like the Coalition of Concerned Citizens for African-American Students and Great Schools in Wake Coalition, which have both sponsored community outreach with the school system.
Tata’s job, observers say, is not to worry about what the NCNAACP is, or is not doing, but making sure that his new student assignment plan doesn’t create more high poverty schools that the Wake School System can’t afford to adequately support.
GROUPS TO OPPOSE GOP REDISTRICTING MAPS
By Cash Michaels
According to the Republican chairs of the Joint House and Senate Redistricting Committee, “…North Carolina remains obligated by federal and state law to create majority African-American districts,” per the 1965 U.S. Voting Rights Act (VRA).
Voting Rights Act districts are defined as having African-Americans or Hispanics comprise at least 50 percent plus one of the total district population to assure legislative representation.
“During our public hearings, members of the public requested that current majority African-American districts be retained, where possible, and that additional majority black districts be created, where possible,” wrote chairmen Senator Bob Rucho (R-Mecklenburg) and Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) in a June 17 joint statement, the day that the maps detailing the VRA districts were released.
“Based upon this testimony,” they continued, “along with input we have received from at least one black incumbent House member, the Chairs recommend, where possible, that each plan include a sufficient number of majority African-American districts to provide North Carolina’s African-American citizens with a substantially proportional and equal opportunity to elect their preferred candidates of choice.”
To some African-Americans, particularly those in areas of the state that do not have black representation at the legislative table on Jones Street, that’s good news.
But other observers say “Not so fast.” They question how a Republican-led General Assembly that passed a voter photo ID bill, slashed a week off of One Stop/Early Voting, and was committed to stopping same day voter registration and “Souls to the Polls” Sunday voting, all designed, critics say, to suppress the black vote during the crucial 2012 presidential and gubernatorial elections next year, could all of a sudden be so generous and committed in creating as many majority-minority voting districts as possible?
The answer, those observers say, is by “stacking and packing” black voters in those districts where they can’t help white Democrats against Republican challengers, it ultimately helps the GOP goal of holding on to their majorities in the state Legislature.
“They’re following federal law by first drawing districts that comply with the Voting Rights Act, which is good,” writes Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina, a nonprofit, non-partisan issue advocacy group. “But it appears they are going well beyond that mandate to use the VRA to create several additional majority-minority districts with heavy concentrations of Democratic or non-Republican voters.”
“What’s the impact of this strategy?” Hall continued. “Minority and Democratic voters are apparently being packed into a smaller number of total districts statewide, rather than have their influence spread across more areas; conversely, the lines are drawn to keep Republicans at a minimum in the VRA districts and put them in other districts that will favor GOP candidates.”
“It’s a cynical use of the VRA to help Republicans win more seats in Raleigh and Washington. Sen. Eric Mansfield (D-Cumberland) says the maps seem to endorse a return to segregation; they will promote racial tension and polarization rather than centrist politics,” Hall contends.
The question is, can the Republicans legally justify their stacking and packing of black voters when their redistricting plans are reviewed for VRA compliance by federal authorities?
State Sen. Dan Blue (D-Wake), a veteran of drawing redistricting lines in the 1990 to help bring more African-Americans into the General Assembly, suspects not.
“I think they unnecessarily and probably illegally pack minority voters into districts,” Sen. Blue told State Government Radio. “I need to analyze them a little bit further, but my initial impression is they’re engaged in packing in non-Section 5 Voting Rights Act districts.”
And why are the Republicans preferring to submit their plans, required every ten years by law after every new US Census count because of population shifts, to federal judges in the District of Columbia’s federal circuit court, as opposed to the Obama Administration’s Justice Dept.?
Could it be because the GOP is more likely to find a like-minded three -Republican judge panel, since at least 60 percent of the federal judiciary is Republican?
Even before the VRA redistricting maps were released last weekend, there were concerns about what degree of political machinations to keep control of the General Assembly would the Republican plans reveal.
Atty. Irving Joyner, chair of the NCNAACP Legal Redress Committee, and professor at the North Carolina Central University School of Law in Durham, says the civil rights group is already monitoring the GOP redistricting process. While stacking and packing by political affiliation is perfectly legal, according to the US Supreme Court, doing so by race is not.
That is why the GOP wants to submit their plans to the DC Circuit Court, and wants their own attorney, not Democrat state Attorney General Roy Cooper, to argue their case, Joyner said. He thinks the strategy could backfire, however.
Submitting to the federal courts could take longer than to the US Justice Dept. for pre-clearance,” Joyner says. The same rules and standards would apply, but because many other states with Republican legislatures will also be submitting to the courts, that will definitely slow the process down.
And them of course, the NCNAACP and other groups will be legally challenging the GOP redistricting plans, further slowing down the process of pre-clearance, similar to what the Republicans did ten years ago in North Carolina, stalling the Democrats’ plan for at least two years.
The Republican redistricting plans for the remaining state House and Senate seats, and congressional districts, will be released on July 1. Republicans are already saying that they will be redrawing all thirteen congressional districts in a manner that assures a “slam-dunk” of at least three more Republican seats won come 2012.
And they are expected to shift black voters to make that happen.
Both the state House and Senate are scheduled to reconvene for a special redistricting session on July 13 to pass their redistricting plans.
Unlike standard and budget bills, the governor has no say in the process, nor can she veto any redistricting plan the GOP-led Legislature passes.
NNPA STORIES -
HERMAN CAIN REFUSES TO BE CALLED "AFRICAN-AMERICAN"
BRUTAL RACIAL ATTACKS HAVEN'T STOPPED IN POST RACIAL US
TRIANGLE NEWS BRIEFS
NO PROPERTY TAX INCREASE IN NEW RALEIGH CITY BUDGET
Residents of the Capital City will not see a property tax increase, thanks to a new budget adopted by the Raleigh City Council Tuesday. The $660 million budget saves money by cutting vacant positions, cutting the city’s contribution to the supplemental retirement fund from 3 to 2 percent, and dipping into Raleigh’s capital reserve fund to help the arts and needy nonprofit social service organizations. The budget for 2011-2012 is 6.6 percent higher than this fiscal year’s.
RWCA MEETS, THEN UNMEETS
For the first time in over three months, members of the Raleigh-Wake Citizens Association were called to a regular monthly meeting by embattled President Danny Coleman. However, many of the members, angered by what they felt has been Coleman’s misrepresentation of the 79-year-old black civic organization, wanted to remove him from office immediately. Reportedly, members were reminded that constitutionally, elections could only be scheduled for November in odd-numbered years, meaning they would have to wait until this fall. When members insisted on moving forward, the meeting was reportedly adjourned. It is not clear if or when the RWCA will meet next month.
THREE PEOPLE ARRESTED AND CHARGED WITH RIOTING IN CHAPEL HILL
Three people who were allegedly part of a group of two dozen masked intruders who blocked elevators, broke furniture and smashed windows at a Chapel Hill condominium Saturday, have been charged with felony rioting and misdemeanor damages. Published reports say Karolina Knable of Durham, Brian Dingledine of Chapel Hill and Kyle Whisenant of Greensboro have been charged in the alleged attack at the Greenbridge condo complex. Damages are estimated at over $3,000. Authorities suspect the intruders were angry because the complex was constructed in an older Chapel Hill neighborhood, displacing some of the modest homes there.
STATE NEWS BRIEFS
MAN NEEDS HEALTH CARE; ROBS BANK TO GO TO PRISON
[GASTONIA] An unemployed man is behind bars, police ay, because he walked into a Gastonia bank, and handed a teller a note announcing that he was committing an unarmed robbery for $1.00. He then laid down on a bank couch and waited patiently for the police to come and arrest him. When a local television station interviewed James Verone, the alleged robber, and asked him why he committed the crime, he said he needed the free health acre that was provided in prison. Verone reportedly has a bad back, bad foot, and an undiagnosed growth on his chest.
STATE EMPLOYEE ASSOCIATION HEAD FILES FOR BANKRUPTCY
[RALEIGH] Dana Cope, the head of the State Employees Association of North Carolina, has filed for Chapter 13 personal bankruptcy, published reports say. In his bankruptcy papers, Cope is listed to owe $241,468 in debts, even though he earns over $97,000 annually as SEANC director. His wife, an attorney, earns over $87,000 annually. Cope says his debts are attributed to bad real estate investments and over $50,000 in credit card bills. Cope says his financial troubles should not impair his leadership of the state employee association.
GOV. PERDUE SAYS SHE’LL REVIEW GOP LEGISLATURE’S HUNDREDS OF BILLS CAREFULLY
[RALEIGH] While most people curl up with a good book at the beach during the summer, Gov. Beverly Perdue will be busily reviewing over 200 bills passed by the Republican-led General Assembly over the next week. State lawmakers wrapped up this year’s long session last weekend with a flurry of legislation to send to the governor for her signature. Observers say some of those measures, like the voter photo ID bill, are likely to get the red “VETO” stamp from Perdue, who has thus far rejected at least seven bills sent her way this year. Perdue made history when she vetoed the $19.7 billion budget the General Assembly ratified. GOP lawmakers, with the help of five conservative Democrats, overrode the governor’s veto to make the budget law.
CASH IN THE APPLE
By Cash Michaels
FATHER’S DAY - I know last week must have been gut-busting busy if I forgot to say one word about Father’s Day. I failed to wish all of our readers a happy one, so the best that I can do now is at least hope that all of you had a great Father’s Day weekend. I know I did with family, and am eternally grateful for it.
Being a Dad in this day and age is not particularly easy. That’s not to suggest that it ever was, but given how technology today has made it easier for the least child-friendly things to reach one’s children before you even know it, even the best parent has to struggle to stay forever vigilant.
Still, fatherhood is rewarding, especially when you kids “get it” as to why you’re there to love them, protect them and provide for them. You know you’re doing s good job when they not only trust your opinion and direction, but ask for it.
And when you lovingly acknowledge the good job that they’re doing, there is nothing more rewarding in life than that heartfelt smile of pride that beams across their faces.
So to all of the dedicated fathers out there, here’s to keepin’ on keepin’ on in raising great children who will one day become fine, productive, GODfearing and GODloving citizens.
Happy belated Father’s Day to all.
WEINER RESIGNS - I agree with comedian Jon Stewart. Last week’s coverage of the Rep. Anthony Weiner sex scandal was atrocious. All of the cable channels were wall-to-wall with it, so much so that when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi held a press conference, but said that she would be talking about jobs and the economy instead of Weiner’s sex-apades with his Twitter pictures exposing himself (sicko), all of the networks dropped her presser like a rock.
That is a shame!
There was no doubt, despite the NY Democrat’s spirited assurances to the contrary, that he had to step down. Many pundits say the Democrats had no business forcing him out. One of my favorites, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, was beyond livid is saying that Democrats should have left Weiner alone because Republicans like senators John Ensign and David Vitter - both of whom had their own torrential sex scandals - were never called upon to leave. Vitter is still there, and Ensign left only after an Ethics panel report nailed him a year later.
So yes, there is a double standard, but if the Republicans don’t see fit to hold their members to a higher standard, that’s their problem. Democrats shouldn’t be ham sandwich anxious to copy them.
Besides, no Democrats in Congress ever called for Vitter or Ensign’s resignation.
Folks also said that the voters back in Weiner’s district in Brooklyn and Queens are the ones he’s most accountable to since they’ve elected and reelected him.
True to a point.
Ex-Rep. Weiner was voted in as a Democrat. He took Democratic Party money, spoke out representing Democratic positions, and held a Democratic leadership position in Congress, a position his leadership threatened to strip Weiner of if he resign.
So the Democrats had an absolute right to tell an outspoken and prominent member of the team that he was hurting the cause he signed on to.
And then there’s the worst of it all.
Anthony Weiner didn’t just lie to the news media, the public, his constituents, and worst of all, to his pregnant wife.
He also lied to his Democratic leadership.
When the people who count on you to do your job can no longer trust you, it’s been my experience that they have every right to say, “See ya!”
So Weiner had to go. The question now is …where?
Given how corrupt our culture is today, even the most loathsome criminal qualifies to be a commentator or host of his own show.
Just ask former NY Gov. Elliot Spitzer, who has his own show on CNN weeknights. Spitzer, you’ll recall, was exposed for getting involved with a call girl ring and fell hard from grace.
Just not too hard, apparently.
KEITH ON CURRENT TV - Good to see, and hear, Keith Olbermann back on weeknight TV with “Countdown.” The energy, sharp focus, sharper wit and great commentary is definitely back with him, so we can expect Keith to go after Republicans, Democrats, and more Republicans every night. Check him out weeknights at 8, with repeats at 11 p.m. and 2 a.m.
Welcome back, Keith.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM - Today is my late mom’s birthday. She was well into her 80’s when she died in January 2009. Though her suffering has now stopped, and I miss her very, very much, Mom is in a better place now.
Love you Mom.
JUST A DOLLAR - In this tight economy, you have to try and save a dollar where you can, and believe me it’s not easy. So I find myself waiting a while for movies that I want to see to hit the $5.00 bin at Wal-Mart.
But sometimes, if Santa hits me up with an extra buck or two, I might buy a new DVD, or even new Blu-ray DVD movie. But what if, despite the exciting coming attractions, when you pay the $19.99 or $24.95 for the flick, you take it home, pop it in, and it sucks to high heaven?
The solution? Those $1.00 DVD machines at the supermarket. They carry the latest flicks released on DVD, and it only runs you a buck (or a buck-and-a-half for Blu-ray). All you have to do is rent the movie you want, watch it, and if you like it, then you know what you’re buying if you decide the movie is worth having for good.
That is exactly what happened last weekend.
For the first time ever, I went to one of these supermarket machines and rented “The Green Hornet” starring Seth Rogen. Unbeknownst to me, my wife, Markita, actually purchased a Blu-ray copy of the film for me as a Father’s Day present.
So imagine her shock when I brought home the $1.00 rental Saturday, and began watching it.
It was one of the worst movies I had ever seen in my life ( and I loved the 60’s Green Hornet as a TV show with Bruce Lee and Van Williams). But it didn’t bother me that much because all I spent was $1.00.
The following day, Father’s Day, is when Markita told me, and in fact gave me the copy of the Green Hornet that she had purchased. It was at that point that I said, “Thanks, I love you…now take this back and get your money.”
She happily did.
So let our experience be a lesson for you. Save your money. Rent for a buck, and if you like, then wait until the price is slashed down to $5.00.
You don’t have to thank me. Just enjoy!
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.
W-ed - OH, SUSI, PLEASE!
Say what you want to about our Republican Legislature on Jones Street in Raleigh (and believe us, we’ve said and reported volumes, and then some), but in their zeal to make sure that white Democrats are permanently (at least for the next ten years anyway) relegated to minority status in the NC General Assembly, and majority status in the NC Museum of History, the Grand Old Party may have done blacks folks here a favor.
You see the new Republican-drawn redistricting maps were released late last week for the state House and Senate (the Congressional maps will be released on July 1 we’re told). As you know, these are the new voting districts that the Legislature - whichever political party is in office at the time - is required to draw ever ten years to take into account population growth and shifts as determined by the latest US Census count.
Those new districts must be, by law, as close to even as possible within plus or minus five percent in order to guarantee the constitutional mandate of “one person - one vote.”
So what’s that have to do with black folks here in New Hanover County?
Well back on 1990, the then Democratic-ld General Assembly redrew the district lines so that House District 18 would be a majority-minority district, thus allowing African-Americans to elect their own to the state House, and have a voice at the table.
Thomas Wright got our votes, and served there for many years representing District 18.
However, in the intervening years, D-18 became diluted, and was no longer a majority-minority district. Given that since 1990, we once had not only a black representative for House 18 until two years ago, and even a black state senator in the late Luther Jordan before he passed and his district was eliminated, we now have no African-American representation for our district (indeed our region) on Jones Street now.
That’s how we got Susi Hamilton, a white female conservative Democrat that is anything but representing us in the NC House.
But with the new proposed redistricting maps unveiled by the Republicans last week, that could soon change.
District 18, which takes in parts of New Hanover County, has now been redrawn into District 20. Based on information provided by the NC House, District 20, with a total population of 82,667, is comprised of parts of Bladen County (32 percent); Brunswick County (15 percent); Columbus County (22 percent); and of course New Hanover (31 percent).
But that’s not all.
The demographic breakdown of the newly proposed District 20, based on the 201o US Census, is single race white at over 40 percent, and single race black is over 51 percent. Add in those who are multi-race/any part black, and the number is at least three percent higher.
And, per the same information, Democrats - black and white - outnumber Republicans.
Some folks like it this newly proposed District 20, some folks don’t.
One of those who don’t is …you guessed it, District 18 Rep. Susi Hamilton.
We got wind of her saying that she didn’t appreciate the Republicans redrawing much of the rural counties with her metropolitan area (Wilmington).
Translation - why did the GOP put all of those country black folks in with my mostly white Wilmington? That makes it tougher for me to win?
Maybe, SUSI, it’s because when House 18 was originally drawn twenty years ago, that’s the way it was - part rural, part metropolitan. That assured that African-Americans across the district and region had a voice in our state Legislature. It meant that we were being heard on the important issues as education and job creation, taxes and health care. It meant that we could trust the person we elected.
In public hearing after public hearing earlier this year about the redistricting maps, our community came out, and made it clear that we deserved, once again, the right to elect someone who represented our needs and concerns. And for whatever the reason, it seems that we have been heard.
Our community will now do all it can to fight to keep this new District 20, and have the Legislature pass it. We also hope that it passes whatever legal test with federal authorities that is required.
The bottom-line is African-Americans will not stand by and allows others who do not represent us, nor speak to our most pressing issues, to assume that they can speak for us, when they don’t.
So like it or not, Susi, if the African-American community has anything to do with it, District 20 is here to stay!