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How Colorism Subjugates Dark-Skinned Black Women

Grassroots DC - Wed, 08/08/2018 - 13:50

Colorism, also known as shadeism, is discriminatory actions or comments based on a person’s skin color, tone or pigmentation. When you are told you are pretty for a dark-skinned girl that is colorism.  Colorism is not often seen as an issue or it is seen as “people just coming up with problems” or being “too sensitive.”

Colorism in the United States is the result of white supremacist ideology.  During slavery, Intercourse between whites and blacks created mixed-race offspring who had a social status, which set them above other, enslaved people.  Lighter-skinned African Americans maintained family and community ties that distanced them from their darker-skinned counterparts, this distance still persists today.  They were “to white to be black and to black to be white.” Researchers have documented the ways in which many black teachers in segregated schools during the pre-Brown vs. Board of Education era was infected with the attitudes that preferred lighter-skinned children over dark-skinned students.  Light complexioned African Americans who look down on darker-skinned African Americans were perpetuating a hierarchy of discrimination imposed by the white majority.

According to Leland Ware, Professor of Law and Public Policy at the University of Delaware:

In the early decades of the twentieth century, colorism fueled conflicts among African-American leaders, including Marcus Garvey, who was the head of the Universal Negro Improvement Organization. Unlike the NAACP, which fought for integration, Garvey proposed migration to Africa as the answer to the “Negro problem.” In 1931, Garvey, who had a very dark complexion and African features, claimed that W.E.B. Du Bois and the NAACP practiced colorism: Du Bois fervently denied Garvey’s claim, but there was some truth to it. Walter White was the head of the NAACP from the mid-1930s until his death in 1955. White’s light skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes did not display a hint of his African ancestry. White’s colorism was reflected in the image of African-American women he actively promoted in Crisis, a periodical published by the NAACP. The editors used photographs of predominantly light-skinned, college-educated women in an effort to displace entrenched notions of Black women as “Jezebels” or sexual victims. The editors wanted to refashion the image of Black women, but in doing so they promoted colorism. Today colorism is still promoted in society and the industry. Many celebrities are those of lighter complexion, occasional exotic dark skin and those who can pass the brown paper bag test.”

This mindset did not just stem from slavery but Biblical origins such as the Curse of Ham. According to Wikipedia, the story’s original purpose may have been to justify the subjugation of the Canaanite people to the Israelites, but in later centuries, some Christians, Muslims, and Jews interpreted the narrative as an explanation for black skin, as well as slavery. In the ancient Indian scripture of the Ramayana, there’s a scene that depicts a fight between a noble, fair-skinned king from the north, and an evil dark-skinned king from the south. This trope points to how people view the source of a person’s skin color between darkness as bad or evil and white are pure, clean and good.

People believe that colorism can end if a loving family that expresses how important and beautiful your melanin is regardless of its shade raises you. This is not the real-world experience of dark-skinned people.

I will talk about my real-world experiences with colorism in Part 2 of this series.


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Night Out for Safety and Liberation

Grassroots DC - Fri, 08/03/2018 - 12:11

The first Tuesday of August, neighbors of communities from all fifty states take part in the National Night Out.  Local police departments host block parties, festivals and other community activities. According to the event website, “National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make our neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live.”

However, this cause is implausible when agencies fail to provide officers with policy guidance, hold officers accountable for misconduct and collect data about officer’s activities. Most problems arise when police patrol under-resourced neighborhoods. Patrolling is supposed to keep people safe but in reality patrolling forces residents to give up their rights and lose their sense of security within public and personal spaces. Policing is flawed because it profits from stopping, searching, ticketing, arresting and incarcerating people.

The District of Columbia is the capitol of the United States. Despite being the capitol, DC is not funded as it should be given its stature in America. Issues like food deserts, medical assistance, affordable housing, education funding and a poor infrastructure are serious problems for District residents. These topics all deal with public safety as they correspond to resident stability. A Night Out for Safety and Liberation is a community-driven alternative to the National Night Out. The event aims to create new understanding of public safety. Join us for:                  

Night Out for Safety and Liberation
Tuesday, August 7
5pm – 9pm
Maroon House
1005 Rhode Island Avenue NE

Goals such as building connections with neighbors, ending mass incarceration and ending for-profit bail are designed to help community members re-imagine what public safety is. This event is aimed at giving power to the community and showing that we have a right to govern ourselves. We as a community should be able to depend on one another, lend a helping hand, tutor the mis-educated and defuse potentially violent situations. Equity, equality and power are the goals for redefining a community. Fear, prosecution and conflict should not be the main reactions to situations in the neighborhood. Instead, we should give power back to the community by shedding light on existing community resources and the variety of options available for achieving public safety.


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How To Have Effective Teachers In Every School (Or, What DC Doesn’t Do–But Should)

Grassroots DC - Mon, 07/16/2018 - 14:09

This crosspost from Valerie Jablow is for all those DC education advocates who really want to understand some of what would be needed to have effective reform in DCPS.  Good teachers need to be trained, recruited and supported.  

Cross-Posted from EducationDC
written by Valerie Jablow

We know that teachers are the single most important school-based factor affecting student learning (Rice, 2003). Ensuring that students in all schools have access to effective teachers is critical for academic success. Yet, as in many other school districts, high-poverty schools in DCPS have fewer highly effective teachers compared with lower poverty schools (Gordon, Kane, & Staiger, 2006; Jackson, 2013; Sass et al., 2012).


Credit: Betsy Wolf, 2018. Graph was created using data Mary Levy obtained from DCPS responses to questions from the city council during performance hearings. The drop box with this information is posted on the council website.


Credit: Betsy Wolf, 2018. Graph was created using data Mary Levy obtained from DCPS responses to questions from the city council during performance hearings. The drop box with this information is posted on the council website.

One reason for such inequity is higher teacher turnover in schools with larger percentages of low-income students and students with low test scores, who are not on grade level–which affects many schools in DC.


Credit: Betsy Wolf, 2018. Turnover data for all staff (not just teachers) here is from the public drop box for the council education committee. PARCC data is from OSSE.

As DC public school analyst Mary Levy has documented, DCPS’s new hires alone leave at a rate of 25% per year, with staff leaving the 40 lowest-performing (and highest poverty) DCPS schools at an average rate of 33% per year. Studies of other jurisdictions have found similar results. For instance, a typical school in Chicago will lose half of its teachers within five years, and the 100 most disadvantaged schools there will lose 25% of their teachers each year (Allensworth, Ponisciak, & Mazzeo, 2009).


Credit: Betsy Wolf, 2018. Graph was created using data obtained via FOIA by Mary Levy from DCPS in SY2017–18.

As the graph above shows, teachers in high-poverty schools in DCPS have fewer years of experience in the system. That means that teachers are either moving to more affluent schools or leaving the system altogether, which creates teacher churn in our most disadvantaged schools.

The effects of such teacher churn are particularly pernicious, given that most of our publicly funded schools, particularly in DCPS, have large proportions of low-income students.

As it is, schools with high-poverty populations often have challenges that high-income schools don’t and thus need more instructional resources, including effective teachers, to increase student achievement. Yet in DC, low-income schools most often have fewer instructional resources—and less effective teachers—on average than high-income schools.

Since teacher mobility appears to be at the heart of the inequitable distribution of effective teachers in DCPS, to solve it we need to understand it. We know from research that effective teachers tend to leave schools serving largely disadvantaged student populations for schools serving more advantaged populations (Boyd, Lankford, Loeb, & Wyckoff, 2005; Boyd et al., 2009; Feng & Sass, 2011; Feng & Sass, 2015; Hanushek, Kain, & Rivkin, 2004; Hanushek & Rivkin, 2006; Rivkin, Hanushek, & Kain, 2005; Xu et al., 2012).

One factor contributing to this pattern is that effective teachers tend to go to schools where teacher quality is most like their own, and thus end up in schools serving more advantaged students (Feng & Sass, 2011). Other factors, such as a school’s proximity to home or accountability pressure, also contribute to this pattern (Boyd et al., 2005; Feng, 2010).

At issue in DC as well are teachers’ perceptions that DCPS’s teacher evaluation system (IMPACT) is unfair to teachers who work in high-poverty schools. Under IMPACT, 50% of a teacher’s score comes from student learning gains, and 30% comes from classroom observations. In terms of increasing student learning, research has shown that a teacher who is effective is generally effective in any context (high- or low-poverty) (Glazerman et al., 2013; Lockwood & McCaffrey, 2009). However, research has also shown that teachers have lower returns on years of experience in high-poverty schools (Sass et al., 2012): it simply takes longer to reach a level of effectiveness because teachers there have to do so much more than just teach. In addition, classroom observations have been found to be negatively biased against teachers working in high-poverty schools (Steinberg & Garrett, 2016; Whitehurst et al., 2014).

The pressure inherent in such accountability can be a stressor by itself. If you know your job depends on how much students have learned, or how well they take a test on any given day, and you also know that your students are behind grade level so the likelihood of them scoring well is low under the best of circumstances, that’s stressful. If you know that someone is coming into your classroom to observe you and that will influence your rating (and thus your salary and your job), and you don’t know if a certain student will have a bad day and act out, that’s stressful.

As a result, teachers have many incentives to move to schools with less poverty–and DCPS is not doing much to stop them. Research shows that teachers move to schools where they can feel successful, and teaching in high-poverty schools is hard work. You’re not just teaching: you’re also trying to be a social worker and deal with trauma; acquire necessary classroom and technological resources; reach out to parents; and manage classroom behavior.

These hardships are often exacerbated by DCPS’s lack of support. Here are some examples just from my child’s school:

–Teachers don’t have working computers, yet the mandated curriculum requires blended learning, and student assessments are taken on computers. Teachers resort to Donors Choose to bring in computers, and then computers are trashed when they need repairs because there is no one to repair them.

–DCPS provides minimal support for kids experiencing trauma. A social worker told me it can take up to two years for an appropriate placement to be identified for a child who is particularly struggling. When a child is not in the right placement and/or doesn’t have adequate supports, it’s a lot harder for the teacher to manage classroom behaviors and focus on instruction.

–DCPS doesn’t consider class size to be an important factor affecting student learning, despite a general consensus among researchers that class size matters for children in high-poverty schools in grades K-3. Large class sizes for kids who are multiple years behind grade level makes for an impossible teaching assignment, even for the best of teachers. That’s because in these situations, teachers need to spend more one-on-one time with individual students, which is challenging when class sizes are too large.

To be clear, it’s not wrong to have rigorous teacher evaluation systems—but in a school district like DCPS, with relatively few ineffective teachers to begin with, why is weeding out teachers the most talked-about policy solution when it also results in losing effective ones as well? Also, because student learning gains (a key part of IMPACT) have been available for only 17% of teachers in DCPS (Dee & Wyckoff, 2015), to the extent that IMPACT has rigor it is not seen in student performance. (In fact, a recent report showed that more rigorous teacher evaluations systems do not improve student performance.)

A growing body of research suggests that teachers do respond to financial incentives to remain at high-poverty schools–but that such incentives may need to be large and recurring to retain effective teachers in those schools (Glazerman et al., 2013; Springer et al., 2016).

Moreover, research shows that working conditions are still very important to teachers, regardless of salary (Horng, 2009; Milanowski et al., 2009). For example, Horng (2009) was able to disentangle preservice teacher preferences via a survey for elementary school teachers and found that an $8,000 difference in salary was not as important to teachers in selecting a school as facilities, administrative support, class sizes, or commuting times. Findings by Liu, Johnson, and Peske (2004) also suggested that recruiting teachers was not adequate; more focus was needed on retaining teachers and building teachers’ capacity.

This suggests a path ahead for our publicly funded schools that simply has not been approached effectively in DC.

Although DCPS provides generous bonuses to teachers for teaching in high-poverty schools, those bonuses are provided only under two conditions: having a highly effective rating and permanently giving up rights under excessing. (DCPS provides smaller bonuses to teachers in low-poverty schools–with the same conditions; see page 35ff of the contract here.)

Possibly worse, effective teachers in high-income schools have few incentives to move to low-income schools because they may be concerned that the move will hurt their effectiveness rating.

In other words, DCPS’s system places all of the risk of teaching at high-poverty schools on teachers—with no additional supports. Worse, this lack of support goes in many directions. Every year, for instance, good principals ask their best teachers what they need to stay, but there’s only so much each school leader can change. A school leader can’t acquire computers if they are lacking or hire effective teachers in the middle of the school year.

Research also suggests that teachers may be more willing to work or remain in low-achieving schools if they have a group of effective peers. One study of Teach for America (TFA) participants found that teacher retention in a school improved when TFA participants were placed in groups in each school during the 2-year program (Hansen, Backes, & Brady, 2016). Emerging evidence from other reforms suggests that effective teachers were more likely to move to high-needs schools when other effective teachers were willing to do the same (Partee, 2014).

Given the harmful effects of the inequitable distribution of effective teachers in DCPS, the question is whether city leaders will avail themselves of this research and use it to inform their decision making and policies going forward. The simple act of going into schools and asking teachers what do they need to stay is the first step. The second is to use what has been proven to work. And the third step is to revisit both, with the active collaboration of teachers.

In a city where competition rules the day in so many things, including our public schools, collaboration may seem old-fashioned. But to recruit, and retain, effective teachers in low-income schools, collaboration is the first, perhaps most important, step.

[Ed. Note: This post would not have been possible without the expertise of DCPS parent Betsy Wolf on issues surrounding the distribution, recruitment, and retention of effective teachers in DCPS. Wolf is an assistant professor in the Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins, where she conducts independent evaluations of K-12 reforms and policies. All academic citations not linked herein are listed in the bibliography at the end.]

Bibliography

Allensworth, E., Ponisciak, S., & Mazzeo, C. (2009). The Schools Teachers Leave: Teacher Mobility in Chicago Public Schools. Consortium on Chicago School Research.

Boyd, D., Grossman, P., Lankford, H., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2009). Who leaves? Teacher attrition and student achievement. Washington, DC: Urban Institute.

Boyd, D., Lankford, H., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2005). The Draw of Home: How Teachers’ Preferences for Proximity Disadvantage Urban Schools. Journal of Policy Analysis & Management, 24(1), 113–132.

Dee, T. & Wyckoff, J. (2015). Incentives, Selection, and Teacher Performance: Evidence from IMPACT. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 34(2), 267-297.

Feng, L. (2010). Hire today, gone tomorrow: New teacher classroom assignments and teacher mobility. Education Finance and Policy, 5(3), 278–316.

Feng, L., & Sass, T. (2011). Teacher Quality and Teacher Mobility (Working Paper No. 57). Washington, D.C.: National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research, The Urban Institute.

Feng, L., & Sass, T. R. (2015). The impact of incentives to recruit and retain techers in “hard to staff” subjects: An analysis of the Florida Critical Teacher Shortage Program. Washington, DC: Urban Institute.

Glazerman, S., Protik, A., Teh, B., Bruch, J., & Max, J. (2013). Transfer incentives for high-performing teachers: Final results from a multisite randomized experiment (NCEE 2014–4004). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance.

Gordon, R., Kane, T. J., & Staiger, D. O. (2006). Identifying effective teachers using performance on the job. Discussion Paper Series (Hamilton Project), 1(1).

Hansen, M., Backes, B., & Brady, V. (2016). Teacher attrition and moblity during the Teach for Amercian clustering strategy in Miami-Dade Public Schools. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 38(3), 495–516.

Hanushek, E.A., Kain, J., & Rivkin, S. (2004). Why Public Schools Lose Teachers. Journal of Human Resources, 39(2), 326–354.

Hanushek, E.A., & Rivkin, S. (2006). Teacher Quality. In E. Hanushek & F. Welch (Eds.), Handbook of the Economics of Education (Vol. 2). Elsevier.

Horng, E. (2009). Teacher Tradeoffs: Disentangling Teachers’ Preferences for Working Conditions and Student Demographics. American Educational Research Journal, 46(3), 690–717.

Jackson, C. K. (2013). Match quality, worker productivity, and worker mobility: Direct evidence from teachers. Review of Economics and Statistics, 95(4), 1096–1116.

Liu, E., Johnson, S. M., & Peske, H. G. (2004). New Teachers and the Massachusetts Signing Bonus: The Limits of Inducements. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 26(3), 217–236.

Liu, K. (2010). Peer group effects on student outcomes: Evidence from randomized lotteries (Doctoral dissertation). Vanderbilt University, Nashville.

Lockwood, J. R., & McCaffrey, D. F. (2009). Exploring student-teacher interactions in longitudinal achievement data. Education Finance and Policy, 4(4), 439–467.

Milanowski, A. T., Longwell-Grice, H., Saffold, F., Jones, J., Schomisch, K., & Odden, A. (2009). Recruiting New Teachers to Urban School Districts: What Incentives Will Work? International Journal of Education Policy and Leadership, 4(8).

Partee, G. L. (2014). Attaining equitable distribution of effective teachers in public schools. Washington, DC: Center for American Progress.

Rice, J. (2003). Teacher quality. Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute.

Rivkin, S., Hanushek, E., & Kain, J. (2005). Teachers, Schools, and Academic Achievement. Econometrica, 73(2), 417–458.

Sass, T. R. (2008). The stability of value-added measures of teacher quality and implications for teacher compensation policy (Brief 4). Washington, DC: National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research.

Sass, T., Hannaway, J., Xu, Z., Figlio, D., & Feng, L. (2012). Value added of teachers in high-poverty schools and lower-poverty schools. Journal of Urban Economics, 72(2–3), 104–122.

Springer, M. G., Swain, W. A., & Rodriguez, L. A. (2016). Effective teacher retention bonuses: Evidence from Tennesse. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 38(2), 199–221.

Steinberg, M. P., & Garrett, R. (2016). Classroom composition and measured teacher performance: What do teacher observation scores really measure? Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 38(2), 293–317.

Whitehurst, G., Chingos, M., & Lindquist, K. (2014). Evaluating teachers with classroom observations: Lessons learned in four districts. Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution.

Xu, Z., Ozek, U., & Corritore, M. (2012). Portability of Teacher Effectiveness across School Settings. Working Paper 77. National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research.


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Basic Videography Workshop at We Act Radio

Grassroots DC - Thu, 07/05/2018 - 13:22

You’re a progressive activists or organizer.  You show up for events that teach people about your causes and confront officials who are not, generally speaking, asked to account for their actions.  You learn things yourself that you didn’t know.  You want to share what you’re learning at these events  with your friends and everybody you know who you wish had been there but wasn’t. 

So you pull out your camera phone or your DSLR or your camcorder and you start recording.  You shoot a few minutes of one speaker and a few minutes of another and maybe get some crowd shots.   At the end of the day you load it up to your Facebook page, your Twitter account, your Youtube channel and hope for the best.

It isn’t until you play the footage back that you realize that you were too far away from the speaker for your recording device to really get what they were saying.   The conversation of the people standing next to you is pretty clear though.  Or maybe the shot looked okay when you were shooting, but now that you’re looking at it, the African-American speaker’s face is pretty dark.  The white folks standing next to her/him/they is fine though.  Is there racism in the camera?  Maybe.  But it isn’t anything that can’t be overcome with a few good tips.

Understanding how to adjust the exposure settings on your so-called point and shoot device, making  the best use of available light and placing the camera where the speaker not only looks good but can be heard are all techniques we’ll be teaching at Grassroots DC’s next Basic Videography Workshop.

There’s something to be said for sharing a few minutes of a good speaker at an event via social media.  But if you want to make sure your video looks good, sounds good and maybe even includes a specific call to action, like, when is the next event?  Who should they contact to join the cause?  What specific policy should they ask their elected officials to support?  Then this event is for you.

There will be food and young people are welcome.  Contact liane@grassrootsdc.org for more information.


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Blockade by Pipeline Opponents Disrupts Work Day at FERC

DC Media Group - Mon, 06/25/2018 - 13:01
Two fracking well “derricks” and chanting protesters block First St. at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission./Photo by Anne Meador

Security at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission seemed caught unawares Monday morning when anti-pipeline activists blockaded the staff parking garage at the agency headquarters. In the middle of First Street, two people climbed up and perched high on bamboo structures made to resemble hydraulic fracking well derricks. FERC is responsible for approving or denying proposed interstate gas pipelines, most of them supplied by fracking wells.

“FERC greenlights all energy projects, paying no mind to how dirty or unsafe they are to the climate or community,” said derrick-sitter Jessica Sunflower Rechtschaffer of New York City. “We erected these towers in front of FERC to show how these towers are being placed all over the USA, disrupting people, their homes livelihoods and environment.”

The FERC critics from Beyond Extreme Energy (BXE) and other groups, numbering about two dozen, also unfurled a long banner in front of the main entrance, blocking it as well. They say FERC should no longer be “a rubber stamping agency” and instead dedicate itself to facilitating “a just transition off fossil fuels.”

FERC has long been accused of having a “cozy relationship” with industry with commissioners and staff enjoying a revolving door to and from gas industry jobs. Critics also say that it assists gas companies in breaking up projects into smaller ones which will more easily obtain approval, a practice known as segmentation. Meanwhile, communities must grapple with a complex and time-consuming permit process directed toward what seems like a predetermined outcome. FERC has also been accused of “cherry-picking” data to force pipelines through low-income areas and communities of color.

There has been a sustained initiative to draw attention to the broad impact of the agency’s work, as gas companies seize private property and dig up forests, streams and mountaintops with a massive expansion of pipeline networks. For more than four years, BXE has held similar protests at FERC headquarters and disrupted the Commission’s monthly public meetings. Their efforts may be paying off.

“We’re beginning to see cracks between the FERC commissioners,” derrick-sitter Drew Hudson of North Carolina said, pointing out that earlier this month, Commissioners Cheryl LaFleur and Richard Glick voted to vacate Mountain Valley Pipeline’s permit.

FERC recently embarked on a review of the process governing its permit approvals. There are indications that Democrats LaFleur and Glick are demanding analysis of the climate impacts of pipelines, which would be in accordance with a recent court ruling. But the three Republican commissioners want to shorten the timeline for permit applications and streamline any evaluation.

Swaying only the two Democrats on the Commission may not be enough to achieve BXE’s goal of turning FERC into an agency willing to facilitate a transition to renewable energy. “We need at least three and preferably all five commissioners on board,” Hudson said.

While communities continue to fight FERC, vast numbers of people around the country are affected or potentially affected by the pipelines it approves. An independent safety analysis ordered by Governor Cuomo just released by the New York Department of Public Service finds that FERC was aware that the Spectra Algonquin Pipeline involves unacceptable risks when it approved it in March 2015, according to Kim Fraczek of Sane Energy Project. The Algonquin Pipeline runs only 100 feet from the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant located 30 miles north of New York City.

“This agency is responsible of saying yes to this pipeline knowing that it was unsafe,” Fraczek, who was protesting at FERC on Monday, said. “It’s putting a population of 25 million at risk. If this pipeline blows up next to Indian Point, it’s game over for the metropolitan New York City area.”

Click to view slideshow.

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Thousands Marching with Poor People’s Campaign Prevented from Entering Capitol Grounds

DC Media Group - Sat, 06/23/2018 - 21:07


Washington, DC — Thousands of people protesting systemic racism and poverty marched to the Capitol on Saturday but were barred from entering the grounds by U.S. Capitol Police. A long line of officers blocked the South Lawn and halted a march organized by the Poor People’s Campaign–a revival of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s movement 50 years ago—at the Capitol Reflecting Pool.

Rev. William Barber and Rev. Jesse Jackson pressed police to allow them to proceed to the Capitol Lawn and conclude their march with the delivery of petitions demanding Congress allocate resources for the poor and struggling workers. U.S. Capitol Police Captain John Erickson, however, refused on the grounds that a large group needed a permit to demonstrate. An agreement was eventually worked out for petition boxes to be carried by individuals one at a time to the Capitol steps.

Rev. William Barber (c) with Rev. Jesse Jackson (to his right) leads the Poor People’s Campaign march to the U.S. Capitol

Barber and Jackson gathered the crowd in prayer. “There is no black and white. We’re all precious in God’s sight,” Jackson said, leading the others in a call-and-response. He concluded with “We’ll all remember in November,” referring to the midterm elections.

The march wrapped up 40 days of protests, rallies and civil disobedience actions in Washington, DC and around the country. Many prominent civil rights activists took part, some of whom were founding members the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign.

Rev. Barber reviewed the victories of the campaign so far, saying it had been the goal to shift the narrative and get the attention of the international community. They had engaged in simultaneous civil disobedience in 40 states, registered voters in poor communities and put issues on the record at a hearing in Congress. The campaign will continue as a multi-year organizing and get-out-the-vote effort.

“We know how to fight, and we’re committed to do it,” said Rev. Barber. “I got a feeling everything’s going to be all right, you know Martin’s done told us,” Rev. Barber sang with the crowd.

Drawing from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, Rev. Barber outlined actions Poor Peoples Campaign would pursue in the coming months. “We learned from our non-violence training that you only have the authority to shut it down when you have given your adversary clear understanding of what you want, why you want it, and you’ve attempted to give them the opportunity,” he said.

He was critical of police for not letting them deliver their demands to Congress. “We remember this month [June 1968] when they tried to kill the Poor People’s Campaign, snatched them away, ran them out even after they had permits. Now today they won’t even give you a permit to be on the mall,” he said.

Rev. William Barber and Rev. Jesse Jackson confer at U.S. Capitol as Capitol Police block the marchers from entering Capitol grounds.

A huge three-hour rally on the National Mall preceded the march. The severe humidity affected many of the older civil rights leaders. Rev. Barber appeared to suffer as he walked behind the lead banner, and several people offered him assistance in walking.

Actor Danny Glover was also among civil rights leaders walking with the lead banner. “We see the contradictions with this administration all the time. Now we have to gather a mass mobilization, a real mass movement to change and that’s got to take place in many ways,” he said. He urged anyone feeling discouraged to keep going. “When you hear the dogs barking, keep going. When you think they’re going to catch you, keep going,” he said, drawing from the words of Harriet Tubman.

The original Poor People’s Campaign of 1968 was a march of nine caravans from different cities to Washington, DC. Once they arrived, they set up Resurrection City, a tent area for permitted tent city of homeless on the National Mall. It was led by Rev. William Abernathy who took on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s vision after he was assassinated in April of that year.

Click to view slideshow.

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It’s Not Over ‘Til It’s Over, It’s Important to Vote on June 19 to be Heard

Grassroots DC - Fri, 06/15/2018 - 14:20

On July 12, 2016, the D.C. Council passed the Incarceration to Incorporation Entrepreneurship Program (IIEP), DC Law 21-159. The IIEP would provide entrepreneurship opportunities for returning citizens such as a General Equivalency Diploma program; college courses in entrepreneurship; apprenticeship training; leadership and character development; financial literacy instruction; and the availability of access to capital.

The IIEP is a successful model of entrepreneurship.  Similar programs regularly change the lives of returning citizens.  For example, Raising Tide Capital helps individuals start and grow businesses; Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) strives to promote innovation through career development, education, and mentoring, and Defy Ventures supports employment, entrepreneurship and personal and leadership development.  For more information about the Incarceration to Incorporation Program, go to our website, www.coalition159.com.

Despite the bill passing unanimously by the council, the Mayor refused to fund the measure in her last two budgets with the council following suit. This year, myself and the other members of Coalition 159, who’ve been fighting to get this bill passed and funded, felt confident that the council would fund the program this year.   Both Councilmember Elissa Silverman, chair of the Labor and Workforce Development Committee and Kenyan McDuffie, chair of the Committee on Business and Economic Development, had expressed support, leading us to believe that they would do what they could to fund the program.  [Unfortunately, we were wrong.]

As this legislation was being voted on in the committee, Councilmember Silverman expressed, “I really think this [entrepreneurship program] is a creative approach …. I think we as a District government need to think of all the ways in which we can engage our returning citizens. … I think this is a bill that will take a first step toward looking at how we address the entrepreneurship issue, ….”

Councilmember McDuffie, who chairs the Committee on Business and Economic Development, said during his April 11, 2018 hearing, “I think there are far too many returning citizens who lack opportunities in traditional employment. But I’d like to think there are some things the city can do more of around entrepreneurship for people who are returning from periods of incarceration.” Furthermore, he expressed that, “[i]f you look at $14.5 billion total budget, $100,000 in a year, is a fraction of what we should be investing to try to help these people successfully integrate.”

The one-hundred million plus $50,000 was the funding the Mayor budget for the Aspire to Entrepreneurship program.  [I don’t understand this last sentence.]  What’s more, Coalition 159 developed budget estimates for how much the IIEP would cost over four years that were 55% and 65% lower than the council’s $4.7 million financial impact of the IIEP.  Despite this and despite the praise for our program, there was still no consideration for start-up funding.

In Silverman’s committee hearing on April 18, instead of addressing why her position had seemingly changed with respect to the IIEP, she suggested I contact the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) because they supposedly had money available to fund entrepreneurship for returning citizens. To the contrary, Councilmember Robert White shared that “that funding did not have an impact on IIEP”. But, even if we were to have received outside funding, which we had been pursuing, we still would’ve needed additional start-up funding from the government. Ms. Silverman apparently didn’t seek to identify any funding for the IIEP nor mention any coalition testimony in her committee’s report.  For example, in the committee’s 2018 report, it mentioned “finding ways to assist returning citizens reenter the workforce and find employment that gives them access to a reliable career path is one of the most important issues in workforce development on the District.”

We even appeared before the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety in hopes that chairperson Charles Allen would have brought that “new sense of urgency and creativity” he talked about “to how we support returning citizens get their feet on the ground.”  Unfortunately, we didn’t see that sense of urgency from him as it relates to the IIEP in this budget cycle nor the last.

Since the IIEP was passed without funding for the second fiscal year, it’s subject to repeal in Fiscal Year 2020. We wonder why the mayor, nor the council has showed any sincere interest in funding this highly successful program model of entrepreneurship for returning citizens.

At the April 28 hearing, former director of Court Services and Offender Supervisor Agency (CSOSA), Nancy Ware, testified in support of the IIEP. Ms. Ware said that she’s witnessed the success that opportunities for self-sufficiency offered individuals to become productive tax paying citizens of the city. There was a substantial decline in the percentages of individuals revoked to incarceration, an increase in the successful completion of supervision, and decreased rearrest rates”

We must ask ourselves, why did the council vote unanimously to approve the IIEP legislation but not make funding it a priority?  Is it because [we already have] the Aspire program?  Or is it because the IIEP has the potential to generate $10 million dollars in the operation of an entrepreneurship program in which returning citizens would primarily benefit? I surmise that the answer is the same as why the Mayor’s Office of Returning Citizen Affairs (MORCA) has be so terribly underfunded and understaffed since as far back as 2015. The Mayor’s budget doesn’t truly reflect the needs of returning citizen as a priority of her administration.

We believe returning citizens should be a priority in the District because, “on average, half of the men and women who come under the criminal justice system in DC are unemployed at any given time ….” Even more so, according to Ms. Ware, “those who are unemployed, slightly more than half of them are actually employable.”  Obviously, it’s more beneficial to employ our residents because crime generates substantial costs to society. Programs that directly or indirectly prevent crime can generate substantial economic benefits by reducing crime-related costs incurred by victims, communities, and the criminal justice system. Moreover, programs like RTC, Defy and potentially IIEP, yield high return on investment through low recidivism rates; job creation; increased income; and businesses launched with high survival rates.

I believe we have an opportunity to change the course of this city in this election for the better. But you must educate yourself and vote. I was at a Returning Citizens forum and heard a candidate say, “… and I’d fund the Incarceration to Incorporation Entrepreneurship Program (IIEP).”  These processes should ensure that the right questions are asked as it pertains to the IIEP.  In other words, why have those who’ve been on the council the last two years, and voted unanimously to pass the IIEP, failed to fund the program? And, since the law is to be repealed in the third year after enactment, what are the candidates plans to ensure it is funded and not repealed next year?

We’ve encouraged our supporters to intensify their efforts until the council records their final vote on the budget. In other words, it’s not over till it’s over. This year, it’s truly not over till it’s over. On June 19th D.C. voters will select nominees for council chairman, two at-large council seats and four ward level council seats. Many of the current council, including McDuffie, Silverman and Charles Allen, will have their seats challenged.  Some of those challengers, like candidate for chairman Ed Lazere, support funding the IIEP. Before you vote, The Coalition engages you to research the candidates and ensure your vote is for someone who will truly champion legislation for your communities.

You can exercise your vote to select those who you believe will alter the direction of the budget process in FY2020 to fund those priorities our communities feel provide a real “fair shot” for them. Remember, it’s not over till you say it’s over with your vote.

Kevin Smith is an advocate for returning citizens. In his recent efforts to get funding for the IIEP, he coordinated advocacy for the Working Coalition to Fund the IIEP. His views expressed here are his own and doesn’t reflect any members or supporters of the Working Coalition.


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Resurrection City II Evicted From Dupont Circle Park

DC Media Group - Wed, 06/13/2018 - 13:41



Washington, DC — U.S. Park Police and Metropolitan Police Department officers forced a protest encampment at Dupont Circle to disband Monday evening. The Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign set up the camp, which they called Resurrection City II, on Saturday to bring attention to worsening conditions experienced by poor people and the homeless. They had obtained a permit from the National Park Service to be in the park until Wednesday.

Police began gathering on the outskirts of the park in the upscale neighborhood of Dupont Circle around 7:00 pm but gave no prior warning to organizers that they would soon evict them. No one was arrested, but police confiscated tents and bedding. About 40 people staying in the park, many of them veterans as well as homeless, took refuge at a nearby church on 16th Street.

Police cited “noise complaints, permanent structures and obstruction of signs” as reasons to evict them and seize property, according to a PPECHR press release.

Cheri Honkala protests the eviction of Resurrection City as a violation of 1st Amendment rights/Screenshot Mark Apolloa FB Live

PPEHRC had set up a stage for outreach to the public to tell about their first hand experiences with poverty and homelessness in urban neighborhoods. They had also scheduled a series of punk and rap groups to perform original venues to attract hundreds each day to hear their stories.

The group had walked from the Kensington district of Philadelphia to Washington, DC over a 10-day period. They had named their occupation Resurrection City II, commemorating the original Poor Peoples Campaign March organized by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 50 years ago. The original march of 1968 walked from Baltimore to Washington and formed Resurrection City on the National Mall.

Kensington is the poorest district of Philadelphia and one of the poorest per capita neighborhoods in the U.S. with more than 60% of its population either homeless, unemployed, receiving public assistance, or suffering from addiction.

Cheri Honkala, co-director and organizer of the Poor People’s March, had been released from custody earlier in the day after she was arrested for refusing to leave a sit-in at the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) headquarters. No sooner had she been released for trespassing than she was dealing with over 20 police officers from the National Park Service and DC Metropolitan Police.

Many first time activists took part in the Poor People’s March who had never participated in any protest activity before. They included poor and homeless families, veterans, disabled persons, those with addictions, newly returned citizens, and clergy.

A band plays at Resurrection City before police move in to evict Monday evening/Photo by John Zangas

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Homeless Advocate Wouldn’t Leave HUD, So Police Dragged Her Out

DC Media Group - Mon, 06/11/2018 - 16:46
Dheri Honkala is taken from the lobby of HUD by Federal Protective Service officers/Screenshot from PPEHCR video

An advocate for the poor and homeless was arrested today at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) while attempting to speak with Secretary Ben Carson.

Federal Protective Services police took Cheri Honkala into custody Monday afternoon when she refused to leave the lobby of the HUD building.

“All I wanted is a meeting on behalf of poor, homeless families across the entire country,” she said as police pulled her toward a vehicle. “Poor people deserve to eat. One fucking meeting!”

The arrest took place during a protest at HUD organized by the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, which has set up an encampment in Dupont Circle. Honkala was Jill Stein’s running mate and the Green Party candidate for vice president in the 2012 election.

Carson announced a plan in April that would raise rents for those receiving federal housing assistance by 20 percent, according to an analysis just released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The proposal would affect 2 million households immediately and an additional 2 million in the next six years.

Carson says reducing assistance will force the poor into the workforce and give them a path to self-sufficiency. “It’s our attempt to give poor people a way out of poverty,” he said in an interview with Fox News.

Honkala and about fifty others with the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign had just arrived in Washington on Saturday after walking for ten days from Philadelphia. They began their walk in Kensington, the poorest district in Philadelphia, on June 2, the 50th anniversary of the original walk led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from Baltimore to Washington in 1968.

They set up camp in Dupont Circle, in the midst of some the most costly properties with the highest rents in the District. Resurrection City II, as they call it, will remain indefinitely and serve as their base of operations for protest actions like the one at HUD today. They hope to highlight deteriorating economic conditions, rampant homelessness, hunger, job displacement, drug addiction and rising debt among the working class.

The new occupants of Resurrection City are advocating for themselves as poor Americans. Many of them are homeless and have never done anything like this before. Part of their message is that in order for meaningful progress in any movement, it must be led by those affected, according to Rev. Bruce Wright. “Any movement to end poverty must be led by poor people, homeless people, unemployed people and people impacted by it,” he said.

After 50 marchers arrived in Washington, they began to set up Resurrection City II/Photo by John Zangas

Rev. Wright was critical of Rev. William Barber’s Poor People’s Campaign, which has been underwritten by big monied interests such as the Ford Foundation. “No disrespect to him, he’s a good man, but I think he’s been co-opted by big money,” Rev. Wright said, adding that PPEHRC does not accept corporate sponsorships, big money donations or grants.

“Poor people are the ones that need to be heard,” said Wright. “Unless you have been homeless, unless you’ve been poor, unless you’ve experienced poverty, you have no right to dictate to poor people how their change should happen,” Wright said.

Leaders of large foundations and the Democratic National Committee are top-down organizations and want to take control, Wright said. This used against Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960s, when leaders from political parties tried to intervene in his campaign. “They tried to co-opt Dr. King and tell him don’t say anything because [President] Johnson is doing all this for the poor, and he said ‘I can’t not say anything, this isn’t about political parties.’”

Organizers are asking for support at Resurrection City II, including food, water, medical supplies, and moral support. They are also requesting donations to help with transportation costs. The plan to stay in Dupont Circle at least a week or longer if hey can generate the support needed.



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More Acquittals, Dropped Charges in Inauguration Protesters’ Trials

DC Media Group - Wed, 06/06/2018 - 18:27
Police form a line at 13th & K Streets NW as Inauguration Day protests dragged into the afternoon. They deployed concussion grenades and mace. Photo: John Zangas

Washington, DC–A defendant in the Inauguration Day protest trials was found not guilty by jury trial on Monday. Casey Webber was acquitted of all felony and misdemeanor charges against him stemming from the mass-arrests of 230 protesters during January 20 protests. The trials have come to be known as the J20 trials.

Three other defendants are still waiting jury verdicts in the trial, which began on May 14. The jury told Judge Katherine Knowles on Tuesday, that they were deadlocked but she returned them to the jury room until they reached verdicts.

Webber said that though his trial was over and has resulted in a positive personal outcome, he did not feel any relief due to seeing the three other defendants in his trial anguishing over the possible outcome. He also said he could not rest and would continue to support another 40 defendants who were awaiting trials.

The defendants faced a possible 60 years in prison for the charges of malicious destruction of property, conspiracy to riot, inciting a riot, rioting, and assaulting a police officer.

The May 14 trial was the second that had gone to a jury. Another J20 trial of six defendants in December of last year resulted in acquittals of each of six defendants for a total of 42 charges. Another 129 defendants had their charges dropped in January 2018 shortly after the first acquittals.

Webber said that there was no direct evidence admitted by the U.S. Attorney’s office that linked any of the defendants to any of the charges they faced.

Key Exculpatory Evidence Withheld From Defense

The U.S. District Attorney was forced to drop all charges in another J20 trial against 6 other defendants which had been set to begin on Monday, June 4. There were no grounds to pursue felony charges in the trial when it came to light that Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff withheld key evidence from defense attorneys.

District of Columbia Superior Court, Chief Judge Robert E. Morin had been hearing pretrial motions in the June 4 trial in regard to exculpatory evidence that Kerkhoff had in her possession. The key evidence in question was a video clip the prosecution was using to support felony charges against all defendants.

The Inauguration Day protests lasted the entire day and involved thousands of protesters throughout the downtown area. Photo: John Zangas

Defense attorneys argued the felony charges of conspiracy to riot and inciting a riot were not valid since they had not been provided an uncut version of the video during discovery. The defense team also learned from an email sent by the US Attorney’s office to Judge Morin that the Project Veritas evidence should have included an additional 65 videos and 4 audio recordings that had been withheld from defense during discovery. The videos had been also been recorded and provided to DC police by conservative media group Project Veritas, which had produced the videos when it infiltrated and secretly recorded Dissent J20 planning meetings.

Dissent J20 was an umbrella organization with which other protest groups coordinated to disrupt the Inauguration Day parade. On Inauguration Day, hundreds of police moved against a breakaway group of protesters and mass-arrested 230 of them, including journalists, photographers and independent media live-streamers.

Defendants in the May 14 trial have already been subjected to admission of the tainted Veritas Project video in their trial. Judge Katherine Knowles of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia is presiding in this jury trial and had already admitted into evidence the edited Project Veritas video. It is not certain what the final outcome of this trial will be for the three remaining defendants but it gives credence to a strong defense on appeal in the event of conviction based on omitted exculpatory evidence.

Project Veritas Video Evidence Backfired Against Prosecutors

Project Veritas subsequently produced their heavily edited video from recordings of the Dissent J20 planning meetings and released it the day before the J20 protests in order to discredit the protesters. The video was produced to cast planners as endorsing violence during the Inauguration Day parade. Project Veritas provided the heavily edited video to Detective Pemberton, who then provided it the U.S. Attorney’s office. The video formed a basis for felony inciting riot and conspiracy to riot charges against all 230 defendants in the J20 trials.

Defense attorneys filed additional motions for dismissal of the felony charges once they discovered that the Project Veritas videographer could be heard saying that he believed the J20 planners did not know of a conspiracy during the J20 protests.

Defense attorneys argued the U.S. Attorneys office should have provided a copy of the omitted video clip but instead deliberately withheld it and in so doing, violated a foundational principle of due process known as the Brady rule. This legal procedure is compulsory during the discovery phase of pretrial procedures. The Brady rule requires prosecutors to share materially exculpatory evidence with the defense before an actual jury trial begins.

The defense attorneys argued that by not adhering to this legal requirement, the U.S. Attorney’s office denied defendants due process under the law. The Brady rule came out of a landmark Supreme Court ruling in 1963, which provided defense attorneys access to evidence prosecutors discover during the course of an investigation, which may assist the defendants in their case.

Chief Judge Sanctions Prosecutor

Judge Morin was said to have been incredulous at the revelation of the prosecutor’s multiple violations of the Brady rule. Judge Morin queried the stand-in prosecutor during the June 4 pretrial motions but the prosecutor could not answer for Assistant Kerkhoff because she was at that time prosecuting the ongoing May 14 J20 trial.

Judge Morin sanctioned Kerkhoff as a result of the Brady rule violations, thereby prohibited her from submitting any additional evidence in the course of future J20 trials, further weakening the U.S. Attorney’s ability to secure J20 trial convictions.

It is not yet clear which party edited the critical portion of the video clip. Whether it was Project Veritas, the police, or the U.S. District Attorney’s office, real damage has been done to the credibility and handling of the trials by the prosecution.

Inauguration Day protesters not being arrested gather at 13th & K Streets and confronted police while a block away more police kettled 230 protesters. Photo: John Zangas

The conservative Project Veritas media organization has previously been involved in a series of clandestine video traps. In operations against ACORN and Planned Parenthood, operatives penetrated business offices of these groups unbeknownst to them and recorded discussions which were later edited. The videos were then released to the public in an attempt to discredit the organizations.

The Project Veritas sting methods used against Planned Parenthood and ACORN have now also played a role in ensnaring the U.S. Attorney’s office in what is turning out at best to be chaotic records of trials.

Webber was pensive concerning the behavior of prosecutors and police and likened the justice system to a design to work exactly as it did. “The evidence was problematic from the beginning,” he said. “The charges were based on conjecture and there was never any material evidence presented on any person,” he said.

Webber believes the conduct of the prosecution was “closer to political persecution than criminal prosecution.” He also stated that the approach was to over dramatize the accusations so people would take pleas. “The prosecution obstructed evidence from defense council over the threat of built up charges for minor offenses,” he said.

Webber also pointed out the cost to the defendants and their families as well as the taxpayers. “The prosecution has cost the taxpayers millions in these cases,” he said.

Webber was found not guilty on all counts but he believes he likely would not have faced the charges had the defense attorneys been provided the full Veritas Project video during disclosure. Webber’s trial was unique in that he was seen by prosecutors as a prime Dissent J20 organizer who at the time worked as an officer for Industrial Workers of the World Union. He had since vacated his position because of the trial but remained a member of IWW.

More Defendants Have Charges Dropped

The defendants in the third trial (June 4) have had felony charges dropped with prejudice. This means the U.S. Attorney’s office cannot refile these charges against them. They will not face retrial on any of the felony or misdemeanor counts dismissed with prejudice.

Concurrently another set of dismissals were issued Monday, June 4 for another J20 trial which began pre-hearing motions on May 29. Chief Judge Morin had determined the Brady violations were so severe that he would not let the trial proceed.

As a sidebar to the unfolding court chaos under the watch of the Judge Morin and at the hands of U.S. Attorney’s office and Assistant Prosecutor Kerkhoff, a police officer who testified at the May 14 trial as a witness against J20 defendants, wore a shirt in the courtroom a few minutes after he testified. DC police officer William Chapman had fashioned a silk-screened shirt emblazoned with ‘Police Brutality…or doing what their parents should have,’ along with an image of a police baton and handcuffs. He plainly wore the shirt and message around the courthouse until he was seen leaving with Assistant U.S. Attorney Kerkhoff.

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This Is How the District of Columbia Spends More than $700 Million Every Year

Grassroots DC - Tue, 06/05/2018 - 12:07

Cross-Posted from EducationDC
written by Valerie Jablow

What is outlined below happened thus far in 2018 in just one of our public education sectors. As far as I am aware, no DC public official has publicly commented with concern nor called for any investigation of the charter board’s actions.

–The charter board and its staff appear to be tied–in ways that remain unknown to the public–to a private organization that gets public money through contracts with charter schools regardless of its actual performance with those schools. Charter school staff have reported being afraid of the organization.

–Despite knowledge throughout 2017 of the fiscal woes of Washington Mathematics Science Technology high school (WMST), and with its own reportsshowing deep financial troubles as early as 2014, the charter board appeared to take no action to help WMST. Public notification of the school’s dire fiscal situation also was not apparent.

–In January, the charter board staff completed a 20-year review of WMST, which was posted on the charter board website. I saw the review in late February or early March and noted that it seemed only mildly concerned about the school’s finances. In April, I looked again for the review, but it was gone. When I asked about it, a staff member directed me toward this review, dated March 12, 2018. On that day, the charter board met in an “emergency” session to vote to begin revocation of the school’s charter. This version raises concerns with the school’s finances that I recollect the January review did not. I asked several charter board staff what happened to the January review. No one responded. The January review existed, as materials the City Paper received via FOIA regarding WMST (see hereand here) make reference to it (see in the first link pages 315, 428, and 623).

–These points together suggest that rather than allowing school performance to actually determine a school’s fate, the charter board (or its staff or both) determines which schools will be closed through the board’s own actions–or lack thereof.

–This week, I testified about WMST to the charter board. I noted that most of the city block where WMST is located was bought in May 2017 for $66 million by Douglas development and LLCs associated with it. The intention was to make a major development there. After that May 2017 Douglas purchase, the only properties on that block not owned by Douglas and its investors (who are publicly unknown) were WMST and a fast food restaurant on the corner of New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road. That meant that after May 2017, WMST was the only  impediment to a contiguous Douglas development there.

–In February 2018, WMST applied with the charter board to get a new location. Its application made clear that it would sell its property, but remain in it until 2019. In March 2018, around the time ground was broken for the Douglas development, the charter board voted to allow WMST to stay open only if it sold its property within a month, to raise money. In April 2018, Douglas bought WMST’s property for $6.25 million–well below its assessed value of nearly $10 million. The purchase price was enough only to pay off the school’s outstanding loan–but not to continue operations. The charter board executive director stressed repeatedly that the school’s value was much too high at $9 million.

–The charter board voted on April 23 to have DC charter schools report only contracts that are greater than $100,000, citing the “burden” to schools to do otherwise. It is not clear that the charter board has the authority to make that rule. Such rulemaking may require the scrutiny and approval of elected leaders, as it changes the guidelines of the School Reform Act, the authorizing legislation for DC charter schools.

–When the new contracts rule goes into effect later this year, no one in the public will be able to access or know about any contracts in any DC charter school less than $100,000, unless the schools themselves voluntarily disclose those contracts or the charter board asks them to. This is because no DC charter school is subject to FOIA. Charter schools in other jurisdictions are subject to FOIA.

–The transcript of the April 23, 2018 charter board meeting approving the contract change notes that there were 6 public comments on the rulemaking. But none of the comments are publicly available.

–The charter board violated the FOIA law, in not giving a complete disclosure of documents during the reporting on the board’s relationship with a private organization.

–When I filed a complaint with the board of ethics and government accountability (BEGA) about the actions of the charter board in regard to the oversight and closure of WMST, I was told that charter board staff are not considered public employees and thus are not subject to BEGA’s oversight. As a city agency under the control of mayoral appointees, BEGA recently refused to renew the contract of the director of the office of open government, Traci Hughes. Some years ago, Hughes overruled mayoral appointee and former deputy mayor for education Jennifer Niles and said that meetings of the cross sector collaboration task force must be open to the public. More recently, Hughes ruled that the DC charter board violated the open meetings act by approving a charter school expansion without public notice. And more recently yet, the city council took a preliminary vote to put the once-independent office of open government under control of BEGA. (A final vote by the council is June 5.)

–I also filed a complaint about the WMST oversight and closure with Attorney General (AG) Karl Racine. He told me that his office would investigate only what the school did; anything else they found about the actions of the charter board or its staff would be referred to BEGA or the Office of the Inspector General.

–Charter board executive director Scott Pearson made a donation of $1500 to AG Racine on March 8, 2018. He also made a $1500 donation to council chair Phil Mendelson on February 21, 2018. Both Racine and Mendelson are up for re-election. Pearson’s donation to Racine came 4 days before the charter board voted to initiate charter revocation of WMST. Both donations were also Pearson’s only local political donations recorded thus far this election cycle and constitute about a third of all Pearson’s donations to DC city politicians.

–The executive director of the charter board said that they do not enforce the lawregarding suspensions. He was under oath when he testified about that before the education committee of the city council.

–The public is not entitled to know anything except top level data about charter school facilities in DC. Building surveys of charter schools for the master facilities plan (due out later in 2018) are being paid for by the Walton Foundation, a major charter supporter. City officials have said this means the public will not be able to have that data. There was no explanation for why public funds could not be used for this purpose.

Remember, it’s an election year–and there are candidates offering something different than business as usual. There’s even a proposal for a truly independent education data group–for a fraction of the money spent in what is outlined above. Seems that once again, democracy sure beats the alternative.


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Sex Workers Rally for Labor Rights on International Whores’ Day

DC Media Group - Sun, 06/03/2018 - 15:13

Washington, DC–Sex workers rallied for equal rights on Saturday at Eastern Market, an upscale neighborhood near the U.S. Capitol. They demanded DC Council officially recognize them with workers’ protections and pass a bill to decriminalize sex work.

About 75 attended the rally, including allies and supporters. Speakers related their experiences and explained how equality and legal recognition would help protect them. The rallies came amidst an uptick of violent attacks against sex workers in the nation’s capital and across the country.

Shareese Mone, an advocate with End Violence Against Sex Workers, December 17, said that sex workers included a broad range of folx who were human and deserved respect like everyone else. “Today we’re celebrating not only the lives of the movement but the lives that were taken through sex work,” they said.

Mone also spoke about the economic justice of recognizing sex workers and giving them labor rights. “Sex work is a job. It is a hard job that not everybody wants to take, but some of us have to survive off it,” they said.

Photo by DC News Media

Mone also pointed out that trans sex workers were also a part of the community and was the smallest minority but also deserved to live lives like everyone else. “We have dreams and goals and all we are asking for is to be respected,” they said.

Advocates held a moment of silence to remember sex workers who had been slain while earning a living. They also danced to celebrate their growing movement and new legislative initiatives to legitimize sex workers in the labor force.

The advocates were joined by DC Council member David Grosso, who supports their efforts at gaining workers status in the District. “I’m out to show my support for decriminalization of sex work,” he said.

Grosso introduced a bill promoting sex workers rights last year in the DC Council. “I’m seeing some movement from my colleagues and the city,” he said.

Sex worker advocates are also urging an end to SESTA and FOSTA, bills passed by Congress in March targeting online sex worker communities. These communities were formed to help protect workers and are essential for their online well-being in the digital age, according to Siouxsie Q. James, Director of Policy and Industry Relations, Free Speech Coalition.

A similar rally for sex workers’ rights was held outside the legendary Stonewall nightclub in New York City and drew hundreds. International Whores Day, also know as Sex Worker’s Rights Day is celebrated at the beginning of June, which is also the start of LGBTQ Pride month.

Click to view slideshow.

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May Citizen’s Reader: Teacher Appreciation, DCPS Budget and Orr Elementary Renovations

Grassroots DC - Tue, 05/22/2018 - 11:05

The National Education Association, founded in 1857, traces the beginnings of a national teacher appreciation day back to the 1940s when a couple of teachers contacted then first Lady Eleanor Roosevelt suggesting that teachers be recognized across the country.  Congress passed a bill to have a National Teacher Appreciation Day in 1985. Later, it became annual, and later still extended to a week. It’s celebrated internationally too, usually on October 5 each year.

In School Year 2017-2018, DC Public Schools had 4,012 teachers, according to its two page “Fast Facts” information sheet. Starting salary, which it describes as “the highest starting salary in the country” was $55,209 ($51,539 in SY 16/17) with $108,262 ($106,540 in SY 16/17) being the highest possible a teacher could earn.

In 2016, DCPS published a “then” and “now” report describing the reforms of the teaching corps system “from recruitment all the way to retirement.” That can be read here: https://dcps.dc.gov/page/we-people-2016-report-dcps-educators.

DCPS teachers are represented by the Washington Teachers Union. Their previous contract expired in 2012 and five years later, in September 2017, a new one was approved that includes a raise in pay and governs their other terms of employment for the next three years.

Teacher Awards in 2018

The 2018 National Teacher of the Year, selected by the Council of Chief State School Officers, is Mandy Manning, an English Language Arts teacher at the Joel Ferris High School in Spokane, Washington. She was honored at the White House on May 2.

The CCSSO selected Paul Howard, a Social Studies and History teacher for 7th and 8th grades at the LaSalle Backus Education Campus, as the Teacher of the Year for DC in the State category.

Tameka Colman of Walker-Jones Education Campus in Ward 6 was selected as the Excellence Award Teacher of the Year at the Standing Ovation awards ceremony on February 8, 2018 and received $10,000. In addition, Jillian Atlas, Joanna Davila, Taylor Parsons, Kaila Ramsey, Lauren Bomba, Lashunda Reynolds and Pamela Tucker each received $5,000 Rubenstein Awards.

Standing Ovation is hosted by the DC Education Fund using money donated by businesses and philanthropists. This year the ceremony was moved from the Kennedy Center to the Anthem Theater at the newly opened District Wharf in the Southwest neighborhood.

FY 2019 Budget update

The budget the Mayor proposed on March 21, 2018 for all the DC government’s operations and capital projects is $14. 4 billion for Fiscal Year 2019 which begins on October 1, this coming fall. Of that $14.4 billion, she proposed to spend a total of $2,766,292,803 for the Public Education System. The table below shows the agencies that make up the Public Education System, the amounts proposed and the change, if any, from the FY 18 budget.

Using those figures and all the public and government testimony, the Committee on Education “marked up” the education budget May 2 to 4th. Once agreed on the changes they wanted to make from the Mayor’s proposed amounts, the committee then sent its recommendations to the Council’s Budget Director where they will be incorporated into the budget the Council as a whole will consider for its approval. The Committee’s report can be read at www.davidgrosso.org.

The Council will hold its first meeting on the FY 19 budget on Tuesday, May 15 at 10 am in Room 500 and its second meeting on Tuesday, May 29, also at 10 am in Room 500 at the John A. Wilson Building.

A part of the education committee’s mark-up report is about the capital budget for school modernizations. In several instances, they questioned or disagreed with the proposed amount or schedule but in most cases, left it to the forthcoming Master Facilities Plan to resolve.

There are several modernization projects in Wards 7 and 8 that are in the works now and had money added, or they are receiving money in FY 19 to start planning. For example, the Mayor added $4 million for the Kimball Elementary School project due to escalating costs as the work progresses. Kimball students are attending classes at the formally closed Davis Elementary School on H St. SE during the work on their building. The Mayor also proposed $500,000 each for Burrville Elementary and C.W. Harris Elementary playground updates.

In Ward 8, MalcomX@Green is scheduled for $1.5 million in window replacements. Johnson Elementary is scheduled for a $2 million full roof replacement. Henley Elementary and Adams Elementary in NW are scheduled for $4,250,000 to replace their HVAC systems.

Modernizing Orr Elementary…the building

A full modernization is underway in Ward 8 at the currently named Orr Elementary.  The picture to the left shows Orr Elementary School as it looks while walking south on Minnesota Ave. SE. The entrance is to the right of the rose bushes in the foreground. As we walked toward the entrance to personally deliver our thanks to some DC teachers, we were greeted by a friendly woman standing just inside the open door.

When she learned the purpose of our visit she took us to meet the assistant principal in charge of operations. He too was friendly and welcoming, and, without an appointment, invited us in to his office.

His position, he said, is about three years old and is one of the changes DCPS made to support principals.  By dividing the labor into an academic and instructional area and a separate operations area that handles the needs and functions of the building itself, one person is not trying to do everything and can better do what each is responsible for.  He’s been there for ten years and says his favorite part of the job is greeting the students and parents as they arrive in the morning. He described his sensitivity to students who come with a feeling of having “the whole world on their shoulders” and is happy that he, and everyone in the school, can help the students feel that while they are there, the grown-ups will take care of them and they have only their learning to focus on. Below is the new building going up just to the side of the current one with a part of the church next door on the far right.


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District Police Officer Shoots Wildly, Kills One

Grassroots DC - Fri, 05/18/2018 - 12:01
Metro Police Department’s Violence, Recklessness, and Lack of Accountability Requires Immediate, Substantive Action from Elected Officials

On Wednesday, May 9th, an off-duty officer with the Metropolitan Police Department opened fire in northeast D.C., killing 24-year-old D’Quan Young. Witnesses report that the officer “shot wildly, as children ran for their lives,” and that the officer reloaded his weapon and continued shooting after D’Quan Young was on the ground. This follows the May 4th killing of Jeffrey Price – in which MPD’s narrative of innocence directly contradicts witness accounts – and the recent lawsuit filed against the DC government for its failure to collect stop and frisk data required by the NEAR Act. April Goggans, a Core Organizer of Black Lives Matter DC, and Eugene Puryear, co-founder and core organizer  of Stop Police Terror Project-DC released the following statement in response:

“From top to bottom, our city is failing to protect its Black residents and permitting its reckless police department to terrorize Black communities without consequence,” said Natacia Knapper of Stop Police Terror Project-DC. “This permissive attitude is what emboldens officers like the one that murdered D’Quan Young to behave with impunity. This permissive attitude is what emboldens Chief Newsham to immediately discredit and dismiss witness testimony, withhold information from the public, and decline to condemn the officer’s actions. The Metropolitan Police Department has been sent a message by our elected officials that they can operate as they please, flagrantly and recklessly violating their own stated policies, without any fear of serious reprisal from those in a position to hold them accountable.”

“The killings of D’Quan Young and Jeffrey Price have to be understood in the context of a police department and city government with a legacy of inaction when it comes to police harassment and brutalization of Black people,” added April Goggans. “When officers like Brian Trainer, who brutally murdered Terrence Sterling in 2016, continue to receive paychecks for nearly two years, it sends a message that officers need not consider the consequences of their actions – especially when interacting with DC’s Black residents.”

“Time and time again the voice of the community is dismissed – both by the police themselves, and the elected officials charged with overseeing the police,” said Eugene Puryear. “When Jeffrey Price was killed in an incident involving a police cruiser, the department immediately contradicted witness accounts, defended the actions of their officers and completely dismissing community testimony, and even assigned an investigator to the case who himself has been previously investigated for fatally ramming a dirt bike rider. When 54 community organizations called on city council to hold a hearing on racism and violence within the MPD, they were met with months of silence, and only received acknowledgement of their demand after applying intense pressure on councilmembers via social media. When Mayor Bowser amended the city’s budget to provide funding for MPD’s two-year-late stop-and-frisk data collection, she did so by cutting funding from an eviction prevention program, essentially forcing DC’s low-income residents to pay the price for the police department’s mistakes.”

“Let’s be perfectly clear,” added Goggans, “Muriel Bowser and the City Council have allowed this crisis to unfold and escalate as they refused to take substantive action to reign in the Metropolitan Police Department.  The blood of D’Quan Young and Jeffrey Price is on their hands.”

Black Lives Matter DC is a radical collective organizing to dismantle white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism, imperialism and the role the state plays in supporting them.

Stop Police Terror Project-DC is an organization committed to changing the system of racist, militarized policing. SPTP DC works to oppose police abuses and also to build community-led peacekeeping efforts to empower oppressed communities to deal with their own security concerns.

Both groups, along with seven other organizations, are co-sponsoring the D.C. Council Candidate Forum on Criminal Justice.  Come find out how this year’s candidates would respond to the violence, recklessness and lack of accountability within the Metropolitan Police Department.


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Senate Votes to Restore Net Neutrality Rules

DC Media Group - Thu, 05/17/2018 - 09:26
Kevin Zeese protests near Commissioner Ajit Pai’s home in May 2017./Photo by Anne Meador

Washington, DC–The U.S. Senate voted 52-47 to reject an FCC rule change that would end Net Neutrality. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai led the charge last year to strip protections which require Internet Service Providers to treat all web traffic equally.

The 4-1 FCC vote last December effectively privatized the Internet by allowing Big Telecoms to charge some customers more for privileged access. Over the last several years, Internet watchdogs groups and large services such as Netflix, Amazon, Facebook and Google have enlisted the public to wage a ferocious war to preserve Net Neutrality.

The Senate exercised its power under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to reinstate any regulation changed by a government agency. By passing the Senate resolution, Democrats will force the issue into the House of Representatives, where it has less favorable prospects. About 160 members of Congress, mostly Democrats, have pledged their support. The resolution requires 218 House votes to pass. The vote is scheduled for June 11.

Recently, in a bombshell revelation, documents show that giant telecom AT&T paid $600,000 to Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen for “access” to the administration on issues of interest to AT&T. Soon after, Commissioner Pai met with an AT&T executive lobbyist, leading to accusations of corruption.

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ADAPT Holds Annual Fun Run for Disability Rights and Independent Living

DC Media Group - Tue, 05/15/2018 - 20:43



Washington, DC–Disability rights organization ADAPT held its 13th annual Fun Run in Spirit of Justice Park near the U.S. Capitol on Mother’s Day. Several hundred people took part in the event, which kicked off its Week of Action in Washington. Nearly $3,000 was raised to support ADAPT programs. Fun Run participants, who had solicited sponsors, walked or rolled laps around the paved border of the park.

On the way to the starting point for the run, they formed a long procession of wheelchairs from Federal Plaza along Congressional office buildings. “Our homes, not nursing homes!” they chanted, and “Down with nursing homes, up with attendant care!” as they made their way to the park.

ADAPT is making the case that allowing the disabled in their homes and communities makes more sense than placing them in nursing homes. It not only saves money, it permits them to continue living more fruitful and productive lives.

Tony Brooks of the Philadelphia chapter of ADAPT said that he was able to remain in his community because of attendant care. “I lived in a nursing home, and I did not like it, so I had to move out. But getting to move out was a struggle because there was a political side,” said Brooks. “Any person with a physical disability, the first option is going to a nursing institution, which is not right. We can live in the community independently with a PC, which is much cheaper,” he said.

The Fun Run was also a moment to reflect on two women champions of the disability rights community who had recently passed away. Barbara Toomer, 88, was ADAPT’s most senior warrior. Arrested more than 35 times, she was instrumental in getting lifts placed on buses and getting businesses and restaurants into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Another honoree was Babs Johnson, who created the ADAPT flag. It resembles an American flag with stars arranged in the shape of a person in a wheelchair, the National ADAPT logo. She was credited with being a foundational organizer for ADAPT as well as a feminist who had few words but instead let her actions speak for her. She also worked on the bus life initiative and provided extensive logistical support to ADAPT activists.

ADAPT is presently working to pass the Disability Integration Act, civil rights legislation intended to protect those forced to live in institutions due to their need for long-term service and support.

Click to view slideshow.

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Incompatible Allies: Black Lives Matter, March For Our Lives and the US Debate about Guns and Violence

Grassroots DC - Thu, 05/10/2018 - 10:48

Join Black Lives Matter DC for the first screening of Incompatible Allies, a documentary that compares local efforts to deal with gun violence with national activism. If the momentum of March For Our Lives turns out to be fleeting, where should those who are committed to ending gun violence direct their efforts?


 


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BackBurner Dreams: A Woman’s Passion Project

Grassroots DC - Mon, 05/07/2018 - 09:48

Brenda Hayes started pursuing her dream of becoming a documentary filmmaker at age 58. Now 62, she is releasing her first documentary – BackBurner Dreams.

BackBurner Dreams follows three women of color over a nine month period, as they bring the dreams they put on hold to raise children, work unfulfilling jobs, support the dreams and passions of everyone else except themselves, back to the fore.

During the production of BackBurner Dreams, Hayes spoke to many women for whom the film resonates and who find their dreams waylaid due to societal norms and social constructs. Can women have it all? Hayes is not sure, but she is sure that we’re expected to do it all.

BackBurner Dreams: A Woman’s Passion Project Premiere’s
Sunday, May 13, 2018
5:30 PM – 8:00 PM
Busboys and Poets
15th & K Streets NW, Washington, DC

CLICK HERE to purchase tickets.


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“NRA Enables Domestic Terrorism” Projection Lights Up Trump Hotel Before Conference

DC Media Group - Sun, 05/06/2018 - 20:24



Washington, DC–Activists lit up Trump International Hotel with messages critical of the National Rifle Association lobby on Thursday night. The light show was timed to draw negative attention to the NRA annual conference being held in Dallas, Texas on Friday. Activists projected giant memes across the iconic bell tower of the hotel, reading, “The NRA paid Congress $2,401,020 For Inaction” – “Take Democracy Back” and “NRA Enables Domestic Terrorism.” Other light images included memes of an AR-15 and a skull and crossbones.

Trump Hotel security called police and within minutes DC police responded and ordered the activists to turn off the projector or face arrest. Police claimed the activists had no permit or permission to be on “private property” despite the equipment being staged on the sidewalk far from the building. Activists refused to leave and invoked their first amendment right to free expression. They also claimed they were in fact on a public sidewalk and needed no permit.

Hotel security stood silently in the background while police and activists discussed whether a permit was required and whether the light projector was staged on private property.

A few minutes later, CODEPINK: Women for Peace activists arrived. Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the Woman’s peace group and Tighe Barry, a long-time member of the group, weighed in on the dispute. With extensive knowledge of the federal laws, rules and local statutes governing permits and protests, Berry showed on the sidewalk where the U.S. Government jurisdiction separates the DC jurisdiction. It was clear the activists were neither on private property nor required to obtain a permit for permission to demonstrate.

As the drama unfolded, passers-by stopped to take pictures of the light projection and encouraged the activists to stand their ground and not yield to police.

Shortly afterwards, police left and there were no arrests. The projection resumed for another 10 minutes until the projector batteries ran low.

The demonstration was timed to highlight the NRA conference and the hypocrisy of its being held in a gun-free zone while across the nation, mass shootings continue unabated. It also exposed a growing national resistance to the NRA money machine and its sponsorship of Congressional defenders.

The light projection was part of a historic nationwide effort to highlight the negative impacts of the NRA lobby. Backbone Campaign coordinated light projections in 15 other cities, including Dallas, Boulder, Los Angeles, San Diego, Tallahassee, Nashville, Spokane, Madison, NYC, Chicago, Portland, Atlanta, Detroit, Tacoma, and Seattle.

The anti-NRA movement has urged passage of “commonsense” gun regulations and a ban on semi-automatic weapons. Students and teachers who have seen first hand the carnage of mass shootings in their schools have rekindled efforts to pass gun legislation such as background checks and semi-automatic weapons ban.

Students from Marjorie Douglas Stoneman High School led a mass protest of the NRA in Washington, DC on March 24, drawing over half a million to the rally. They called for an end to sales of AR-15 semi-automatic weapons and urged voters to reject those elected leaders who take money from the gun lobby. Congressmen have been given over $2.4 million in contributions since 2015, according to Backbone Campaign activists.

The rally turned out to be one of the largest protests against the NRA lobby and its Congressional supporters.

The Trump International Hotel has been a lightning rod for protests since the GAO leased the property to Trump International Hotel, LLC.

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A Closer Look at ‘At-Risk’ Funds: How Limited School Funding Can Lead to the Misuse of Extra Resources for Low-Income Students

Grassroots DC - Mon, 04/30/2018 - 16:11
Cross-Posted from the District’s Dime Written By Marlana Wallace

Far too many DC students face enormous challenges—unhealthy environments, housing instabilityfood insecurity, care-giving responsibilities, and the stress of living paycheck to paycheck. About half of DC students currently qualify for ‘at-risk’ funding because they are growing up in families struggling to make ends meet, or they are at risk of falling behind in the classroom.[1] Both DC Public Schools (DCPS) and public charter schools receive an additional $2,334 per-student in local ‘at-risk’ dollars.[2] But the underfunding of schools often results in the misuse of these extra resources intended to support students facing the greatest barriers. The District needs a better blueprint for the resources required to staff every school and the resources needed to support low-income students in particular.

‘At-risk’ funds were designed to promote equity: to ensure that low-income students get the same kinds of enriching opportunities and services as their higher-income peers, and to ensure that students who are struggling academically get the targeted supports they need to succeed in the classroom. These funds are supposed to help schools provide supplemental resources and expand important services for the students who need them most.

But tight school budgets have led to the misuse of ‘at-risk’ funds. Schools struggling to maintain current staffing or otherwise meet necessary requirements are often forced to re-direct dollars for targeted services for the students who need them most and/or de-prioritize enriching arts and afterschool programs—never mind make needed improvements. In this way, inadequate school funding limits the ability of schools to change the large and troubling differences in academic outcomes between the District’s low-income and higher-income students.

There are deeply distressing differences between the educational outcomes of economically disadvantaged students and their wealthier peers in the District. Less than a quarter of low-income DC high school students test college and career ready in English.Schools are also failing to prepare students of color for college and careers to the same degree as white students. In high school English, 87 percent of white students are considered college and career ready compared to only 21 percent of Black students (Figure 1). In fact, racial disparities in student outcomes are widening in the District. Although the PARCC scores of all DC students and subgroups have improved overall, the scores of white students improved five percentage points more than Black students.[3] Economic and racial injustice are distinct and yet intertwined, with particularly devastating consequences for low-income students of color. Addressing the injustice of these inequalities requires targeted resources, like ‘at-risk’ dollars.

Figure 1.

Every dollar of ‘at-risk’ funding should be easily identifiable, because all the dollars should be supplemental. But information on the school-level allocation of ‘at-risk’ funds is not made readily accessible in real time, and actual spending of ‘at-risk funds’ at the DCPS school level is not tracked. Of the $50.3 million that is supposed to follow DCPS students to their schools, only 59 percent ($29.8 million) was allocated in ‘at-risk eligible ways,’ according to Mary Levy’s latest analysis (Figure 2).[4]  The allocation of the other 41 percent ($20.5 million) of ‘at-risk’ funds could not be identified in the individual school budgets.[5] It is likely that a large share of these unaccounted for ‘at-risk’ funds are once again being used for functions that are required at all schools as part of DCPS’s staffing model, instead of supplemental services for the students who need them most. Even if every dollar of ‘at-risk’ money in the FY 2019 budget was allocated on targeted services as intended, these funds would remain far short of the levels recommended in the 2013 Adequacy Study.[6]

Figure 2.

School level leaders in both DCPS and public charters, alongside teachers and families, should be able to leverage ‘at-risk’ funds to serve their students’ specific needs in evidence-based ways. Whether school communities choose to use those funds on targeted supports or school-wide benefits, those resources should be supplemental.

Schools must be adequately funded so that basic needs are met, without having to tap ‘at-risk’ funds. Budget increases for DCPS and public charter schools in recent years have been arbitrary, and not connected to what it really costs to provide quality education.  Five years have passed since the 2013 Adequacy Study, and yet we still have not reached the level of resources it recommended, once adjusted for inflation– let alone the level needed to keep up with all of our system’s changing needs.  DC Council should allocate enough money in FY 2019 to revise the 2013 Adequacy Study and update our understanding of investments needed to support every school and ensure that we are meeting the needs of low-income students.

Read more about DCFPI’s FY 2019 education budget recommendations here.

[i] A projected 44,496 students in DC qualify for ‘at-risk’ funding in the 2018-2019 school year because they are a foster care student, experiencing homelessness, overage for their grade, or participate in SNAP or TANF, (DCPS FY 2019 Budget ChapterPCS FY 2019 Budget Chapter) [ii] In the District’s proposed Fiscal Year 2019 budget, there are $103.9 million ‘at-risk’ dollars for both DCPS and public charters overall. [iii] These are scores in English Language Arts, (2016-17 PARCC Scores). [iv] This is actually a conservative estimate. It assumes that ‘at-risk’ funds are being used to support every staff person beyond those positions guaranteed to every school by the Comprehensive Staffing Model, when most schools should also have other pots to draw from, like Title I. [v] DCPS FY19 Initial School Budget Allocations [vi] With a weight of 0.37 as recommended in the 2013 Adequacy Study, qualifying students would have $3,943 in additional ‘at-risk’ funds, or $175.5 million total (based off of a projected ‘at-risk’ subpopulation of 44,496). That is $71.6 million more. If the ‘at-risk weight’ were increased as recommended, and all else remained the same, schools would have $71.6 million more ‘at-risk’ dollars (or $1,609 more per-student) to invest in supplemental services for students overall, than the current $103.9 million total in at-risk funds, (2013 Adequacy Study).

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