Letter by Sen. Bill
A plan announced May 13 to reform Illinois' education bureaucracy has my support because it is similar to legislation I introduced to hold the State Board of Education more accountable.
The governor's proposal would replace the entire State Board of Education with his own appointees. Such reform is overdue. Over the years, the State Board of Education has been plagued with problems that legislators could not address directly because the board is not under direct legislative or gubernatorial control. This plan will make the board more accountable, and that is a big step in the right direction.
I am disappointed that the education reform plan does not contain the governor's original proposal of a constitutional amendment to abolish the state board and create a Department of Education. Such a change would further streamline the process and bring even more accountability and responsibility to the governor and the legislature.
Education is our highest priority. It deals with our state's greatest resource -- our children -- and we must cross partisan lines to embrace education reform. I look forward to hearing more details and talking with local school officials to get their reactions about the plan.
Republicans demand meaningful medical malpractice reform
Senate and House Republicans
stood united this week to demand the passage of meaningful malpractice
reforms before the spring legislative session adjourns. Skyrocketing
medical malpractice insurance premiums are forcing
Jeff Smyth, The
"I believe it is
a good compromise considering the alternatives that were somewhat dramatic,"
Sabens, superintendent of the
Blagojevich and Senate President Emil Jones, D-Chicago, announced Thursday they've reached an agreement that scraps the plan to create an education department, but gives the governor unprecedented authority over ISBE.
The governor spent the lion's share of his state of the state address in January discrediting the board saying it produces more red tape than results and wastes millions of dollars of money that should go directly to classrooms. He described the board as a "Soviet-style bureaucracy."
Blagojevich wavered on sacking the board after the idea received a tepid response from many legislators on both sides of the political aisle, as well as educators. Some believed the move would violate the state Constitution which set up the ISBE to be autonomous and immune from political influences.
Under the plan released Thursday, the governor would have the authority to appoint and fire board members at will. Blagojevich said his first action would be to replace all nine members of the current board as well as state schools Superintendent Robert Schiller.
This broad range of power has some area legislators and educators concerned.
"I'd be leery if
anyone could be plopped off the board because they didn't agree with
Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, shares that concern adding that chances of the proposal passing is unlikely without more compromises being made.
"The problem I have is to replace the entire board and take all the continuity out it," Bost said. "That board will become a political board instead of a quasi-separate board that does what is best for education. It was not set up to satisfy someone's political whims.
"I don't believe is has much of a chance in the House because (House Speaker) Mike Madigan doesn't agree with it," Bost added.
Sen. David Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, called the proposal "a step in the right direction," but he too thinks it needs some tweaking.
"There is still a problem. He'll have the ability to appoint and fire who he wants to," Luechtefeld said. "The governor should pick his own people but the ability to fire them if they don't do exactly what he wants; I have a problem with that."
Luechtefeld said there is a chance the plan could pass the Senate but believes opposition in the House will force it to be changed.
Rep. Brandon Phelps,
"I was one of the first ones to come out for the governor's first proposal," Phelps said. "I believe he knows what is right because there is no accountability now with the ISBE. Talk to anyone who has dealt with the state board of education. They'll tell you it is a nightmare."
Donald Brewer, superintendent of the Regional Office of Education for Jackson and Perry counties, said Blagojevich put ISBE in his crosshairs because the board hired Schiller just before the governor took office.
"What started this was the state board of education went ahead and appointed Schiller knowing that we'd soon have a new governor," Brewer said. "I think that irritated him from Day One."
Brewer, like Sabens, didn't support the draconian plan for ISBE Blagojevich first had in mind and finds the new one just a little bit more palatable.
"It's an improvement over the governor's original plan but I'm not overjoyed with it," Brewer said. "I'd never been a fan of the change but the state board needed improvement. I still liked what we had over the governor's proposal."
In many communities the transition to integrated schools was fairly smooth; but in others, it was a bumpy, even violent, road. There were lawsuits, boycotts -- even Klan visits.
And some school districts
with small black enrollments had simply assimilated those students into
the mainstream long before the court's mandate.
Margaret Simon Nesbitt
"She took me to CCHS to enroll," Nesbitt recalled of the woman from whom she said she inherited her persistence and activism. "She told them I needed to take business classes," which were not offered then at the all-black Attucks high school.
Though the school board wouldn't allow Margaret to enroll, they did send a white teacher over to Attucks high to teach classes in typing, shorthand and bookkeeping.
"She was a good teacher. Those skills helped me through life," Nesbitt added. She still has copies of the letters denying her request to attend CCHS.
Nesbitt, who graduated in 1948, was chosen Homecoming queen at Attucks. After the high schools were integrated, blacks still could be elected as queens -- it just took more work to campaign in a larger school than in the close-knit Attucks. That's why Nesbitt is so proud that her daughter, Debbie Nesbitt, later was chosen CCHS Homecoming queen.
"When you don't carry a lot of baggage, you can get things done," Nesbitt said with a grin.
"We got the oldest used books -- some had lots of pages missing," Delores Albritton recalls of her years attending Attucks high. But on the other hand, she added, "some had the answers written in."
in 1959, five years after the historic court decision that overturned
segregation -- but five years before the all-black Attucks high school
finally closed its doors in 1964 and all its students began attending
Though many of the Attucks students welcomed integration, some feared the new environment. A few opted to live with relatives in communities so they could continue to attend all-black schools, Albritton said. Others simply dropped out.
Albritton and classmates
share those memories as they gather each year for a "Spirit of
Attucks" reunion, celebrating the closeness and loyalty they felt
to their school. At one point, the Spirit of Attucks organization even
considered purchasing the school building, which still sits abandoned
and boarded up on
Attucks had a great band, led by the late Willie D. Anderson, and a great basketball team, Albritton said.
"None of us could play an instrument," Albritton recalled, "but he taught about 50 of us. By the time of the first parade we were ready."
The Attucks basketball team was so good that some black students transferred to the integrated University high school on the Southern Illinois University campus so they could play.
Arthur Newbern, a former Attucks teacher who later taught at CCHS, explained it succinctly: "A lot of boys who didn't make the Attucks team could be stars at U-High."
Sometimes, Albritton said, CCHS players would lend shoes and other equipment to their opponents on the Attucks team. "But some other white teams in other towns treated them badly," she added. "We were sort of used to it. That's just the way it was."
"It was a struggle but we didn't know it was a struggle," she added. Parents enforced the rules, and told kids which restaurants wouldn't serve them, which public water fountains were off limits to blacks, Albritton said. "There were no signs," unlike the South, she said.
Elizabeth Mosely Lewin,
superintendent of the
Her father, Archibald Mosely, was a pastor who also taught at Attucks. He later was chosen as principal of the all-black school at Colp, and the family moved there.
When the Colp schools were to be integrated, about 40 white students staged an "unorganized boycott" of the black school, according to one of many clippings about the incidents that Mosely preserved.
Then the Ku Klux Klan showed up at the Mosely home in Colp, Lewin said. "The rumor had gotten around that my father, who had advanced degrees, would replace the principal when the schools were integrated," she explained.
"Interesting times," she mused in a classic understatement.
These, too, are "interesting
times" for Lewin as she tries to recruit more minority teachers
"The market works against us. Business can offer more money than education." Gone are the days when black females could only count on jobs in nursing or teaching; instead, they're choosing more lucrative fields, Lewin said.
Newbern, 82, of
Newbern grew up in Olmsted
and attended all-black Lovejoy high school at nearby
"When I went to Southern Illinois University, it was the first time I attended integrated classes," Newbern recalled. Because there were no dorms, black students stayed with relatives or boarded with families in the black community.
"I had an uncle I lived with my first three years at SIU," he said.
World War II and the
draft interrupted his education -- he served three years and two months
in the Army -- and then he attended the
His uncle lived on East Chestnut, and Newbern would walk the two or so miles to campus, usually walk home for lunch, then back to campus afterward. "I cut through a lot of alleys," he recalled, smiling. Carter's Cafe, a campus eatery, was closed to blacks until after World War II, he said. "The only place we could eat was a little store that sold sandwiches."
"The black community took care of the black students (at SIUC)," Albritton agreed. "Dick Gregory ate at our house all the time. He was a friend of my brother." Though local families had little money, they always had enough food to share, thanks to home gardens, she added.
Newbern said "I've seen a lot of history, pleasant and unpleasant" while teaching at Attucks and CCHS. He believes for the most part, "Integration generally was peaceful -- but it took a lot of planning."
"Community leadership at the time was interested in athletics -- if you had good athletes you could go to state (tournaments)," Newbern said. And Attucks had those athletes who could help CCHS teams.
At Attucks, he taught industrial arts classes, vocational studies, English and history. "I had a minor in history," he explained. "One year I taught a girls' class in industrial arts at Attucks, but the girls didn't want to get their hands dirty."
Newbern also was the
Attucks yearbook sponsor. He had a darkroom set up in the school basement
and developed all the photos himself. He recalls taking a night class
at SIUC in photography from Ben Gelman,
Even before integration, Newbern said, he was given one shop class to teach at CCHS, and Attucks coach J.D. Russell taught a tennis class there. He saw that step as a "trial period" to see how the black teachers would fare at the white school.
"I think they were afraid of male teachers in a white society," he said, but when the men's classes proceeded without incidents, integration plans proceeded. He said the school board treated Attucks faculty to a dinner meeting at a hotel to talk discuss its plans before Attucks closed.
Lewis said her father had been involved in the struggle to integrate the schools, and she has saved clippings describing those days. Mosley and the Rev. Lenus Turley went throughout the region fighting for desegregation.
Lawsuits were filed
in some communities, such as
That story noted "racial
segregation is forbidden in
But by 1965, the
The NAACP had sent in
a team to
In Ullin, the city hall
was dynamited in 1952, but the sheriff said FBI investigators could
find no evidence linking the episode "with any racial situation."
The explosion caused no injuries but shattered windows. It occurred
the same month black children were admitted to Ullin's high school.
The Ullin incident followed earlier racial problems and violence in
For districts like Harrisburg, and the others that earlier had been assimilating their black students -- with or without lawsuits -- Brown v. Board of Education probably came as an afterthought, but was a welcome affirmation that "separate but equal" no longer was acceptable.
Ah, it's May in
One term used frequently by all parties in the debate is ''accountability.'' On any given day, the word is used as both a shield to protect a favored initiative or a sword to attack a program, proposal or practice. It's also used as an excuse for inaction, as in, ''We can't work on school funding reform until we are sure that education spending is accountable.''
Now for the easy part of this debate: Voters and taxpayers absolutely have the right to expect and demand accountability from spending on public education. Disagreeing with that statement is not only a fool's errand, but also borderline absurd. The devil, of course, is in the details.
Ask any 50 people to define what precisely constitutes ''accountable'' public education spending, and you will likely get 50 different answers. Some will say the spending should be focused on improving graduation rates and test scores. Others will claim that spending on new or different curriculum is needed. There will be champions of vocational, tutoring, gifted and arts programs, as well as special education needs.
Inevitably, spending on teachers' compensation will simultaneously be decried as too high and too low. If you're having trouble identifying your own favorite accountability measure, you could always borrow a few from the federal No Child Left Behind legislation, or any of the seemingly endless number of other federal mandates, many of which are unfunded or at least significantly underfunded.
If you really want to
complicate things, ask those same 50 folks how spending should be altered
to achieve the desired accountable results. Instead of 50 answers, you're
likely to get 500 different answers. One of the interesting truths about
education spending is, what qualifies as an accountable, rational, needed
expenditure in one district, would be deemed wasteful in another. For
instance, a school in
It is precisely because
local needs vary so much that
Which brings us back to the claim that school funding reform has to wait for improved accountability. This whole line of reasoning misses one extremely crucial point: A school's funding level is intrinsically tied to its ability to perform accountably. Schools that are not adequately funded in the first place will produce inadequate results. It's like asking a contractor to pave your 100-foot-long driveway, but giving him only 50 feet of concrete. The contractor may be able to spread things thin enough to cover the area. But the final product will be shoddy, and the cracks will show soon enough.
No matter the standard
you expect public education to satisfy, from test scores and graduation
rates to instruction in specific literacy, numeracy, scientific or social
knowledge and skill sets, it won't produce results unless it has the
financial capacity to do so. Obtaining strong, accountable results is
not possible without adequate funding. So, while ''throwing money''
at education may not solve problems, denying schools adequate funding
causes problems. The way we fund education in
Ralph Martire is executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, a bipartisan fiscal policy think tank.
Common sense, not petitions, should be the only thing needed for the Illinois Legislature to meet in special session to discuss school funding.
With at least 80 percent of the state's schools reporting financial problems now, this is a topic that should not be put off any longer just because it is an election year.
There are legislators who think this is a school spending problem more than, or as well as, a state funding issue. That's no reason to delay discussion of the problem. If there are financial problems now, they will get worse, especially with some of the legislation floating that would cap real estate tax increases and increase senior citizen real estate tax deductions, measures that could further reduce school tax revenue.
These type of legislative issues and how they may affect a fiscal 2005 budget already reported to be about $1.7 billion short of balancing is taking up most of the Legislature's time. It is supposed to adjourn at the end of this month. Lawmakers will be lucky to get a budget approved in that time, let alone take a serious look at school funding.
State Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, recently conducted a press conference to encourage his constituents to sign petitions asking Gov. Blagojevich to call a special session on school funding. Unless the governor is out of touch with school financial problems Downstate, he shouldn't need to be confronted with petitions from angry voters.
"It will take a firestorm of public opinion to get the governor and Legislature to act," Mitchell said.
Apparently the governor thinks more money is at least part of the answer. He has proposed a $400 million increase for education. Every year, more money is budgeted for education. But it never seems to be enough. The argument has been that the state is supposed to provide most of the money for education. It supplies about 36 percent and real estate taxes account for about 53 percent.
Some of the calls for more state money are coming from school districts in which property owners have refused to approve referendums for more money because they are fed up with property tax increases. And there are districts that have made voters skeptical because they went on spending binges during the good years and are now finding themselves cash strapped. It's evident that all problems can't be resolved at the local level.
Educators point to statistics
showing a national average state contribution of 56 percent. And they
use national statistics showing
However, statistics can be misleading.
Many states don't have
property taxes supporting education to the extent
So, where is the problem? That is the question that needs exploration. And when finances are a problem in 80 percent of the 800-plus school districts, it has to be a state issue -- not one that can be pushed aside as a "local issue."
By Ray Long and Christi
Parsons, Tribune staff reporters,
The fine print of an
education package agreed upon by the two last week earmarks up to $20
million in construction funding for the
"Mr. Governor Reformovich has a distinct smell of pork about him," complained Sen. Steve Rauschenberger (R-Elgin).
"It certainly gives the appearance that it is legislative quid pro quo and horse trading at its worst," said Rauschenberger, a Senate budget expert who suggested Jones should be dubbed "Senate President Pork."
The news made the rounds in the statehouse even as House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) advanced a challenge to Blagojevich's move to take control of the independent State Board of Education.
Spokeswomen for Blagojevich and Jones both dismissed charges that there was a political trade-off to bring Jones on board for the governor's education reform package.
"This was not part of any deal," said Blagojevich's spokeswoman, Rebecca Rausch. "It was put on the table months ago by the president. It is a project that has been long ignored. It's a worthy project that needs to happen and that's why it's in there for everyone to view."
Jones' spokeswoman, Cindy Davidsmeyer, argued that the city's South Side deserves a college preparatory school on a par with the North Side, home to Northside College Prep, a facility laden with amenities.
She said it is ironic that the issue arose on the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Brown vs. Board of Education, which declared that segregated schools are inherently unequal. Brooks Academy, the only selective enrollment high school on the city's Far South Side, has an enrollment that is about 80 percent African-American.
Slipping pet projects into the state budget is a time-honored tradition among lawmakers, but it is one that Blagojevich has repeatedly criticized.
A Tribune investigation in 2002 found that House and Senate members had passed out hundreds of millions of dollars of legislative grants in recent years, some that benefited cronies, relatives, campaign benefactors and favored religious groups.
While most of the projects that received such grants were worthy, the state is replete with worthy causes. Time and time again, the investigation found, the projects awarded legislative grants appeared linked to people with political influence.
The special $20 million grant was added to the reform legislation the same day last week that Jones and Blagojevich announced a compromise over the governor's controversial plan to gut the education panel. The move triggered more fiery Republican reactions.
"What nerve!" said Rep. Rosemary Mulligan (R-Des Plaines), a member of the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee.
$20 million `payback'
Sen. Dan Cronin (R-Elmhurst), a key voice for Senate Republicans on education matters, contended the $20 million represented "payback for selling out" the State Board of Education and called the school money a trade-off comparable to Chicago-style ward politics.
Specifically identifying a school for construction funds in legislation means politics will be infused into a program in which schools have long received funds based on an objective review of needs, Cronin said.
Jones has long been an advocate of Brooks and at the end of former Gov. George Ryan's administration sought a $3 million "member initiative" grant to build a golf facility at the school. Blagojevich, however, blocked the grant along with hundreds of other legislative pork-barrel grants when he took office.
Jones has argued for
improvements at Brooks, at
The district bought the property in the late 1990s and has since spent more than $34 million on renovations, more than all other selective enrollment schools in the city except Northside Prep, according to the schools' data.
Still, Brooks Principal Pamela G. Dyson says not everything that was promised has been done and the school still lacks a gymnasium, pool, auditorium, fine arts room, language lab, adequate classroom space and good ventilation.
Chicago Board of Education President Michael Scott agreed that Brooks has been shortchanged and said he has been aware for sometime that Jones was upset with the board for not moving fast enough to overcome construction delays.
Still, Scott said that forcing the schools to spend so much on Brooks would strain the city's school construction program. "We have some very desperate needs out there," Scott said.
The overall education reform deal Jones worked out with Blagojevich would leave the structure of the nine-member state board intact but allow the governor to appoint all new members and fire them at will.
Madigan pushes bill
On Monday, Madigan advanced a bill in the House that would let the governor clear out five members now and the other four next year--beginning a cycle of appointments to maintain some continuity on the panel and avoid a wholesale turnover when a new governor is elected.
The House bill, unlike the bill in the Senate, would not give Blagojevich unbridled power to get rid of board members. Instead, he would be limited to removing members only for incompetence, neglect of duty or malfeasance. The measure cleared a House committee and is heading to the full chamber.
Madigan said the plan gives the governor most of the power he wanted while adhering to the state constitution, adding, "I want to be a Democrat who practices conciliation, not confrontation."
But aides to Blagojevich don't view the plan as conciliatory.
"Education reform has to be about true accountability," said Rausch. "Gov. Blagojevich proposed making the members `at will' so that, if they lead the state down the wrong path, we can make some changes."
Meanwhile, Jones promised to press forward with the Blagojevich plan.
Dorothy Schneider, State
Calling himself a "conciliatory" Democrat, House Speaker Michael Madigan laid out an education plan Monday meant to grant Gov. Rod Blagojevich power over the Illinois State Board of Education but ensure continuity within the agency.
The House Education Committee passed the measure with unanimous bipartisan support. The bill now goes to the House floor.
"I'm reacting to
Gov. Blagojevich," said Madigan, D-Chicago. "(He) is the one
who initiated a proposal for change in the governance of education in
In January, Blagojevich called for a complete overhaul of the state's educational oversight by proposing a new Department of Education to replace the state board. He abandoned that approach last week, pushing instead for legislation that would give him complete control to appoint or dismiss board members at will.
Madigan's counterproposal, Senate Bill 1955, would meet the governor somewhere in the middle, allowing him to replace five of the nine board members immediately.
"This is not exactly what the governor requested," Madigan said. "I think it's very responsive to the goals articulated by the governor, and I think it's done within the constraints set out in the Illinois Constitution."
"And I did all of that because, as you know, I want to be a Democrat that practices conciliation, not confrontation," he added.
The administration, however, criticized Madigan's plan as incomplete.
"It has to have ways to help schools save money, on procurement, on health care, on construction," said Rebecca Rausch, spokeswoman for the governor. "What we need is change that can help our schools perform better, help our students learn better."
Rausch said Madigan's alternative would not provide enough accountability, so Blagojevich will continue to push his own plan. Senate President Emil Jones, D-Chicago, said he, too, will continue to support what the governor wants to do.
The changes to the state board laid out in Madigan's plan include:
A required eight members plus a chair (current law requires nine general members).
The dismissal of five board members, including the chair, when the bill is signed.
Five board appointments, including the chair, for each incoming governor.
Four seats overlapping gubernatorial terms, so future governors could not fill those vacancies until their third year in office.
A four-year maximum state superintendent's contract to coincide with the term of the governor who appointed the majority of the board.
A chance for each incoming governor to appoint a new state superintendent at the beginning of his term.
SB1955 maintains the state board requirements for representation from different parts of the state and both political parties.
State School Superintendent Robert Schiller said Madigan's plan addresses the concerns he had with the governor's proposal, especially "allowing the board members once appointed to truly be independent."
He and other education advocates also worried about what would happen if all nine members of the state board were replaced at once.
Schiller's one concern about Madigan's proposal was that the governor would be able to appoint five new members as early as July, but the Senate would not be in session to confirm the nominees until the fall.
"The question is, from good public policy, do you put people in who would serve for five months ... given the fact that they would not be confirmed until November?" he asked.
Rep. Don Moffitt, R-Gilson, said he likes everything that's in Madigan's plan.
"The things that
it does address it does quite well," he said. "It does not
address the issue of funding education, and of course that's part of
improving education in
The current board chairwoman, Janet Steiner of Carlinville, said she had not yet reviewed Madigan's proposal, but "off the cuff, it sounds more reasonable."
Above all, Steiner said, "There needs to be something decided, and it needs to be decided now. We're still doing business, and we need to know how to plan."
In the midst of celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Brown vs. Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court decision Monday, educators, judges and politicians grappled with how to fulfill the legacy of equal education for all in a school system still widely segregated.
"The next step is to equalize the funding of education, where a child is not penalized based on where he is raised and where he attends school," Illinois Senate President Emil Jones said, adding the financial inequality will continue as long as there is strong reliance on the property tax for education.
Others suggested that regardless of funding, education for African Americans and Latinos won't change until parents and community members put a stronger value on education.
Jones made his comments
after watching a re-enactment of oral arguments which led to the landmark
Supreme Court decision on
Illinois Supreme Court
Chief Justice Charles Freeman played the role of Chief Justice Earl
Warren, and other
Attorney James Montgomery portrayed Thurgood Marshall, the NAACP attorney who argued for an end to separate but equal education and later would become a Supreme Court justice.
"With that one decision, our nation changed forever," Gov. Blagojevich said during brief opening remarks.
Blagojevich left without talking to reporters about Jones' proposal for a tax hike to help property tax-starved schools. But the governor's spokeswoman Cheryl Jackson said such increases were not on the agenda.
Teachers often see themselves as Rodney Dangerfields who get little respect for the valuable work they do. Many parents, of course, feel the same. Now a national poll indicates that both teachers and parents feel increasingly unable to restore one essential educational ingredient: discipline in classrooms.
In a survey released last week by Public Agenda, a non-partisan research group, majorities of middle and high school teachers and parents gave failing grades to what they see as a societal atmosphere that encourages students and parents to care more about their rights than their responsibilities.
Almost 80 percent of teachers said students are quick to remind them that they have rights, or that their parents can sue. Almost half said they've been accused (incorrectly, they evidently believe) of unfairly disciplining a child and 55 percent said school districts back down when their decisions are challenged by angry parents.
As to the chief cause of discipline problems, roughly three of four teachers and parents singled out parents who fail to teach their children to behave. (Proof, cynics will note, that the problem isn't my child, it's yours.) But most parents surveyed also expressed frustration with a society that has "put too many limits on parents' rights to discipline their own children." That's a debatable point. But it's how many people feel.
Deepening the burdens of many teachers, the survey suggests, are cutbacks in counselors and alternative programs that would remove disruptive students from regular classes and put them in specialized environments. As a consequence, whenever one unruly or disrespectful student ties up a teacher's time, a whole class suffers.
Asked about such options as alternative schools, limits on parents' rights to sue and more "common sense" zero-tolerance rules, both parents and teachers voiced approval. Not that those are surefire remedies to deal with the broad array of problems that confront many public school teachers. An alternative school might be the ideal prescription for one student, but only aggravate another's problems.
Requiring the parents of disruptive children to accompany their kids to school could be a step toward putting them and their youngsters on the right track. Liberating principals from mounting paperwork to let them spend more time with teachers and students, and in classroom visits, would, in many schools, be a welcome trade-off, too. Experienced teachers also should be encouraged to help newer teachers learn those day-to-day lessons about order and discipline that no college classroom can provide.
Schools nationwide are under pressure to improve academic performance, often with inadequate resources. Parents and communities need to reassure educators, with more than lip service, that they don't face their challenges alone.
By Amanda Paulson, Staff
writer of The Christian Science Monitor,
Yet here in
While supporters of
the controversial law say the problems will be worked out, the early
In the long list of
consequences for schools under NCLB, the transfer option is one of the
earliest to kick in - students can transfer after their schools land
on the "needs improvement" list two years running - and carries
some of the largest logistical headaches. Students can't transfer to
schools that don't exist, after all, and - unless interdistrict agreements
become an option - many cities may see scenarios like
"In big cities,
it's going to be a problem," says Madlene Hamilton, a researcher
with the Center on Education Policy in
Champions of NCLB say the transfer option not only helps individual students, but encourage creation of better schools. Yet some critics see the provision as a veiled attempt to promote vouchers, and worry that it will drain floundering schools of resources and the brightest students.
Even the staunchest
NCLB advocates agree transfers won't work everywhere. Many rural districts
only have one school for each grade, and attending nearby districts
could mean a 100-mile drive - or, in parts of
In such cases, officials
say, free tutoring (the next consequence to kick in after transfers)
is an acceptable substitute. That's the route
But some see a fundamental problem with the mandates, saying they deflect resources from reform efforts under way. As the law stands, they note, it's difficult for schools with large minority and low-income populations to get themselves off the failing list, even when they make improvements.
"As you get farther and farther out, you're going to see a higher percentage of schools hit with these sanctions," says Daniel Kaufman, a spokesman for the National Education Association. "Say you have an African-American subgroup that doesn't meet adequate yearly progress [AYP] goals. You correct that. But the next year the Hispanic subgroup doesn't meet it. [The school is] still seen as not making AYP for two years in a row."
Aspects of the law, particularly its focus on narrowing the achievement gap for minorities, are important, says Mr. Kaufman, "but there are some common-sense changes that need to be made." In terms of transfers, for instance, he'd like to limit the option to students in the groups that aren't meeting the standards.
"This is distracting from the real issue," says Julie Woestehoff, director of Parents United for Responsible Education, a parent watchdog group here. "Why do we have over 400 schools on the 'needs improvement' list? Why don't we spend our money on that?"
Most parents, she says, prefer to keep their kids in neighborhood schools - they just want those schools to improve.
Still, some say the low interest in transfers that's often reported is misleading. One of the most comprehensive studies of the law, authored by the Citizens' Commission on Civil Rights (CCCR) found that parents often had great interest in transfers, especially if they knew of their options.
Overall, nearly six percent of eligible students applied for transfers this year - up from last year and substantial, according to Dianne Piché, CCCR director, given the generally poor information that parents receive. While the study found a few districts making solid efforts to facilitate transfers, many more discouraged transfers or told parents of options too late.
"This should be viewed as extremely comparable to desegregation work," says Piché. "It requires more than sending a note home to parents. Work needs to be done at the receiving schools ... exactly the kind of work that needed to be done with desegregation plans."
And, as with desegregation,
she sees districts like
"There's a real leadership challenge here of communicating with the public to make all of us concerned with the education of everyone's children," says Ross Wiener, policy director at the Education Trust, which focuses on narrowing the achievement gap. He, like most choice advocates, also emphasizes that it's only a small piece of fixing the failing schools.
"There are far too many children assigned to schools that aren't serving them," Mr. Wiener says. "If we say there aren't enough other places for them to go, we have to be committed to making their schools better."
Members of the Senate
Education Committee voted 6-5 in support of Gov. Rod Blagojevich's takeover
proposal, but even those who voted "yes" said the package
fell short of seriously reforming public education in
"A lot of us aren't completely happy. When you look at education reform, there's more to it than just the governance of the board," said state Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Chicago.
Blagojevich wants to be given the power to replace all nine members of the state board, as well as fire the state superintendent. The plan, outlined in Senate Bill 3000, also would give Blagojevich more power to cut the state board budget and establish new rules governing how local schools purchase supplies.
He says the changes
will make him more responsible for school reform in
Madigan's plan would allow the governor to replace five board members this year, and then the remaining four members in two years. It does not give the governor more power to control state board spending practices.
Blagojevich, who had originally hoped to abolish the state board of education and create a Cabinet-level agency under his control, said Madigan's plan doesn't do enough to save money.
"It's not the kind of reform we're looking for," said Blagojevich. "We won't settle for a half-measure that's called a solution. That would be the tired old stuff that they used to do."
Opponents stressed that
neither Madigan's plan nor Blagojevich's ideas directly address the
inequality in funding among
State Sen. Miguel del Valle, D-Chicago, who is sponsoring the governor's plan, said the Legislature must approve the plan to give Blagojevich the tools to begin working on school-funding reform.
"I see this as a step," del Valle said.
"I think this is a misstep," said state Sen. Rick Winkel, R-Champaign.
Meanwhile, Beverly Turkal of Robinson was expected to announce her resignation as vice president of the state board during a meeting today.
Turkal's departure would leave three vacancies on the board.
The terms of two more members expire in January, meaning Blagojevich would have the ability to appoint a majority of the board in January without any legislative action.
Blagojevich spokeswoman Rebecca Rausch said the governor's plan isn't just about replacing board members because it includes provisions about budget cutting and saving local districts money.
As the budget rhetoric heats up across the state, plans to revamp and reorganize education management continue to hold centerstage.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich shocked many in his State of the State address earlier this year when he threatened to disassemble the State Board of Education and derided it as a stodgy, ineffective "Soviet-style bureaucracy." The governor declared that making the state's education system directly accountable to his office could resolve the situation.
Over the past several months, the governor's plan has received mixed reviews.
What we in
Rather than answers, we've witnessed blame-sharing and finger-pointing among the well-paid bureaucrats at the top while teachers and students are too often left with the crumbs.
For many, Blagojevich's bold proposal sounded like common sense.
However, the reality
This week, powerful Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan showed that he was willing to meet the governor halfway. Madigan has offered a deal which would allow the governor to replace a majority of five members of the State Board of Education on July 1 and name the remaining four two years later .
In response to Madigan's offer, Blagojevich spokeswoman Rebecca Rausch said Madigan's plan does not go far enough because it won't ensure teachers get out from under masses of unnecessary paperwork.
Blagojevich has thus
far in his first term displayed a "crazy like a fox" demeanor
that has frustrated entrenched, business-as-usual
Taking greater control of the board puts this governor and future governors in a potentially precarious political position. At the end of the day, the only one to blame or credit will be the governor.
If success or failure of the state's public education is so tightly linked to the governor's office, odds are we might see more one-term governors.
Illinoisans have seen their school systems struggle for too long.
It's time to take a bold step toward solving the problem. The governor, and now even the house speaker, seem to have recognized this is the right direction in which to be moving.
The Edwardsville City Council approved an education reform resolution Tuesday night that urges the Illinois General Assembly to adopt two long-term goals for reform that would place more responsibility on the state for education funding and less on local taxpayers.
The first of the two goals called for state funding to "comprise at least 51 percent of education revenues in a way that would guarantee funding from year to year and reduces the reliance on local property tax." The second reform goal maintained that "a priority be established for a significant portion of all new state revenues to be directed to fulfill the state responsibility for funding education."
According to the resolution,
the state currently provides just 34 percent of the cost of education,
an amount that ranks the state of
in the current system of funding education is a disservice to the children
The resolution also
called for the state of
Members of the council voted to approve the resolution with the exception of Alderman Barb Stamer, who was excused from that portion of the meeting. A copy of the passage of the resolution will be forwarded to the Illinois General Assembly.
Also on the agenda was
the first reading of an ordinance establishing impact fees for the city
At the council meeting, Alderman Rich Madison said there were several concerns he had with the ordinance and suggested a closer review of those issues over the next few weeks.
Among his chief concerns,
"Who is actually
going to be the one who controls where that money goes?" asked
"I think we would
be wise to suspend approval on all plat requests until such time as
we have dealt with this school issue," said
Some say it's not enough, others call it a good 'first step'
By Tom Polansek of Copley News Service, May 21, 2004
SPRINGFIELD - The Illinois Senate passed legislation Thursday that would give the governor immense control over public education in Illinois, but even supporters say it would only be a "first step" toward real education reform.
Senate Bill 3000, which now goes to the House, would allow Gov. Rod Blagojevich to appoint a new Illinois State Board of Education, subject to Senate confirmation, on July 1. That, Blagojevich has said, would allow him to improve the quality of education statewide.
The measure contains other key features of a proposal the governor outlined after he abandoned his earlier plan to create a new Department of Education under his control.
But it does not include a provision Blagojevich wanted that would have allowed him to dismiss members "at will." The governor would only be able to remove members for incompetence or misdeeds.
the board in his
However, opponents of
the plan railed that Blagojevich's reform ideas were misguided. Changing
the board's structure would do nothing to solve the larger problem of
school funding in
"This is it?" Cronin asked during debate after the bill was presented on the Senate floor.
"You would have thought you'd have to strap yourself into your seats here and put on your helmets and we were going to see a new day, a bright shining star, reform, Soviet-style bureaucracy was going to crumble, the superintendent who was publicly humiliated and vilified before the state of Illinois, the world was going to change, more money to the classroom, reform, blah blah blah blah Blah-go-jevich."
In a partisan 32-27 vote, Republicans joined Cronin in claiming Blagojevich only wants to appoint a puppet board to carry out his plans. Some said the board would be unconstitutional because it would not be completely independent.
The bill's sponsor assured legislators he shared their vision for greater reforms but said they had to take small steps.
"In order for us to be able to, at some point, move to what I call the main event ... we've got to get off square one. This is square one," said Sen. Miguel del Valle, D-Chicago.
He urged the members to have faith that restructuring the board would lead to a bigger solution.
Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, said the governor could begin addressing funding inequalities and achievement gaps by appointing a more diverse board.
"It literally made me sick to sit here and listen because apparently the children that I represent were not considered in that Constitution," she said. "If that were the case, then that nine-member board would have shared more diversity than it has shared."
The terms of the new appointees would be staggered, with the majority following the gubernatorial election cycle.
Some lawmakers said the terms under which Blagojevich could fire members would be too broad.
"I think the governor could interpret someone to be incompetent if they simply disagreed with what he wanted to do," said Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield.
"You can't make these kinds of reforms without making change," said supporter Sen. Carol Ronen, D-Chicago. "And that's what this bill will do. This is the beginning of that."
The proposal also gives school districts the option of participating in the state's prescription drug-buying plan and in a pooled-purchasing program to save them money.
The House is considering its own education overhaul, pushed by Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago. Among other things, that plan - which passed out of committee this week - would allow the governor to appoint five new members to the state board in July and four members two years later.
In a related matter, current state board Vice Chair Beverly Turkal submitted her resignation Thursday over her opposition to restructuring the board.
By MATT ADRIAN,
SPRINGFIELD - A measure allowing Gov. Rod Blagojevich to pick all nine members of the Illinois State Board of Education passed the Senate on Thursday and heads for a sure collision with a competing proposal in the House.
Senate Bill 3000 would give the governor more control over an agency he threatened to neuter by creating a new Department of Education. However, Blagojevich's initial plan was criticized as being unconstitutional and a power grab.
State Sen. Miguel del Valle, D-Chicago, a vocal critic of Blagojevich's first education plan and the architect of the compromise, said the measure gives the governor more control without creating a new bureaucracy.
"It is a means for the governor to gain more control," del Valle said. "I want him to be in control so I can hold him accountable."
De Valle's legislation would:
- Allow him to appoint all new members to the state board and fire any board member on grounds such as incompetence or neglect of duty.
- Reduce the state superintendent's contract from three years to two years.
- Create a statewide purchasing program for local school districts to use. The program is optional.
- Create a statewide prescription drug plan for school districts to help drive down medical costs, which is also optional.
State Sen. Dan Cronin, R-Elmhurst, insisted the proposal is about Blagojevich wanting to grab more power.
"It doesn't have any impact on any student in the classroom," Cronin said. "This bill is simply about power and control and politics, a lot of noise from the second floor, a lot of huff and puff."
Del Valle pointed out that lawmakers will be voting on separate proposals to loosen state controls on local schools and improve the teacher certification process.
ISBE was created by the 1970 Illinois Constitution as an independent agency.
The purchasing program in SB 3000 has raised concerns among the state's business community, said Todd Maisch, vice president for government affairs with the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.
Maisch said the program would allow school districts to buy products through the state without having to open up the process for competitive bid. "Vendors should be able to say 'If we didn't get the bid at least we got a fair shot."
The measure passed 32-27.
All legislators from
Daily Herald Editorial, 5/21/04
Gov. Rod Blagojevich is not going to get the new education department he proposed in his state of the state address. Political opposition, including skepticism within his own party, has all but killed that notion for this legislative session.
But restructuring the
Illinois State Board of Education remains a possibility as time winds
down on the spring session in
Competing versions of restructuring bills are emerging from the House and Senate. Of the two, the House version is preferable.
Both would give Blagojevich and his successors more clout in composing the Illinois State Board of Education by changing the way appointments are made. The Senate version would hand Blagojevich more power by authorizing him to get rid of all nine existing members at once and to name nine new people almost immediately.
Where is the logic in that? We can't think of any other board that sweeps out all its members simultaneously. No matter how poorly a particular board may be performing, changing its full membership en masse and wiping out its institutional memory in the process seems like a remedy that is more reckless than measured.
By contrast, the House version would give Blagojevich the ability to appoint five new members now and four later. That would grant him the ability to put in place a board majority of his choosing while retaining some members familiar with the board's recent work. Surely this would be a more prudent approach.
Elsewhere, the two versions differ in that the Senate's includes more elements the governor wanted to install in a new department of education. For instance, the Senate version originally would have required all districts to buy supplies through a central purchasing agent. And while central purchasing has at least surface appeal in expected efficiencies, some local districts object that the idea does not take into account, for instance, local delivery and storage issues that might negate some savings. It is an idea worth exploring further but not adopting until some local district concerns can be addressed.
The more clearly onerous
provision of the Senate version is its mandate that local districts
cede construction oversight authority to the state. Some local districts
undoubtedly do a better job than others of selecting contractors and
managing the work. Local districts occasionally make mistakes, and a
few of those prove costly. One such situation may be unfolding in
The Senate bill may have elements to recommend it; the House bill may not be ideal in every regard. But weighing the most important components of each, there is little doubt that schools would be better served by lawmakers opting for the House version.
By Rod Paige,
EDITOR'S NOTE--Following are excerpts from a speech by U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige at the Kennedy School of Government during a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education hosted by Harvard University.
We are mindful of the
courage, vision and boldness of the
Yes, we applaud the
decision because it ended segregation. Yet, it did so much more. It
began a process of healing in
In my view, the Brown v. Board of Education case is one of the most important decisions in our history. I am not a lawyer or historian. But the best law is understandable and evident to everyone, not just those with legal training. As someone who lived through segregation, I know that Brown made our country more equitable, more just and more decent.
In the 1950s, this country suffered -- and I mean that, it suffered -- because of its racist history. Racism is more than geography, more than unfair laws and more than history. It is a mental and social disease, a manifestation of ignorance and hatred. It is a threat to our collective sanity, a damning critique on our culture and subversive of our Constitution. Because of slavery, it is unavoidably rooted in our national history. ...
I know firsthand the
powerful grasp of segregation on the minds of millions of Americans,
people who otherwise were often pious, law-abiding, sometimes well-educated
and many well-intentioned. Some of these people were my neighbors in
I wonder if people who
haven't lived through it can imagine segregation. It offered no hope,
no opportunity for change, no trust and no humanity. It reached into
every home and place of business in
I am often astonished at those who think segregation was just an inconvenience or another way of seeing the world. It was legalized oppression ... legalized violence against a minority that had been brought to this country against its will, suffered in oppression for hundreds of years, was finally set free, and still, after all that, found itself without adequate legal or community protection in many parts of our nation. ...
The law was no help;
it actually codified this hatred. In 1896, in Plessy v.
But 50 years ago, the Supreme Court, in overturning that odious decision, sent seismic shock waves through this country. In his oral arguments before the court in Brown v. Board of Education, Thurgood Marshall said, anyway you look at the problem, you "can't take race out of this case."
He was right. This wasn't about custom, states' rights, precedent, legislative intent, or the other ways of cloaking the debate. Segregation was about genetics and skin color. Period. And the members of the court saw that. If you look at each mention of the racial question in the decision, you see the court squarely focused on denying the relevance of race as a barrier to education. But the court did see racial barriers as harmful and pernicious, and said so. ...
In ending segregation, the doctrine of "separate but equal" was exposed as unconstitutional. Perhaps worse, it was exposed as a lie, a stain on our culture and a shameful chapter in our history.
Of course, segregation didn't disappear right away. The pace of change has been slow and remains slow, measured in decades and generations. Many studies have shown that Brown didn't trickle down into some states for more than 20 years, some even later. In other words, well into the 1970s, there were still some states that practiced a form of legally reasoned segregation, in defiance of the Brown decision.
But the unwillingness
of courts to enforce the decision was only one manifestation of the
unwillingness to change.
Our country survived
this massive resistance because of the strength of the Constitution
and the steadfast courage of many Americans, including many individuals
who risked everything for change, people like Rosa Parks, Medgar Evers,
the Freedom Riders, the marchers in
Because of the Brown decision, we are a stronger, more equitable, more just nation. But we still have a long way to go. And education is still the best place to continue pushing for changes that will make our society as equitable and as just as our country deserves.
Equality of opportunity is more than just a statement of law; it must be a matter of fact. And factually speaking, millions of children in this country do not yet have equal opportunity. There has been much discussion recently of internal segregation in our schools and a process of re-segregation between schools. ... Brown only opened the schoolhouse doors. After 50 years, we still have a lot of work to do.
The No Child Left Behind law has some important contemporary parallels to the Brown case. President Bush and a bipartisan majority in Congress recognized a well-documented, if silent, problem and a two-tiered education system. Some fortunate students receive a world-class education. There are islands of excellence. Sometimes these islands are private schools, with high tuition and great reputations. Sometimes they are public schools, many in urban areas. At these schools, there are many fine teachers and administrators.
But there are also millions of students mired in mediocrity, denied a quality education. For various reasons, they have been passed on and passed out. Students in poorly performing schools may have had good teachers, excellent administrators, or even plentiful resources -- or not. Many students do not read at their grade level; some are years behind; some cannot read at all. There are similar problems in mathematics. ... Two years ago, SAT scores improved for American children on average; but if you dig beneath the surface, you find that scores remained flat for African-Americans, and Hispanic-American students' scores actually went down over previous years. And every indication from every measurement told us that we were confronting a deeply divided, disparate education system.
I believe we were witnessing an emerging de facto educational apartheid. This is no exaggeration of the facts. Millions of children are left behind. Millions! And we know these students: African-Americans, Hispanics, low-income, special-needs and English-learning. And this in the 21st century, not the 1950s.
In my view, such division was wrong in 1954, and it is wrong today. It is immoral. It is unjust. Education is about knowledge and about finding oneself. The twin disaster is to be given no intellectual tools and to be set adrift, with no means to find your way back. This educational divide is cruel, vicious, demeaning, disrespectful and degrading. I believe that when a child is left behind by an education system that is an injustice that affects us all. It is intolerable!
I give President Bush much credit for seeing this problem and willingly making it an issue in the last national election. He said that, if elected, he would institute change, and he did. Within four days of assuming office, he initiated a blueprint that became the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. This was an act that was passed with wide bipartisan support. The president immediately signed it, and it became the law of the land.
With this law -- this tool -- we are beginning to redress the achievement gap. This law is radical surgery, massive reform. The "old ways" will no longer be tolerated. We demand equity, justice and inclusion.
No Child Left Behind is a powerful, sweeping law. It is the logical step after Brown v. Board of Education, which ended segregation, and the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which promised an equitable society. The ancient Greeks used to say, "Education is freedom." Yes, it is. And No Child Left Behind is about freedom and equality and justice. It is about the way we learn about life; it is about life itself. ...
Some argue about so-called "unfunded mandates," even though the president has committed historic levels of federal funding to elementary and secondary education. There is nothing unfunded about a proposed $57 billion in discretionary federal funding for education in 2005, a 36 percent increase since the president took office. We are also set to provide another $57 billion in mandatory federal funding for student loans. This represents about $114 billion in total federal investment in education for fiscal year 2005.
We already see considerable evidence that the law is working. In the most recent results on the Nation's Report Card, or NAEP, the mathematics scores for fourth- and eighth-graders significantly jumped between 2000 and 2003. Importantly, African-American, Hispanic-American and low- income students accounted for some of the most significant improvements. As a result, the achievement gap between white and black students is closing for both fourth- and eighth-graders.
We need to build on this progress. There are profound and lasting consequences. If we fail to fully implement this law, millions of children will be harmed by being excluded, ignored, disrespected and undereducated, and then sent out into a world for which they are educationally unprepared and uncompetitive. ... We must have a vision that pictures our schools as successful, inclusive, fair and equitable. We must work for harmony, common ground and bipartisan support for meaningful, lasting reform.
and 10 years have passed since Brown. It may take generations to finally achieve equality of opportunity. But a race-free society must start with fair and inclusive education. That is where we must build the foundation of fairness, hope and decency. We must make our schools equitable in order to make our society and culture equitable. Our work for the future begins now, and it begins in our educational institutions. ...
There are still many difficult trials ahead. There will be strident opposition. But with No Child Left Behind I believe the president and the Congress have taken this country one step closer to a race-free society. And, with each step, we get closer to fulfilling the promise of Brown v. Board of Education.
U.S. Education Secretary
Rod Paige visits another storied school in the civil rights movement:
But 50 years after the U.S. Supreme Court's May 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education ruling, these two black men, who attended segregated schools in Jim Crow-era America, are arguably the nation's most influential education officials.
Paige, 71, grew up in
Sitting in his spacious corner office a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol, Paige laughs as he tells the story, but still remembers the anger. "It was evidence of somebody disrespecting me, of somebody saying, 'You're not worth what those guys are worth.' You kind of adjusted to it, but you had a sense of anger."
The only black kid in the neighborhood with a paper route, Paige remembers fighting to get his papers amid a group of white competitors.
"It was a war most of the time," he says.
Weaver, 64, attended
an almost all-white school through third grade, then his family moved
and he found himself in an all-black school in fourth grade. After two
years, he says, his mother finally decided she "wasn't going for
that at all." She told school officials in racially divided
By eighth grade, Weaver says, he was one of eight black students in a class of 50. Even with the better program, several black classmates dropped out to get jobs. "I think only one or two of us graduated from high school."
Paige remembers the
day the Supreme Court ruled that "separate but equal" schools
were inherently unequal. By then a junior at
In 1955, the high court ordered schools to desegregate "with all deliberate speed," but a brief teaching stint after college showed Paige that the order hadn't taken root. "There wasn't that much difference between the schools I taught in and the schools I went to."
Many southern school districts dragged their feet. In a few, they closed down entire systems to keep from integrating. The depth of resistance, Paige says, "was instructive to most African Americans. I don't know if people expected the extent to which some of the systems resisted."
"What this nation saw in the '60s, a lot of that was built up from this," he says. "There was just a strong sense of anger."
Weaver agrees: "When people don't want to do something, they are very creative in trying to find ways not to do it."
Most advocates say Brown didn't do enough to help many minority and poor children. Paige and Weaver would agree, but are at odds over what to do about it.
Paige, a former superintendent
A few advocates agree, saying Paige's prescriptions have already made a huge difference.
"Like it or not, this No Child Left Behind legislation has forced an open discussion about race and class," says Stephanie Robinson, a principal partner at The Education Trust, a nonprofit group that advocates for urban, poor and minority students.
Weaver, whose National Education Association represents 2.7 million teachers and other school workers, maintains that schools are being squeezed dry by a lack of funding and an overemphasis on test scores. He calls No Child Left Behind "a cruel hoax" because too many poor and minority kids still attend school in "horrendous" conditions.
While the federal No Child Left Behind Act has become a political hot potato, Gov. Bill Richardson says New Mexicans had better live with it.
Democrats, especially those running for office, tend to be critical of the federal education law, which mandates accountability standards for schools.
Democrats claim the law is underfunded, and recent studies have backed up that charge.
President Bush and his
surrogates have vigorously defended the law, saying more federal education
money than ever before has come to
"While we work
to address No Child Left Behind's shortcomings, we must move beyond
criticizing this act,"
The NALEO group's focus is bridging what they refer to as an "education gap" between Hispanic and non-Hispanic communities.
"Our research indicates that education continues to be an important issue for Latino families," Arturo Vargas, executive director of the NALEO Education Fund, said in a statement.
"We recognize the value and importance of securing our children's academic success," Vargas said. "Unfortunately, there are many obstacles hindering Latino academic achievement."
This weekend's meeting, Vargas said, would focus on strategies for clearing obstacles to Hispanic academic achievement.
According to data analyzed by Excelencia in Education Inc., Hispanic students consistently perform below the national average.
By fourth grade, Hispanic students lag behind their Anglo peers in math, geography and history proficiency, according to NALEO.
Vargas said Hispanics,
a population growing ever faster in the
Martin C. Evans, Newsday
SUMMERTON, S.C. -- The
Pearson children would walk -- nine miles to school from Davis Station
to Summerton each morning, then nine miles back when classes were done.
Though the county's white children had 30 public school buses at their
disposal, walking was the only way any black child got to class in 1947
Many black youngsters balked at the daunting distances, skipping days or dropping out altogether.
But the Pearsons' parents were among a determined group of the area's mostly poor and illiterate black residents who insisted that their children be educated. Even if it meant walking while the white children rode.
"Even if it was cold or wet out, I didn't let them stay home," recalled their mother, Viola Pearson, 93, who was interviewed recently and still lives in Davis Station. "I made them go to school. You couldn't get anywhere without an education."
On the long roads that
run through corn and cotton here in the
A local preacher named Joseph Armstrong De Laine -- concerned about the long distances black children had to walk and the disparity in services -- persuaded the Pearsons to join several families in suing the county school board for bus service.
The 1948 lawsuit was known as Briggs v. Elliott -- names taken from a filling station attendant whose signature appeared first on a list of plaintiffs, and from the scowling sawmill owner who ran the local school board.
The Supreme Court united
the case with four others filed later, including a
The Supreme Court substituted the Kansas-based Brown case for Briggs at the top of the docket in the hope that their ruling would be seen as a mandate for the entire country, not just a slap at Southern segregationists.
But despite the renaming of the lawsuit, attitudes in Summerton today reflect bitter divisions that linger in communities around the country, said Joe Elliott, a grandson of Roderick M. Elliott, the segregationist school board chairman. Summerton's white residents rarely discuss the case openly, even though Elliott, 64, has made a mission of exploring its conflicted legacy.
Now, 50 years after the landmark decision, most all of the approximately 1,500 children in the area attend schools that are virtually all white or all black.
And rather than becoming
increasingly integrated, the rest of the nation seems to be becoming
more like divided Summerton. Integration gains that accelerated in most
Integration finally gained momentum in the 1970s, as court-mandated busing programs brought together white and black schoolchildren from different neighborhoods and fair housing laws chipped away at neighborhood segregation. Although fewer than 1 percent of black children attended majority-white schools in 1954, by 1988, that figure had reached 43.5 percent.
But the tide has turned,
according to Civil Rights Project data. By 2000, the percentage of blacks
More than 2 in 5 black
children attend highly segregated schools in
"We are celebrating a victory over segregation, but it's more appropriate as a time of reflection than celebration because we're going in the wrong direction," said Harvard professor Gary Orfield, co-author of a Civil Rights Project report titled "Brown at 50: King's Dream or Plessy's Nightmare." "Segregation is increasing, and it is leaving black and Hispanic children in impoverished apartheid schools."
Segregation on the rise
The study also found that in many districts where court-ordered desegregation plans were dismantled during the 1990s, segregation increased sharply. It shows that minority students attending highly segregated schools are more likely to have their educational prospects harmed by poverty-related factors, according to the Civil Rights Project.
Scholars say a key to
the momentum away from integration was a 1991 Supreme Court decision
that approved the end of an
To be sure, the court's
ban on legal segregation is credited with successfully unleashing a
broad current of positive social change, according to Richard Kluger,
who chronicled the Brown case and its legacy in his recently revised
book "Simple Justice." The number of blacks in
Blacks, who until the 1960s were mostly confined to urban ghettos and rural squalor, increasingly live in comfortable homes in safe neighborhoods. The social limits that once prohibited the sharing of neighborhoods and social interactions across racial lines have markedly receded.
And after the Brown ruling, Congress and the courts often leaned on its legal reasoning to introduce other social gains, eliminating restrictions on age, race and sex discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations and facilities for the disabled, and creating nutrition, education and community programs to help the disadvantaged.
Today, many of the descendants of the Briggs v. Elliott plaintiffs study at a modern high school in Summerton, rather than the shacks their ancestors endured.
Brandon Oliver, 17, whose great-grandmother, Mary Oliver, was among the plaintiffs in the groundbreaking case, has a course load that includes Advanced Placement calculus and physics.
"She told me stories
of how it was like, and I figured I'd never want that to happen to me,"
said Oliver, who plans to study mechanical engineering next year at
In Summerton, echoes of the original case still reverberate in the corn, cotton and soybean hamlet of 1,100 souls a mile west of Interstate 95.
Ten miles away in a courthouse in Manning -- the county seat -- Summerton's schools are among 36 plaintiff districts that claim the state's funding system denies a basic education to the mostly minority children in low-income school systems.
In Summerton's almost
all-black public high school, where 95 percent of children are from
low-income families that qualify for free or reduced-cost lunches, SAT
scores are well below the national average. Across
"We have the poorest facilities, the lowest number of certified teachers, extremely high rates of teacher turnover, the lowest test scores and the lowest teacher salaries," said Carl B. Epps III, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.
"So you look back over the complaints filed in Briggs and see that many of those complaints are still with us. Integration has not proved successful in this part of the country."
Districts dragged their feet
From the moment the
Supreme Court handed down its ruling, resistance to integration has
been the norm all across
Brown's implementation was deferred for more than 10 years in Summerton and throughout much of the nation, in part because the court said districts should move with "all deliberate speed." That ambiguous language -- said to have resulted from a compromise that allowed the justices to deliver a unanimous decision -- resulted in school districts deciding for themselves how quickly they would follow the mandate.
With no timetable to bind them, school officials dragged their feet, often saying they lacked the funds to unify facilities.
In the South, five states
In Northern communities,
Some states suspended their public school programs rather than comply, granting vouchers to allow parents to send their children to private "segregation academies."
The county hopes to
make amends during a ceremony today at
Glaring difference in schools
But it was the difficulty in reaching education parity in Summerton schools that sparked the push for desegregation.
The area's dirt roads -- the nearest paved one was 20 miles away -- were pocked with puddles during the rainy winters and became dust bowls during hot spells. Some would flood so badly that they could only be crossed in a rowboat. Children who lived more than three or four miles from school invariably were muddy and cold or gritty and sweating by the time they reached the classroom.
And although the district set aside 30 buses for the area's 2,400 white children, school officials provided no transportation for the county's 6,500 black children, regardless of age or distance. "We ain't got no money to buy a bus for your -- -- children," Roderick Miles Elliott, a prosperous sawmill owner who ran the school district, told black parents.
Glaring differences between the county's white and black schools were everywhere. Although the white high school was a modern brick building, blacks attended classes in wooden shacks that lacked water fountains or indoor toilets and were heated by pot-bellied stoves. The district did not provide fuel or janitorial services to the black schools, so children were pressed to sweep the classrooms and collect firewood during the cold months.
In all, the county spent $43 per black child in 1949, according to Kluger. In the county's white schools, per-pupil spending was $179, more than four times as much.
While reflecting on past injustices in recent weeks, many of Summerton's current and former residents shared their recollections of the confrontation between black parents and the local school board.
Brumit De Laine, a retired
They remembered that in 1947, the state leader of the NAACP told members that until school districts were forced to provide a quality education for everyone, blacks would remain in a state of economic desperation.
The Rev. De Laine suspected
that would be true for his congregants. Most of
"You wouldn't see
some of your classmates until after cotton was all in in November,"
said Nathaniel Briggs, 56, of
Also during that time,
an NAACP lawyer named Thurgood Marshall was seeking a test case to challenge
But in a 1949 pretrial
hearing, U.S. District Judge J. Waties Waring persuaded
Suddenly, an apartheid
system that had provided white
Briggs and others who participated in the lawsuit did so at great peril. Vigilante violence against blacks usually went unpunished. Only two months before the Rev. De Laine asked the Pearsons to take on Summerton's white establishment, 26 white men in another part of the state had confessed to dragging a black murder suspect from a jail cell and beating, stabbing and shooting him in the face with a shotgun. Five of them had identified the shooter. All 26 were acquitted.
Nettled by the lawsuit, area whites used their almost complete control over the local economy to try to get the plaintiffs to back down. Black farmers who were branded as troublemakers found they could not purchase seed or fertilizer in the spring or have their cotton ginned in the fall. The Rev. De Laine lost his schoolteacher job and his house was burned to the ground as firefighters watched. Harry Briggs was fired from his job at the gas station, and when his wife, Eliza, also was dismissed from her job as a hotel domestic, he and his eldest son left town to search for work elsewhere.
"It really split up the family," said Nathaniel Briggs. "My brother went one way, my father went another. It was four or five years being vagabonds. It's not easy being on the run."
Even with the pressures, enough plaintiffs stood together so that the case went forward. Several individuals close to the lawsuit had served in World War II and were determined not to return home to second-class citizenship.
"When I left the
Army, I made a pledge that I was going home and going to war to change
things," said Jesse Pearson, 82, Viola Pearson's nephew, who returned
to Summerton shortly after serving in
But despite the sacrifices,
the school district that pointed
Today, 95.5 percent
of Summerton's 1,230 public school students are black, mirroring the
levels of minority concentrations seen in a growing number of schools
nationwide. At Clarendon Hall, all but about 20 of its 275 students
are white, reflecting the racial isolation experienced by most of
"Over the past 50 years, the attempt to integrate the public education system and to achieve full racial equality in other areas has been resisted and openly defied, by policy-makers and the public, to the detriment of the laudable aim of achieving racial equality in America," Harvard law professor Charles J. Ogletree Jr. wrote in his latest book, "All Deliberate Speed."
Residents in Summerton,
where it is still somewhat taboo for whites and blacks to socialize
in each other's homes, say the fight to desegregate
"Summerton has a divide, and I think it came from the case itself," said Elliott, who was Clarendon Hall's headmaster from 1998 to 2000. "It served to divide us. We were the nation's whipping boy, and we have the scars to prove it.
"But to me, rejection of the case is rejection of the African-American community," said Elliott, who added that his effort to establish an interracial group to bridge the gap between two communities died more than a year ago from lack of interest. "A lot of people are polite when I say that, but I don't get any standing ovations. I've not been ostracized in town, but I feel tensions."
Nonetheless, a tiny handful of residents in the community say it is time for racial reconciliation.
Four years ago, while
Joe Elliott was serving as its headmaster, Clarendon Hall admitted its
first black students and began sharing an annual sporting event with
Summerton's predominantly black Scott's
"I don't think we are a nest of rabid racists," Elliott said. "My grandfather was definitely on the wrong side of history. He was a product of a Jim Crow world."
Betsy Braddock, a white
woman who owns a boutique on Summerton's
"I used to think
Martin Luther King should be struck down," said Braddock, who grew
up 80 miles north in
TOPEKA, Kan. -- Half a century after the Supreme Court banned school segregation, President Bush and Democratic rival John Kerry found agreement Monday on the point that America still falls short of racial equality despite progress across many fronts.
''The habits of racism
Kerry, several hours earlier and several blocks away, stood on the steps of the state Capitol and said, ''We have to defend the progress that has been made, but we also have to move the cause forward.'' He blamed many persistent problems on the Bush administration.
Kerry said that half a century after the 1954 Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education case, schools remain underfunded and divided by income.
By Patricia Wilson, Reuters, May 20, 2004
PHILADELPHIA - Democratic challenger John Kerry on Thursday accused President Bush of willfully breaking his promise on education so he could give tax cuts to the richest Americans.
The senator from Massachusetts, who voted for Bush's sweeping reform of the public school system but has since criticized it as poorly implemented and underfunded, asked students at Edison High School: "Why do people who earn more than $200,000 a year get another tax cut?"
Prodding Bush on one of the president's own signature domestic issues, Kerry said the provisions of the No Child Left Behind education legislation had been shortchanged by $26 billion.
"Now, everybody in America would forgive you if you fall short because you're trying the hardest you can and you just can't quite get there," he said. "But I don't think people should forgive a willful turning away from a promise ... and the president has chosen to give a tax cut to the wealthiest Americans."
Kerry announced a plan to get 1.5 million more people enrolled in college by 2009 by expanding programs to get at-risk youth ready for higher education, simplifying student aid applications and offering a tuition tax credit at the start of the school year.
He campaigned in the
battleground state of
"The budget is a statement of the administration's priorities and this budget brings record deficits, fails to invest in education, health care and job creation," Kerry spokesman David Wade said.
Kerry told reporters
he planned to attend a previously scheduled fund-raiser in
Tony Podesta, who heads
Kerry's campaign in
"Bush has been here 27 times," Podesta said. "They're trying to take the state away. They're working hard here."
Kerry proposed to expand GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) to encourage 2 million more high school students to plan for college.
After hearing from four children who said they would not be headed for higher education if it weren't for GEAR UP, Kerry told teachers and parents: "This is where the rubber hits the road, folks. This is reality right here."
The Bush administration
had first tried to eliminate the program and then worked to cut it by
$70 million, he said. City officials said GEAR UP was in eight
"It's inconsistent and misleading to say to Americans leave no child behind and then consciously make choices to cut programs like this or starve them so they can't do their full jobs," Kerry said.
In a conference call
arranged by the Bush campaign, Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of
Reuters, May 20, 2004
The bill, which now goes to the Senate floor, extends for five years the school lunch program, the so-called WIC program and a bundle of other programs costing roughly $16 billion a year. The House overwhelmingly passed a similar four-year extension in March.
Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, the Democratic leader on the committee, said "direct certification" of children who are part of food stamp households for free school meals would benefit 200,000 children and reduce the paperwork burden on parents.
Schools now have the option of certifying children as eligible for free or reduced-price meals by verifying with other agencies that a child is part of a family receiving food stamps.
The Senate bill would require schools to directly certify the children. Schools with more than 25,000 students would begin direct certification in the 2006/07 school year. The requirement would apply to schools with more than 10,000 students in 2007/08 and to all schools the following year.
About 27 million children eat hot meals each day through the federal school lunch program. Nearly 60 percent of them get the meals for free or at a reduced price. Eleven million children are enrolled in school breakfast, after-school snack and summer meal programs.
More than 7.6 million people are enrolled in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, which provides supplemental food to poor pregnant women, new mothers and infants.
Committee members, in the Wednesday vote, defeated, 13-7, a proposal by Harkin allowing schools to bar the sale of snack foods and beverages that did not meet locally written nutrition standards.
Harkin said his amendment would combat obesity by limiting junk food sales. Opponents said the amendment amounted to heavy-handed intrusion into local schools without any assurance of healthier diets.
Two dozen antihunger, labor and religious groups applauded the Senate bill for its language on direct certification and for extending two pilot programs. One eases bookkeeping rules for summer food programs. The other provides free fruits and vegetables to school children.
The summer food pilot
operates in 13 states and would expand to
Illinois State Board of Education