A Minority Publication

In Charter School Fight, Urban League and National

Action Network ask NAACP: “Did you see the numbers?”

By Tanu Henry | California Black Media

Black civil rights groups in California are knuckled up in a battle of principles as the state Assembly and Senate prepare to vote on a set of three charter school bills this week.


The state chapters of the National Urban League (NUL) and the National Action Network (NAN) have teamed up to oppose the bills. They say the proposals amount to a “step backward” for African-American charter school parents and their children.

While the California chapter of the NAACP has publicly expressed its support for all three pieces of legislation; two of them in the Assembly - AB 1505 and AB 1506 - and one in the Senate, SB 756.


Members of the California chapter of the NAACP, the  nation’s oldest civil rights organization, came to the State Capitol Monday to lobby the legislature on several issues, including the charter school bills.


If passed, the laws would put a moratorium on authorizing any new charter schools in the state for the next five years. Critics of the law say they would also significantly restrict the operations and roll back some legal rights the taxpayer-funded independent public schools currently have.

“I ask my friends at the NAACP, ‘did you see the numbers?” Dr. Tecoy Porter, president of the Sacramento chapter of the NAN, told California Black Media.


For both the NUL and the NAN, they say, their difference of opinion with the NAACP boils down to one fact: Black students across California are failing in the state’s district public schools at rates that should cause national concern.


Advocates say many of the schools on the frontline that have begun to help Black students improve their literacy, score higher on state standardized tests, and prepare for college and jobs, are charter schools.


“African-American children are not doing well in California public schools. There is a severe and persistent Black achievement gap throughout the state of California in both English Language arts and math,” the NAN and the NUL wrote in an open letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom, which the organizations shared with California Black Media.


“Seven out of eight African-American public school students are enrolled in district run schools,” the letter to the governor continued. “Many African-American parents respond to this failure by choosing to send their kids to public charter schools.”


This week, local leaders of both the NAN and the NUL are requesting a meeting with Gov. Newsom to share their concerns about the bills.

In California, about 80 percent of Black students score below the state standard in math and 68 percent fail to meet the English Language Arts requirement. African-American children are also next to the lowest performing sub-group in the state, scoring only above students with disabilities.


Last week, the Assembly passed another charter school bill, AB 1507. It required charter schools to be physically located in the boundaries of the school district that licenses it. Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), who is African American and a member of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC), sponsored that bill, along with the other two bills his colleagues will hear this week.


Other sponsors of the charter school bills are Assemblymembers Patrick O’Donnell (D-Los Angeles) and Christy Smith (D-Santa Clarita).

Sen. Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles) sponsored the Senate bill.


O’Donnell, who is chair of the Assembly Education committee, shelved another bill Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), chair of the CLBC, introduced. That bill would have designated lowest performing subgroup students a high risk category under California’s Local Control Funding Formula.


 “Historically, the NAACP has been in strong support of public education and has denounced movements toward privatization,” the California chapter of the NAACP wrote in that statement. “Considering this, we are concerned that charter schools in California are increasingly causing the underfunding of neighborhood schools.”


Julian Heilig-Vasquez, Education Chair of the California NAACP, argues that increased independent and private control of charter schools will lead to the resegregation of America’s public schools and “The California NAACP and other community-based activists have called upon education reforms to refocus on inequities rather than privatization and private control of education,” he says.


Porter says he understands that the NAACP stated its opposition to charter schools long before these bills became an issue in California. But the arguments they are using to support their stance, have not evolved and are mostly out-of-touch with the needs of the majority of African-American families across the state.


 “How are they promoting segregation when they make up less than 5 percent of all public schools in the state?” Asked Porter. “Also, by law, charter schools have to be judged on their performance every five years. District-run public schools can go on failing forever.”

He said since Gov. Newsom signed SB 126 earlier this year, the state now requires charter schools to be more accountable and transparent in their operations.


On Wednesday, May 22, the California Teachers Association (CTA), one of the largest unions in the state, held a rally in Sacramento on the steps of the State Capitol in support of the bills. They say, the event is being held “to fix the broken laws that govern charter schools.”

But NAN and the NUL disagree with the NAACP and the CTA. Porter says many Black families who live in communities where traditional public schools have failed their children for decades don’t have the means to get up and move to a better school district or enroll their kids in private schools.


Porter says he is thankful that he had a choice. His son, who attended a mix of private, public charter and traditional public schools is graduating from high school this year. He has accepted a full ride to Harvey Mudd college in Claremont.


“I had a choice. I want all parents in California to have choices of where they can send their children to school for the best education for them,” he says. “I know there are some bad apples who have abused the charter school system, but its Black and Brown kids that end up getting the short end of the stick. They deserve better.”

News from EPI

Infrastructure investments would create more jobs

if accompanied by reductions in the trade deficit

June 13, 2019

In a new paper, EPI Research Director Josh Bivens argues that, to maximize its impact on jobs, an ambitious investment in U.S. infrastructure should be accompanied by efforts to reduce the U.S. trade deficit. Bivens finds that a $500 billion infrastructure investment would create an additional 45,000 manufacturing jobs if the manufacturing trade deficit were cut by roughly two-thirds.


“A large, sustained increase in infrastructure investment would benefit the U.S. economy in many ways, from direct and indirect job creation to improving roads and public transit,” said Bivens. “When crafting an infrastructure plan, policymakers should seek to maximize its impact by taking steps to reduce the trade deficit and ensuring that the plan supports U.S. jobs.”


Spending in any given economic sector sets off ripple effects, or linkages, across other sectors. The number of jobs supported by any increase in economywide spending depends in part on how much of this spending goes to purchase imports rather than domestically produced goods and services. In the case of infrastructure investments specifically, the number of U.S. manufacturing jobs supported depends on the share of manufactured goods that are produced domestically as opposed to being imported. Increasing the amount of manufactured goods purchased domestically—and reducing the amount we import—would mean any investment in infrastructure would create more jobs as a result.


Bivens suggests several policy levers that would put American manufacturing production on a more-level playing field with global competitors. The most effective ones are systemic, particularly those that target misaligned exchange rates or other persistent unfair trade practices that are the root cause of overall trade deficits. Until more systemic reforms are enacted, other measures—such as strengthened “Buy America” policies—could ensure that publicly-financed projects use goods produced by American companies and workers, providing an economic boon to our manufacturing sector with no additional spending.

EPI urges Congress to pass the Restoring Overtime Pay Act to provide better overtime

protections for 8.2 million additional workers

EPI Senior Economist and Director of Policy Heidi Shierholz testified before the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Education and Labor, Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, regarding the Department of Labor’s March 2019 proposal to update the overtime salary threshold. Shierholz opposes the DOL’s 2019 proposal, which set the threshold under which salaried workers are guaranteed overtime to $35,308 for a full-year worker. In her testimony, Shierholz makes the case that DOL uses an inappropriate methodology to set the salary threshold in its proposal, while the 2016 rule it would supplant used a more appropriate—albeit conservative—methodology.


In her testimony, Shierholz urges Congress to step in and pass the Restoring Overtime Pay Act, which codifies the 2016 rule, setting the threshold at an appropriate level and automatically updating it going forward.


“The Trump administration is applauding itself for proposing an overtime rule that would raise the overtime threshold for American workers,” said Shierholz. “In reality, they are leaving behind millions of working people who would have benefited from the 2016 rule. If the DOL won’t act to help these workers, Congress should intervene to set the threshold to the higher level.”


Shierholz explains that the 2019 rule is based on the notion that someone being paid $35,308 a year in 2020 is a well-paid executive who doesn’t need or deserve overtime protections. The threshold is based on the 20th percentile of the earnings of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage census region, currently the South. The Restoring Overtime Pay Act would increase the threshold to the 40th percentile in the same region, which would be $51,064 in 2020, and automatically updates the level going forward.


Shierholz’s analysis shows that 8.2 million workers who would have benefitted from the 2016 final rule will be left behind by the Trump proposal—far more than estimated by DOL. This includes 4.2 million women, 3.0 million people of color, 4.7 million workers without a college degree, and 2.7 million parents of children under the age of 18. The 8.2 million workers left behind by this proposal are comprised of 3.1 million workers who would have gotten new overtime protections under the 2016 rule, and another 5.1 million workers who would have gotten strengthened overtime protections under that rule.

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