Education is Always a Great Investment…Especially/Even in Dallas

Dallas County is looking to give homeowners a tax cut…Dallas Independent School District is asking the citizens of Dallas to vote on a tax increase!

I think it’s worth it. Here’s an explanation why, taken from this month’s DMagazine…

“With the news that Dallas ISD will ask voters to approve a tax hike in November, the most important election of my lifetime has somehow become even more so. On Friday, when it was announced that DISD trustees will soon discuss a 13-cent increase and the required Tax Ratification Election, or a TRE, the first reaction from a lot of people was: “Seriously?” The idea being that property taxes are already going up so much that the middle class feels like it’s being stretched pretty thin.

“You are, and that feeling is totally understandable. Which is why it’s so crucial that you understand three things:

1. The structure of this tax increase is very innovative, giving voters the opportunity to line-item their votes, and putting measures in place that will allow voters to sunset the tax increases in six years if student improvement metrics aren’t met.

2. Texas property taxes may be the fifth-highest in the nation, but your school district tax rate is shockingly low. Don’t conflate the two. It’s why the district needs money, and it’s why hundreds of districts around the state are asking for or preparing to ask for TREs themselves. More than half (28 of 55) of the area ISDs have recently passed TREs, and 24 of those approved the maximum $1.17 tax rate per $100 of value, which is the maximum allowed by state law. (For example, Frisco ISD is also asking for a 13-cent raise in its TRE vote next month.)

3. The money will be used to support high-quality pre-K, teacher pay, and early college programs. The benefits of each of these programs/initiatives is significant to students, parents, neighborhoods, and the city at large.”

Read more about it here

What do you think?

Stop the Debt Trap!

One of the areas of work that I’m most proud of is the work that I’ve been a part of is my work with CitySquare and our engagement with the Anti-Poverty Coalition of Greater Dallas in changing the conversation regarding payday and auto title lending. There were those who considered this work futile but it resulted in one of the toughest city ordinances regulating the industry, an ordinance that has been adopted by more than 30 cities throughout Texas. It is also work that has helped garner national attention, as members of the APC have testified before the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which is even as we speak, collecting testimony throughout the country on the negative impacts of this pernicious industry on families throughout the country.

You don’t have to have an actual experience with payday lending, positive or negative to give testimony. Perhaps they’re choking out other forms of economic development in your neighborhood. Maybe there’s crime associated with the properties. Maybe some are operating in violation of existing ordinances. Either way, we encourage you to add your voice to the chorus of those calling for federal regulation of an industry that sucks the life out of whole communities.

And, just in case you’re not sure what a payday or auto title loan is, here’s a video that I’m certain will be helpful…

Has the Texas’ State Board of Education, No Shame?

Think for a moment back to your childhood. You don’t know many people who don’t look like you. You don’t know about their background, what they eat at home, what their traditions are – how they celebrate Christmas, New Years or their birthdays – what you know, is what you are taught.

What if the sum total of what you are learn about those ‘others’ is learned in school. Here, you learn about their language, their families, their history. What you learn shapes how you will think about these ‘others’.

What if you learn from your text book you study that, Mexicans as “lazy” with a do-it-tomorrow attitude and read about a watered down version of slavery during the Civil War  or that,  the home ownership rate in the Mexican-American community is lower than the national average, but this is due to the substantial percentage of Mexican-born immigrants that form almost one-third of the Mexican-American population, many of whom are poor, under-educated, or illegal.

How do you look at your fellow classmates who are the ‘other’?

That’s what a the textbook, “Mexican American Heritage” says, and that’s what our children will be studying from if the Texas State Board of Education has its way. Texas will waste its money, on this pitiful text that, unless something is done soon, will become the books offered to our school districts throughout our state.

One of the few democrats on the TSBOE, Erika Beltran, pleaded with her colleagues, “I’m asking to pull on your heartstrings and putting (sic) yourself in the shoes of a Mexican-American student whose parents, like myself, whose parents have been hardworking,” she said as her voice quivered. “In just the excerpts that I’ve seen, I can’t imagine being a child and seeing that language in front of me. And so, as we prepare for this conversation, I just urge you to think about the kids in our public school system that we already, we all know, are mostly Hispanic students.” 

A little over half of the states 5 million students are Hispanics. Why would adults, intentionally visit shame and humiliation on even one of them? It’s clear that the main reason is a political ideology that does not even stop at the denigration of an entire race and culture, in order to feed an ill-conceived and erroneous sense of white superiority.

When you don’t understand a culture, its easy to stereotype and generalize. That should not be the case in education. It certainly shouldn’t be the case for those who are writing, and promoting text books. “The authors don’t even seem interested enough in the subject to know the difference between Mexican Americans and other Latino communities or the fact that their histories in this nation are completely different from each other,” said José María Herrera, an assistant professor in education at the University of Texas at El Paso.”

Whose actually being ‘lazy’?

Maybe the one’s who should feel shame are the book’s publisher, ‘Momentum Instruction’, and its head, former State Board of Education member Cynthia Dunbar…

What do you think?

 

 

 

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The Texas State Board of Education: It’s Time for Them to Stop

It’s one thing to allow your political ideology to color your perspective on current events. It’s quite another to let that ideology influence you to change historical facts.

Now let me be clear: all history knowledge and study is subject to change. The more we learn about history, the more we understand about certain eras, the influence of economic, societal and religious pressures upon a period and the actors in those historical periods, that knowledge does, at times, change facts. The importance of some people is elevated. The importance of others is diminished. We can grow in respect for some people and others we respect less. The resent ‘elevation’ of Harriet Tubman, to be the new face on our $20 bill, for instance, came about as our nation’s respect for her and her role in setting slaves free via the ‘Underground Railroad’. Tubman risked her life, to make sure that enslaved people made it to the north and freedom. At the same time, our view of Andrew Jackson, 7th President of the United States, was more than a little diminished as his role in the America’s genocidal battle against Native Americans, cast him in a much darker role in our country’s history.

But you can’t simply rewrite history to fit your own narrative of superiority. That’s wrong and dangerous.

Can someone please tell this to the Texas State Board of Education  – PLEASE?! They’re at it again!

“A proposed Mexican-American studies textbook for Texas high school students is written by authors with no expertise in Mexican-American studies, contains large sections that have little to do with Mexican-American history and includes language that depicts Mexicans as lazy, opponents of the book say.

“A newly formed coalition of educators and Mexican-American advocates has banded together to try to prevent the book, Mexican American Heritage, from ever making its way into Texas classrooms. The Texas State Board of Education is set to review the book this fall.”

Six years ago, in the previous blog I authored, ‘Change the Wind’, I wrote about these crazy right wing ideological shifts and the harm they would potentially do to our educational system, but to our children as well as the children of our nation. Because, most of don’t realize, Texas and California purchase the most text books, and because text books are only purchased every 10 years, a book full of lies, distortions and revisionist history, will be the books purchased by nearly every school district in the country.  Misinformation will color every child’s understanding of history, nearly a generation.

In the case of this latest education fiasco, depiction of ‘industrialists’ as hard-working, risk taking individuals and Mexican Americans as essentially ‘lazy’ is particularly harmful…

“The coalition pointed to a specific passage in the proposed textbook as an obvious example of the book’s flaws. Immediately after noting that Mexicans were stereotyped as being “lazy,” the authors “reinforce that stereotype in a discussion of relations between workers and American industrialists in Mexico in the late 1800s,” the coalition said. The group quoted from page 248 of the textbook:

“Industrialists were very driven, competitive men who were always on the clock and continually concerned about efficiency. They were used to their workers putting in a full day’s work, quietly and obediently, and respecting rules, authority, and property. In contrast, Mexican laborers were not reared to put in a full day’s work so vigorously. There was a cultural attitude of ‘mañana,’ or ‘tomorrow,’ when it came to high-gear production.”

The Texas State Board of Education is reviewing the proposed book and will consider public comments and feedback in September.”

Have these people lost their minds? Or do they think we have lost ours?

Clearly, the fact that the majority of students in Texas, in particular, are of Hispanic descent. If you teach them that their history in this country, is that of lazy, indolent ancestors who have contributed nothing to our history, heritage or economy, and that only white people were the ones ‘putting in a full day’s work, quietly and obediently…respecting the rules, authority, and property…’ their marred self-image, will produce pretty much the same thing. It will put them in the position of perpetual superiority in our country. It’s an institutionalization of hatred and bigotry that must not stand.

When the State Board of Education meets in September, the period for public comment should be taken up with hundreds of Texans who know better, in line in Austin to say, ‘No’!

We are the only ones who can stop Texas from becoming a laughingstock…and a stumbling block to public education…

 

 

 

CitySquare’s TRAC

From time to time, I want to highlight programs at CitySquare. Of course because I work there, but more than that, because the people that work there do absolutely amazing work!

One such program is Transition Resource Action Center or TRAC. It officially became a part of CitySquare’s family of programs shortly after my arrival in 2008 and has been one of our most effective and impactful resources, for kids who are aging out of foster care.

Here’s more…

“TRAC is the transition center for a 19 county area that includes Dallas and Tarrant County,” said Madeline Reedy, program director of TRAC. “There are 17 transition centers around Texas, but we are the only one in this region. With the support of CitySquare’s programs and services, we are a one-stop shop for youth to come and get the services they need to help them find their footing as they become an adult.”TRAC provides assistance to approximately 800 young people every year. TRAC’s programs include:

  • Life Skills Training – a 36-hour, experiential training program on six core elements for youths that are still in the foster care system
  • Case Management – coaching for ages 17½-21 as they transition out of foster care
  • Housing Programs
    • Short-term rental assistance
    • Transitional housing for homeless youths
    • Permanent housing for homeless disabled youths
  • Workforce Training – including assistance with job search and job retention
  • Crisis Intervention

“At TRAC, we use a coaching philosophy,” said Reedy. “We’re not caseworkers. A caseworker’s job is to manage tasks: to make sure the youth is doing what they are supposed to be doing. A coach’s job is to see where they are today and where they want to be in the future – and help them achieve their goals. That’s really what we’re hoping to do, to help coach youth to become successful in the future.”

“TRAC is the transition center for a 19 county area that includes Dallas and Tarrant County,” said Madeline Reedy, program director of TRAC. “There are 17 transition centers around Texas, but we are the only one in this region. With the support of CitySquare’s programs and services, we are a one-stop shop for youth to come and get the services they need to help them find their footing as they become an adult.”TRAC provides assistance to approximately 800 young people every year. TRAC’s programs include:

  • Life Skills Training – a 36-hour, experiential training program on six core elements for youths that are still in the foster care system
  • Case Management – coaching for ages 17½-21 as they transition out of foster care
  • Housing Programs
    • Short-term rental assistance
    • Transitional housing for homeless youths
    • Permanent housing for homeless disabled youths
  • Workforce Training – including assistance with job search and job retention
  • Crisis Intervention

“At TRAC, we use a coaching philosophy,” said Reedy. “We’re not caseworkers. A caseworker’s job is to manage tasks: to make sure the youth is doing what they are supposed to be doing. A coach’s job is to see where they are today and where they want to be in the future – and help them achieve their goals. That’s really what we’re hoping to do, to help coach youth to become successful in the future.”

“TRAC is the transition center for a 19 county area that includes Dallas and Tarrant County,” said Madeline Reedy, program director of TRAC. “There are 17 transition centers around Texas, but we are the only one in this region. With the support of CitySquare’s programs and services, we are a one-stop shop for youth to come and get the services they need to help them find their footing as they become an adult.”TRAC provides assistance to approximately 800 young people every year. TRAC’s programs include:

  • Life Skills Training – a 36-hour, experiential training program on six core elements for youths that are still in the foster care system
  • Case Management – coaching for ages 17½-21 as they transition out of foster care
  • Housing Programs
    • Short-term rental assistance
    • Transitional housing for homeless youths
    • Permanent housing for homeless disabled youths
  • Workforce Training – including assistance with job search and job retention
  • Crisis Intervention

“At TRAC, we use a coaching philosophy,” said Reedy. “We’re not caseworkers. A caseworker’s job is to manage tasks: to make sure the youth is doing what they are supposed to be doing. A coach’s job is to see where they are today and where they want to be in the future – and help them achieve their goals. That’s really what we’re hoping to do, to help coach youth to become successful in the future.”

Again, TRAC is one of our most amazing programs, with amazing caring people. Find out more about TRAC and its program director Madeline Reedy here and here

Join Us at CitySquare’s Urban Engagement Book Club

soda politicssoda politicsOn the third Thursday of each month, at CitySquare’s  Opportunity Center (1610 S. Malcolm X Blvd), our External Affairs Department sponsors the Urban Engagement Book Club. A noon time affair that includes lunch and conversation around a book of interest to primarily progressive individuals and supporters of CitySquare.

Randy Mayeux, gives an interesting and entertaining synopsis of selected books, complete with handouts of selected passages (which means it doesn’t matter whether you’ve read the book!) followed by a community conversation led by experts in the areas we discuss in the book.

Topics include, public policy, justice, the economy, history and culture.

This coming Thursday, July 21, (12 -1:15 pm) soda politicssoda politicswe will be discussing the book ‘Soda Politics’ by Marion Nestle, which looks at the politics related to the peculiar place of soft drinks in the politics of America, including the controversial attempt by New York City former Mayor Michael Bllto reduce the size of soft drinks sold in some fast food restaurants.

The video below is an interview with the author of the book.

I invite you all to be a part of this highly informative and interesting event and become informed about the policies that impact the lives of people we care about!

A Stubborn Hope

“These things have I spoken to you that in Me you might have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

John 6:33

These words spoke by the Jesus Christ, were meant to comfort His disciples during a challenging, confusing and painful time. His death was imminent, and that death, complete with all of the violence, humiliation and horror that attended all public executions would shock and horrify them all. He wanted to steady them, fortify them for the times to come. He wasn’t asking them to ‘not be afraid’ in the normal sense of the world, but He was instructing them to remember the Words He was speaking to them and find peace in them. Peace – not in the sense of the absence of fear, tension or dismay, but peace in the sense of settled conviction, born of anticipation of something greater than the horrifying ugliness of all they would witness and experience.

We who are Christians believe these words to be instructions in anticipation of the Resurrection of Christ from the dead. But there is a sense in which everyone – including those who may not be Christ believing, but who may be ‘peace believing’ – can be steadied by these same words.

We are living in horribly violent times. I’m writing these words as the nation is wrestling with the desire for justice, as it relates to the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, two black men shot to death by police officers in ways that have shocked and horrified the nation. Chants of ‘black lives matter’ are becoming controversial to some and a for others a call for others to recognize the precariousness, vulnerability and lack of regard for which they feel black lives have been thought of for nearly 450 years in this country.

In Dallas, the conflict between those two camps reached its nexus as five police officers, were killed. They were among 11 citizens shot when a madman fired upon a police officers protecting a black lives matter demonstration in downtown Dallas. We have been praying all week, there have been further demonstrations as well as outpourings of love and sympathy for the slain officers, their families and law enforcement officials that have poured into our city for more than a week now.

We are a city in search of healing and coming together. Yet it doesn’t mean that a national coming together. Do ‘black lives matter’? Or is it ‘blue lives’? Or is it ‘all lives’? Are black people just complaining – after all there has been all this progress made in the course of the past 50 years or so. And what about Sterling and Castile, both of whom were killed with weapons on them. In the case of Castile, a legally registered gun carrier in a ‘right to carry’ state. Castile, whose shooting was witnessed by his fiancé, in the car next to him, did everything the common sense and the officer told him to do. He told the officer that he had a license to carry and that there was a gun. He was shot to death as he reached for his wallet to produce his driver’s license. Does the state protected right to carry a weapon apply to blacks as well as whites?

We’d scarcely begun to ask these questions, let along find answers, as we found out this morning that three police officers were killed and three others injured in a shoot out in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the same city where Alton Sterling, laid to rest last week, was killed.

“In this world, you will have tribulation…”

If you notice precious little in the way of answers in this sermonic post, you’re right. They’re not here, because I don’t have any. I have participated in a number of different conversations on race, this past week. I’ve called for such conversations in the past. They are necessary. They are needed substantively and repeatedly. But I also know that talking is not enough. Action needs to be taken. Not just demonstrations and protests. But concrete policy actions. We need education, jobs for young minority youth. We need to pay law enforcement officers more money (it’s unconscionable that in a city like Dallas starting pay for officers is only $40,000 a year!). Reasonable starting salaries (at least $55,000) are a way of ensuring accountability. Police officers should also receive regular (at least every six to eight months) mental health screenings, and appropriate care where necessary and appropriate. These are men and women who see some of the ugliest that our society has to offer. Anger, depression, post traumatic shock are all a part of the job and they should receive the necessary mental health care that their stressful jobs call for.

But those aren’t answers per se. They are proposals. What we need are hearts that are willing to listen and care about one another. We’ve all seen it. We’ve all experienced it. We all have black and white friends who care deeply for each one of us. How can we spread that love in a way that others can see that and want it and duplicate it. The answer, for some of us, is salvation through Christ. But we also know of some Christians, who are just as bigoted as the racist non-believer.

The only ‘answer’ I have is hope. For me, that Hope is modeled by Christ, Who literally ‘overcame the world’: the world’s hatred; the world’s violence; the world’s racism; the world’s greed; the world’s suffering; the world’s self-righteousness…He overcame the World.

If you are not a religious person, you can still find that hope. Perhaps it’s in the lives of men like Victor Frankl who overcame the crushing cruelty of imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp; or Mahatma Gandhi, who’s transcendent spirit helped him overcome the bigotry, prejudice and hate institutionalized in the British Empire, conquer that empire and help his people achieve national independence; or maybe it is Nelson Mandela who resisted bitterness, even after 27 years of imprisonment on Robin’s Island and emerged to be supremely instrumental of breaking the yoke of imperialism for South Africa and became that nation’s first President.

I have hope in both God and man, that we can find a way out of this morass of hatred, violence and racism and together achieve a world of Love, Peace and Justice.

What do you think?