Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Arizona's New Laws: An Attempt to Secure Cheap Labor?

This is an excellent essay on the anti-labor motivations behind SB1070. It also conveys that attack on ethnic studies (HB 2281) aptly: "In order to maintain an environment that keeps big business safe and secure, Arizona's leaders understand that it is not enough to control contemporary labor markets; they must also control history. HB 2281 is part of a resurgence of white nationalism that wants to make sure that capitalism and the Confederacy are given their proper due in our nation's classrooms."

Of course the politics on Texas' State Board of Education reflect this very hostility and racial hatred and fear, as well.

I agree as well that while we desperately need immigration reform—including the passage of the Dream Act—"we also need to launch an all-out offensive against racism." Great piece.


Arizona's New Laws: An Attempt to Secure Cheap Labor?
By Paul Ortiz

Published in Truthout

[Paul Ortiz is an associate professor of history at the University of Florida. He is writing a book titled "Our Separate Struggles Are Really One: African American and Latino Histories," that will be published by Beacon Press.]

Why are there 40 million poor people in America? When you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I'm simply saying that more and more, we've got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life's market place. But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring….

-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., message to Southern Christian Leadership Council (1967).

In the debate surrounding Arizona's laws targeting immigrants and ethnic studies, we've heard very little mention of capitalism and its place in American politics. Senate Bill 1070 is an insurance policy for capitalism, a way to ensure that the cheap labor that serves the foundation of the new economy remains cheap forever. House Bill 2281 is part of a package deal. The erasure of ethnic studies courses that show how poor people have changed history - when they have organized - will allow the invention of a historical narrative as one sided as the old myths of the European Conquest. These bills are a gift from a steadily shrinking, white, ruling class to its own posterity and to any white workers and ethnic minorities willing to accept second-class citizenship in order to avoid something far worse. Unless we mobilize to defeat these measures, worse things are on the horizon. Our history proves it.

SB 1070 makes racial profiling the de facto law of the state, but police in Arizona or anywhere else for that matter do not need a law to continue feeding working-class people to the expanding prison industrial complex.(1) We need to listen carefully to Governor Brewer's rationale for this bill. She consulted closely with major business owners before signing the new law. "The bottom line is that when I go about meeting with businesses that come into Arizona," Brewer stated, "they want to know that we have a safe and secure environment into which to move their businesses here….They want to know that their employees are going to have a quality of life that they've had in the places where they're moving from to move here."(2)

Arizona, Is This America?

Arizona has a long record of robbing working people in order to provide a "safe and secure environment" for big business. The US conquest of northern Mexico resulted in a dual racial system with similarities to Jim Crow in the southeast.(3) In the copper mining camps of the Grand Canyon State, there were two wage scales in the early 20th century: a "white wage" and a "Mexican wage." In Arizona mines, the top wage for Mexicans was $2.50 per day; $4.00 for "Anglos."(4) Ninety-seven percent of the mine foremen in the copper mine camps were white. Pervasive wage differentials in the southwest gave white workers an incentive to maintain a separate-and-unequal economic system and served as the most visible wedge in the working class. One official exulted, "Mexicans came cheap by the dozen and could be bought for ten cents each."(5) Many Mexican-American miners became union activists in an effort to abolish this system.(6)

Armed vigilantes seized and deported 1,300 striking miners in Bisbee, Arizona, in 1917. Many of the workers were members of the Industrial Workers of the World, who envisioned a world without capitalism. Arizona also gave us the anti-labor crusader Barry Goldwater. Elected to the US Senate in 1953, Goldwater sought to extinguish the New Deal. He was an ardent foe of unions and warred against social welfare programs. After initially supporting civil rights, Goldwater embraced the GOP's "Southern Strategy" of wooing white voters away from the Democratic Party by using coded racial appeals to white masculinity.(7) On the advice of a Republican lawyer by the name of William Rehnquist, Senator Goldwater voted against the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.(8)

During Goldwater's first term, the federal government initiated "Operation Wetback" in Arizona and other southwestern states. Reprising the brutal racial repatriations of the 1930s, Federal agents seized and forcibly deported tens of thousands of Mexican-Americans from the state using what one critic calls a "mass deportation on the Soviet model."(9)

Many workers who were repatriated to Mexico were owed back wages by their employers.(10) White leaders have pined for a new Operation Wetback for years.(11) SB 1070 is their new Bill of Rights.

The defeat of the Copper Miners' Strike of 1983-1986 in Arizona was a devastating blow to the labor movement. The victory of the Phelps Dodge Corporation over the miners was made possible by massive state military force as well as infiltration of the unions by the Arizona State Criminal Intelligence Agency.(12) A strong organizing tradition of Mexican-American leadership in mining unionism was wiped out. In the midst of the struggle, a white strikebreaker responded to Mexican-American unionists by asserting: "I'd rather be rich than an ignorant fucking Mexican union-loving son of a bitch."(13) Dozens of union locals were crushed.

Arizona delivered Chief Justice William Rehnquist to the Supreme Court in 1971. Two decades earlier, as a clerk for Justice Robert H. Jackson, Rehnquist defended the Court's 1898 Plessy v. Ferguson decision that validated racial segregation. The young lawyer was also a leader in the Republican Party's "Operation Eagle Eye" in Arizona. According to retired State Senator Manuel Peña, this group deployed what Gregory Palast later called "voter harassment teams" who tried to prevent African-Americans and Chicanos from voting in Phoenix during the 1962 elections.(14) Rehnquist's generation of reactionary Republicans, (to borrow a phrase from A. Phillip Randolph) viewed African-American and Latina/o voting as dangerous and disruptive of white business supremacy.
Among its many anti-labor rulings, the Rehnquist Court ruled in Hoffman Plastic Compounds v. NLRB (2002) that "….a worker who is undocumented could not recover the remedy of back pay under the National Labor Relations Act." How convenient for the bosses!(15) Arizona - and the entire country - is continuously becoming more "safe and secure" for employers and more unsafe for workers who want to get paid for their work, nurture their families and develop their capacities to the fullest.

Actually Existing Capitalism

Latina/o workers have been in the forefront of new labor organizing.(16) This has not escaped the attention of employers and the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has carried out so-called "immigration raids" in Iowa, North Carolina and other states targeting workplaces where Latinos were trying to organize unions.(17) These raids are ostensibly carried out to enforce immigration laws. Anyone with common sense knows otherwise. "If anything," David Bacon writes, "ICE seems intent on punishing undocumented workers who earn too much, or who become too visible by demanding higher wages and organizing unions."(18)

Arizona's SB 1070 is capitalism's latest salvo against the American working class.

One of my UC-Santa Cruz students, Marisa Verónica Espinosa, wrote a senior thesis in 2005 titled "Capitalism at Work: A Contemporary Look at Mexican Immigration to the United States." In this brilliant essay, Ms. Espinosa showed that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was forcing tens of thousands of Mexican farmers off of the land on terms wildly advantageous to US businesses. She argued that "The capitalist tendency to displace people and force them into migration is not recognized in public policy."(19) Drawing on the work of Jorge Bustamante, Espinosa continued, "Instead, the United States exerts its 'right' as a nation-state to police its borders from 'unwanted' but necessary foreigners. Of course, this occurs because it 'has the function of producing savings for the US economy.'" Espinosa demonstrated that the increasing militarization of the US-Mexico border had the effect of terrorizing many Mexican workers into silence and that "…the goal of these operations has been to satisfy the desires of a nativist electorate and big business." Chalk up another victory for capital.(20)

A generation of propagandists claimed that capitalism emancipates the poor as long as the state stays out of the way. Espinosa's thesis proves otherwise. She quotes a 1926 Congressional hearing on immigration that illuminated how capitalism really works:

Mr. Chairman, here is the problem in a nutshell. Farming is not a profitable industry in this country and in order to make money out of this, you have to have cheap labor…[I]n order to allow land owners to make a profit on their farms, they want to get the cheapest labor they can find and if they can get the Mexican labor it enables them to make a profit. That is the way it is along the border and I imagine that is the way it is anywhere else."(21)

Decades later, Jorge Bustamante observes that social conditions for migrant workers in the border states have declined even as NAFTA-fueled agribusiness has thrived.(22)


SB 1070 is not only an anti-immigrant bill, it is an anti-labor bill designed to scare a portion of the American working class into accepting their lot. It criminalizes the Latina/o working class the way that Jim Crow criminalized the African-American working class in the South. Segregation, like slavery is a labor system. It is designed to extract wealth from one portion of society in order to distribute it - unequally - to the rest of the nation.(23) Insightful African-American leaders are making this connection. "To my ... black brothers and sisters that think this is not your fight," Rev. Al Sharpton recently said, "Let me tell you something, after dark, we all look Mexican right now."(24) At the 2010 May Day Immigration Rally in Washington, DC, Rev. Jesse Jackson compared Arizona today with Selma in 1965 and urged a boycott of the state.(25) Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-California), calls SB 1070 a "national disgrace" and argues that it "It harkens back to the era of Jim Crow or apartheid in South Africa."(26)

Representative Lee is absolutely correct. SB 1070 will help to sustain the Jim Crow style racism that Latino workers face nationally. A survey of recent United States Equal Employment Commission (EEOC) cases demonstrates that sexual and national origin discrimination against Latina/o workers is a pervasive problem. The EEOC recently filed suit against Sizzler Restaurants "for the explicitly targeted harassment of Mexican women by non-Mexican men. Latinas were targeted as 'Mexican bitches only good for sex,' physically and verbally harassed and told 'go back where you come from if you don't like it.'" Latina workers at an Arizona firm were fired after they reported being subjected to discrimination and intrusive body searches.(27)

An analysis of the EEOC cases reveals Latina/o workers are often paid lower wages than their white peers for doing the same work regardless of educational attainment. This confirms contemporary findings of wage discrimination in the scholarly literature on race and wage inequality.(28) A recent survey of labor market studies demonstrates that Latina/o workers "earn lower wages and/or experience higher unemployment than similarly qualified White workers and [they] attribute some portion of the differential (10%-50% of the White-Latino wage gap, equal to about 4%-16% of Hispanic wages) to employment discrimination."(29)

Racial injustice continues to be a major barrier to Latina/o progress. We need immigration reform. However, we also need to launch an all-out offensive against racism. What other than racism explains the slander spread on cable television stations about what Latinos do in the United States? We need more truth tellers. "In case you don't know what immigrants do in this country," Barbara Ehrenreich observes, "the Latinos have a word for it - trabajo. They've been mowing the lawns, cleaning the offices, hammering the nails and picking the tomatoes, not to mention all that dish-washing, diaper-changing, meat-packing and poultry-plucking."(30)
Barriers to Unionization
Comprehensive immigration reform will not improve the lives of America's working people unless workers regain the right to collective bargaining. Recent reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch show that US workers - particularly Latino workers - who try to organize face severe corporate and state hostility. The obstacles that workers faced in their decade-long quest to organize Smithfield Foods in North Carolina show why few workers are able to form unions in the United States. Employees testified that pro-union employees were harassed and fired while management tried to convince Latino workers that African-Americans were organizing to steal their jobs. One former manager of the firm admitted to Amnesty International that "We were told to fire anyone who advocated for the union." According to the manager, a company lawyer instructed her to deal proactively with a union-inclined employee under her supervision: "Fire the bitch. I'll beat anything she or they throw at me in court."(31)
Local government officials assisted the firm by distributing anti-union propaganda at the workplace. Investigators responded to workers' safety complaints by haranguing them about their union sympathies. The federal government later targeted the firm for a raid on suspected illegal immigrants. Union activist Julio Vargas affirms that Latino and African-American workers believed that the government raided their plant "because people were getting organized."(32) Human Rights Watch concludes "that freedom of association is a right under severe, often buckling pressure when workers in the United States try to exercise it."(33)

House Bill 2281

In order to maintain an environment that keeps big business safe and secure, Arizona's leaders understand that it is not enough to control contemporary labor markets; they must also control history. HB 2281 is part of a resurgence of white nationalism that wants to make sure that capitalism and the Confederacy are given their proper due in our nation's classrooms.(34) (After all, the antebellum slave owners were possibly the most successful capitalists in history!) If students in Arizona have access to stories of labor and civil rights movements, they would learn critical lessons about how to create social change. They would also learn that many of the contemporary social problems they face are the result of centuries of institutional discrimination. Progressive social history taught by scholars such as Ernesto Galarza, Elizabeth Martinez, Rudy Acuña and others teach us that racism, segregation and anti-immigrant politics feed a very profitable system of exploitation where the few live off of the labors of the many. They also teach us through historical case studies how to end this cycle of victimization.(35)

Sociologist Oliver Cromwell Cox noted, "The capitalist exploitation of colored workers, it should be observed, consigns them to employments and treatment that is humanly degrading. In order to justify this treatment the exploiters must argue that the workers are innately degraded and degenerate, consequently they naturally merit their condition."(36)

The target of House Bill 2281 is any courses that "….are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group…[or] advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals."(37) In other words, students will be taught that they are isolated individuals without recourse to broader networks of solidarity. According to Governor Brewer's spokesperson, "The governor believes ... public school students should be taught to treat and value each other as individuals and not be taught to resent or hate other races or classes of people." Because many episodes of human rights struggle involved fighting racial and class oppression of one kind or the other, these must not be taught.

HB 2281 means that Arizona students will not learn about the rise of the United Farm Workers nor will they be allowed to study the histories of the Western Federation of Miners or the Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers' Union in Arizona. These organizations taught that unbridled capitalism was not going to solve the problems of the working class. It is fine for scholars to publish articles about these organizations in academic journals, but state educational officials are fighting harder than ever to keep Chicano studies and narratives of resistance out of the high school classroom. The Texas Board of Education is replacing UFW co-founder Dolores Huerta in favor of "conservative hero" Phyllis Schlafly in forthcoming textbooks.(38)

House Bill 2281 is designed to ensure that the status quo remains unquestioned.(39)

The Way Forward

On May 1, 2006 - International Workers' Day - Latina/o workers initiated the largest work stoppage in the history of the Americas. Migrant laborers, Nuyoricans, Chicana/os, Afrocubanos, Guatemaltecos and immigrants from every continent on earth united in protest of immigration restriction measures that threatened their families, their livelihoods and their dignity. Hundreds of thousands of Latina/o workers and their allies sought to end the cycle of isolation and alienation from the broader society which has left them vulnerable to exploitation. The protests were marked by a profound sense of urgency.
Latino workers used International Workers' Day to prove that their labor power is an integral part of the New Economy. Indeed, several days in advance of the gigantic protest dubbed as "A Day Without Immigrants," corporations such as Cargill Inc., Tyson Foods and the Seaboard Corporation announced that they would be closing due to a lack of personnel.(40) On the West Coast, entire fast food chains were forced to shut down as truck drivers refused to deliver supplies. The US working class has not exerted this kind of power in decades.
Latina/o marchers expressed a democratic vision of an economy where labor is the source of all wealth instead of being a pitiful captive to capital and paternalistic employers. Nursing home worker Corina Payan, who participated in the Denver march, explained, "I know that without us, they're not going to be able to do anything. They're not going to go out in the field and clean the bathrooms or anything…Everywhere you go, Wal-Mart, anything, all you see are Hispanic people filling their carts to the top….We're the ones making them money."(41)
SB1070 is part of a larger effort to crush the nascent Latina/o social movement that has formed the base of the May Day protests. The measure is part of a national trend to steal our rights and to keep us powerless in our workplaces and neighborhoods. HB2281 is designed to enforce a historical amnesia upon younger Americans and to teach them that any problem they may have will be magically solved by the free enterprise system. Never mind organizing for mutual interests. Leave that to the National Association of Manufacturers.
We must support the students, workers and reformers fighting SB1070 and HB 2281. Our future hangs in the balance. If we value a society where human rights are defended, we must act now. Today, the focus is rightly on Arizona. However, we must understand that Arizona is only one part of the problem. Unless we democratize American workplaces, even comprehensive immigration reform will not improve the lives of millions of workers.
Marisa Espinosa's senior thesis serves as a starting point for understanding this crisis, especially her insight that "The capitalist tendency to displace people and force them into migration is not recognized in public policy." Until we grasp what Espinosa is telling us we cannot solve the immigration problem. Workers' rights must be at the foundation of all US trade policies. NAFTA needs a massive overhaul or revocation if it continues to push Mexican farmers to the wall. In the US we need to reconsider the relationship among capitalism, public policy and immigration. For example, Social Security, Workers' Compensation and Unemployment Security implicitly recognize that the free market creates a number of harmful conditions at critical points in human life that must be mitigated by the state. Capitalism also has harmful effects on migrants, but where are the social programs to ameliorate their plight?
Along with assertively stating that "No human being is illegal," we must add the cry "Capitalism needs Perestroika." A system that impoverishes people and imposes harsh public measures to preserve itself, needs to be rethought.(42)
We need to deepen our commitment to grassroots organizing, and we need to listen to the workers who are carrying our rickety economic system on their shoulders. Their voices are missing in the current debate and that is a fatal oversight. As María Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, reminds us:
The most dramatic social changes of the past did not happen because a few politicians and rich people took pity on black people or workers. It did not happen in Congress, or in the White House. It happened in the streets - churches, unions and workplaces. And it needs to happen there again. We must build a movement with thousands of leaders and millions of supporters that can pressure elected and corporations to do the right thing. When we build a movement of the working poor, we will have the power to end poverty.(43)
1. Jon Swartz, "Inmates vs. Outsourcing," USA Today, July 6, 2004; Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis and Opposition in Globalizing California (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006); Robert Perkinson, Texas Tough: The Rise of America's Prison Empire (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2010); Critical Resistance at:
2. "New Immigration Law Won't Hurt Economy, Arizona Governor Says," CNN.Com, April 26, 2010.
3. I discuss the impact of the Mexican-American War on Latina/o workers in: "¡Si, Se Puede! Revisited: Latino/a Workers in the United States," in Social Work Practice with Latinos, Eds., Richard Furman & Nalini Negi (Chicago: Lyceum Books, 2010), 45-66.
4. Los Mineros. (The American Experience), Dir. Hector Galan. Writer, Paul Espinosa. Perfs. Luis Valdez. PBS. 1992; Katherine Benton-Cohen, "Docile Children and Dangerous Revolutionaries: The Racial Hierarchy of Manliness and the Bisbee Deportation of 1917." Frontiers: A Journal of Women's Studies, (2003, June-September) 24.2-3, 30-50.

5. Carlos M. Larralde and Richard Griswold del Castillo, "Luisa Moreno and the Beginnings of the
Mexican-American Civil Rights Movement in San Diego," The Journal of San Diego History, Volume 43, Number 3 (Summer 1997).
6. Zaragosa Vargas, Labor Rights Are Civil Rights: Mexican-American Workers in Twentieth-Century America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005), 220-223.
7. Laura Jane Gifford, "Dixie is no longer in the bag": South Carolina Republicans and the Election of 1960,"
Journal of Policy History, Vol. 19, No. 2, (2007), 207-233.
8. John W. Dean, The Rehnquist Choice: The Untold Story of the Nixon Appointment That Redefined the
Supreme Court (New York: The Free Press, 2001), 129.
9. Pierre Tristam, "'Operation Wetback': Illegal Immigration's Golden-Crisp Myth," Daytona Beach News-Journal, April 5, 2007. For the forced reparations of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans to Mexico in the 1930s, see: Francisco E. Balderrama and Raymond Rodríguez, Decade of Betrayal: Mexican Repatriation in the 1930s (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2006)
10. "Owed Back Pay, Guest Workers Comb the Past," The New York Times, November 23, 2008.
11. John Dillin, "How Eisenhower Solved Illegal Border Crossings from Mexico," The Christian Science Monitor, July 6, 2006.
12. Jonathan Rosenblum, "Union Busting: How Arizona's 'CIA' Helped Phelps Dodge Destroy The Unions," The Tucson Weekly, June 29, 1995, (Accessed May 22, 2010)
13. Barbara Kingsolver, Holding the Line: Women in the Great Arizona Mine Strike of 1983 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press), 113.
14. "Panel Hears Conflicting Voter Challenge Testimony," Times-News (Hendersonville, NC), August 2, 1986; Gregory Palast, Armed Madhouse, 10th Plume Printing p. 261; Laura Flanders, "A Racist Elephant," Common, December 13, 2000. (Accessed May 22, 2010.); Alan Dershowitz, Telling the Truth About Chief Justice Rehnquist," The Huffington Post, May 20, 2010. (Accessed May 20, 2010); John W. Dean, The Rehnquist Choice (New York: Free Press, 2002).
15. Amy Sugimori, Rebecca Smith, et. al., "Assessing the Impact of the Supreme Court's Decision in Hoffman Plastic Compounds v. NLRB on Immigrant Workers and Recent Developments," National Immigration Law Center, n.d.
16. John Trumpbour and Elaine Bernard, "Unions and Latinos: Mutual Transformation," in Latinos: Remaking America, ed., Marcelo M. Suárez-Orozco and Mariela M. Páez (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009), 126-145.
17. "Immigration Raid Breaks Up Organizing Drive at Iowa Meatpacking Plant," Labor Notes, August 26, 2008.
18. David Bacon, "Mass Firings, The New Face of Immigration Raids," The Progressive (December 2009/January 2010).
19. Marisa Verónica Espinosa, "Capitalism at Work: A Contemporary Look at Mexican Immigration to the United States," Undergraduate Thesis, UC-Santa Cruz (2005), 33. See Jorge A. Bustamante's important essay, "Mexico-United States Labor Migration Flows, " International Migration Review, Vol. 31, No. 4., Special Issue: Immigrant Adaptation and Native-Born Responses in the Making of Americans (Winter, 1997), 1112-1121.
20. Espinosa, 5. A powerful analysis of the continuing devastation wrought by NAFTA is found in: John Ross, "The Feminization of Mexican Agriculture,", May 19, 2010 (Accessed May 21, 2010).
21. Espinosa, 32.
22. Jorge A. Bustamante, "Mexican-United States Labor Migration Flows," 1116.
23. Paul Ortiz, "Before the CIO: Segregation and Black Labor Struggles," Against the Current, (January/February 2009).
24. "Al Sharpton Wears 'Los Suns' Jersey During March to Arizona Capitol Protesting SB 1070," Phoenix New Times Blogs, May 6, 2010 (Accessed May 22, 2010)
25. "Immigration Advocates Rally for Change," The New York Times, May 1, 2010.
26. " Dems: Ariz. Law Like Jim Crow, apartheid," Politico, April 28, 2010. (Accessed May 15, 2010).
27. US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. EEOC Settles Suit Against Arizona Company for $3.5 Million on Behalf of Low-Wage Workers. August 8, 2001; EEOC, Central Casino to Pay $1.5 Million in EEOC Settlement for National Origin Bias. July 18, 2003) EEOC, "EEOC Settles Lawsuit on Behalf of Hispanic Employees," April 12, 2006; EEOC, Statement of William R. Tamayo, February 28, 2007. See also: "Life Under Siege: Life for Low-Income Latinos in the South," Southern Poverty Law Center (April 2009).
28. Daley M. Camoy and Ojeda R. Hinojosa, Latinos in a Changing US Economy: Comparative Perspectives in the Labor Market Since 1939. Inter-University Program for Latino Research, New York: Research Foundation of the City University of New York, 1990; Edwin Melendez, Clara Rodriguez and Janis Barry Figueroa, eds., Hispanics in the Labor Force: Issues and Policies (New York: Plenum Press, 1991).
29. Raul Yzaguirre and Charles Kamasaki, "Comment on The Latino Civil Rights Crisis: A Research Conference," The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles, University of California, Los Angeles (2007), Retrieved October 9, 2007 from
30. Barbara Ehrenreich, "What America Owes its 'Illegals,'" The Nation. Org. ( (Accessed, June 13, 2007).
31. Kristal Brent Zook, "Hog-Tied: Battling It Out (Again) At Smithfield Foods," Amnesty International Magazine (Winter 2003), (Accessed June 4, 2007).
32. David Bacon, "Feds Crack Down on Immigrant Labor Organizers," The American Prospect Online, May 11, 2007, (Accessed June 5, 2007).
33. Human Rights Watch, "Unfair Advantage: Workers' Freedom of Association in the United States under International Human Rights Standards," (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2000), 141-142.
34. "Texas School Board Hears from Critics of Social Studies Changes," The Washington Post, May 21, 2010.
35. Critical work in Chicano and Latino Studies include: Ernesto Galarza, Spiders in the House & Workers in the Field (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1970); Carey McWilliams, Factories in the Field: The Story of Migratory Farm Labor in California (originally published, 1935; Santa Barbara: Peregrine Publishers, Inc., 1971); Rodolfo Acuna, Occupied America: A History of Chicanos (New York : Harper & Row, 1988); Elizabeth Martinez, De Colores Means All of Us: Latina Views for a Multi-Colored Century (South End Press, 1999); Vicki Ruiz, From Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth-Century America (Oxford University Press, 2008); Carlos Muñoz, Youth, Identity, Power: The Chicano Movement (London: Verso, 1989); David Gutiérrez, Walls and Mirrors: Mexican-Americans, Mexican Immigrants and the Politics of Ethnicity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995).
36. Oliver C. Cox, Race: A Study in Social Dynamics. New Introduction by Adolph Reed Jr. (Monthly Review Press, 2000), 19.
37. "Arizona Gov. Signs Bill Targeting Ethnic Studies," Yahoo News, May 12, 2010. (Accessed, May 20, 2010)
38. Lauri Lebo, "Texas Textbook Massacre," Religion, April 27, 2010 (Accessed, May 20, 2010).
39. Bill Bigelow, "Those Awful Texas Social Studies Standards. And What About Yours?"
May 22, 2010 (Accessed, May 23, 2010); Christine E. Sleeter, "Standardizing Imperalism," Rethinking Schools, Volume 19, (Fall 2004). (Accessed, May 23, 2010).
40. Immigrants Take to US Streets in Show of Strength," The New York Times, May 2, 2006; "US Latinos expect a momentous May Day," The Star-Ledger (Newark, New Jersey), April 28, 2006.
41. "Prompted By Anger, A Colorado Immigrant Marches for Principle," The Associated Press (Denver), May 2, 2006
42. Mikhail Gorbachev, "Capitalism in Crisis," The Guardian, October 30, 2009.
43. María Elena Durazo, "Living Wage for All: A Plan for a New Living Wage Movement," The Burning Bush: A Publication of the Center for the Working Poor. (Accessed May 1, 2010).

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Don't Call It Racism: The Tyranny of Words

Dr. Rudy Acuña has been a national leader in addressing racism and xenophobia in Arizona.

Along these lines, check out this really cool youtube video on Arizona titled, "Are We a Nation?" sung by Sweet Honey in the Rock.


Rough Draft

Don't Call It Racism: The Tyranny of Words


Rodolfo F. Acuña

In Arizona and elsewhere in the country, xenophobes react negatively to the word racism, not so much that they deny its meaning, but that it does not apply to them. They accuse the accusers of trying to raise a smoke cloud. Xenophobes even quote Martin Luther King's "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." For validation, some claim to have walked with King that day.

Reporters advised me that I should not call the racists, racists, and try to educate them instead. However, there is a point that people do not want to listen, for if they admit that they are racist that would mean that they would have to change their behavior and support a rational policies that would bring about a civil society.

I have been an educator for just over fifty-five years, and I recognize the difference between the classroom and reality. Students explore ideas and, as they should, they ask inane questions-that is learning and I have a duty to answer them. However, there is a point when people want to take you for a fool. Show you up. I remember when I first got to Northridge in 1969, I walked into the faculty cafeteria, and a historian called me over, and in front of his gaggle of friends told me he had a question for me. Smugly he asked, "The Jews, the Irish and the Italians have made it, what is wrong with the Mexicans and the blacks?"

I quietly began to walk away, and he repeated the question more emphatically, as if I did not know the answer, insisting that I respond. I slowly turned to him and said that I was going to go out and bury one of the peas on my plate that represented his brain and then urinate on it, perhaps it would germinate it.

People say that I was caustic, unprofessional, that it was a simple question. However, this was not a student; he was a PhD, a historian. In 1955, I bought my first home for $8500, no money down, qualifying on a janitor's salary. Would it be fair, reasonable, to turn around to any working class 22-year old and ask him today whether they owned their own home? If they did not, are they dead beats? You expect a certain amount of critical thought from your peers.

The truth be told, we think and speak in sound bites. We react and most of our questions are meant to justify what we think we know. We cannot criticize the United States but hate the government. We do not vote out of self-interest as much as to justify our biases or dare I call it racism. Workers in Ohio vote Republican because they hate gays and rationalize that they are protecting the sanctity of the family.

Not wanting to offend so-called Arizonans, many of whom have recently migrated to the state, I will not call their attitude toward Mexican and Latino immigrants racist but irrational and contrary to their interests. Any historian will tell you that the three "C's" that build Arizona were climate, copper and crops. However, they forget to add federal subsidies and Mexican labor. They are the machine that has kept the state going-Mexican labor built copper mining and agriculture-without it Arizona would not be what it is today.

This probably does not mean much to the snowbirds and the other white refugees from other states. However, out of self-interest they should know about the the contributions of the Mexicans.

My cousin Oscar died decade ago-he was a paraplegic-a drunken 23-year old white lady hit my cousin's car as he was driving home from bingo. Oscar was assimilated. He believed in the American Dream-called himself Ozzie. He was proud of his Mexican heritage and voted Democratic-otherwise he probably would have been a heretic in our family. However, now this athletic man was shunted from nursing home to nursing home-warehoused until he died. In one of my many visits, Oscar told me that the only thing that made life bearable was the Mexican cleaning ladies and aides. Paid often below a minimum wage, they were always smiling and singing. They had that soft edge that is so distinctive to Mexican women.

A lot of the snowbirds and retirees are one step away from these nursing homes-and there are not hoards of white people standing in line for these jobs.

Mexican birth rates have declined from nearly 3 percent annually in the late 1990s, to 2.31 percent in 2010 and the assumption is that fertility will level off and will stabilize at 1.85 children per woman by 2050. Given the proper support and job creation instead of "irrational" U.S. policies, Mexico has the potential of being a job producing country. But if that happened, who would pick the crops in 120 degree heat? Who would take care of the aging American population?

No matter what you want to call what is happening in Arizona, i.e., opportunistic, irrational behavior or racist, it amounts to the same thing. People gotten killed and race relations have been setback 50 years. These "irrational" people are presumably adults who, according to their mythology, have had every opportunity to succeed.
Mexicans and other brown skinned people are not taking anything away from them.

There are varying degrees of racism. Certainly, more than anything else, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and John McCain are opportunists-they know better-but they want to get elected at any price.
Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne are a combination of opportunist and racist.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Phoenix is a racist; he knowingly lies and acts out sadism. The Tea Baggers are just part of the mob-they are swayed by the emotions of the moment. The lesser degrees are represented by the historian, who asked me, why haven't the Mexicans made it?

It took my cousin Oscar a long time to love himself and those ladies who cared for him in his last moments. Oscar is representative of many Mexican Americans and Latinos who go along with the mob.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Graduation rate for US high-schoolers falls for second straight year

Graduation rate for US high-schoolers falls for second straight year

The graduation rate was 68.8 percent in 2007, according to a new study. But the report also identifies 21 big-city 'overachievers' that posted higher-than-expected graduation rates.

Graduate Danielle Post humorously displays the good grammar and excellent writing skills she learned all through school on her mortar board as she sits with other graduates during Lake Weir High School graduation in Ocala, Fla. on Wednesday. Ms. Post is in shrinking company: The US high-school graduation rate has declined for the second year in a row.
Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Star-Banner/AP

By Stacy Teicher Khadaroo, Staff writer / June 10, 2010

The national high school graduation rate has slipped in recent years, despite an array of public and private efforts to boost the percentage of students going on to college. But some districts are beating the odds, succeeding with many students who otherwise may have fallen through the cracks.

The percent of students earning a standard diploma in four years shifted from 69.2 percent in 2006 to 68.8 percent in 2007, according to an analysis of the most recent data in “Diplomas Count 2010.” It was the second consecutive year of decline, says the report, which was released Thursday by Education Week and the Editorial Projects in Education (EPE) Research Center, a nonprofit in Bethesda, Md.

That translates to 11,000 fewer graduates in 2007 than in 2006. At its peak in 1969, the national graduation rate was 77 percent.

“The progress on graduation rates has stalled.... We need to ramp up efforts on ... holding schools accountable and [promoting] interventions that will actually address the problem,” says Lyndsay Pinkus, director of strategic initiatives at the Alliance for Excellent Education, a Washington policy group that promotes high school reform.

On the more hopeful side, the report identifies 21 big-city “overachievers” that posted much higher graduation rates than would be expected based on a range of factors including demographics and poverty. Five such districts outpaced expectations by 18 percentage points or more: Newport-Mesa Unified in California; David Douglas in Portland, Ore.; Texarkana Independent in Texas; Memphis City in Tennessee; and Visalia Unified in California.

At Newport-Mesa, 86 percent graduated within four years, compared with the 57 percent that researchers calculated for the “expected” graduation rate. The district’s 22,000 students cover the gamut of socioeconomic backgrounds in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa. About 40 percent are Latino.

“When the school board hired me four years ago ... they said, ‘We don’t want to lose one single student,’ ” says Newport-Mesa superintendent Jeffrey Hubbard. “Students who are struggling in our comprehensive high schools have other alternatives,” he says, including hands-on classes at community colleges, where they can simultaneously work toward an associate’s degree.

Another reason Mr. Hubbard says graduation rates have improved: a collaborative approach to student progress. “We ask ourselves ... what do students need to learn ... and how do we respond if they’re not? [We] really look at whether kids are getting it,” he says.

“Diplomas Count” comp

Jump in college enrollment highest in 40 years

Jump in college enrollment highest in 40 years
Hispanics comprise 12% of students vs. 16% of population
By HOPE YEN Associated Press
June 16, 2010, 12:41PM

WASHINGTON — The nation’s colleges are attracting record numbers of new students as more Hispanics finish high school and young adults opt to pursue a higher education rather than languish in a weak job market.

A study released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center highlights the growing diversity in higher education amid debate over the role of race in college admissions and controversy over Arizona’s new ban on ethnic studies in public schools.

Newly released government figures show that freshman enrollment surged 6 percent in 2008 to a record 2.6 million, mostly due to rising minority enrollment. That is the highest increase since 1968 during the height of the Vietnam War, when young adults who attended college could avoid the military draft.

Almost three-quarters of the freshman increases in 2008 were minorities, of which the largest share was Hispanics.
The enrollment increases were clustered mostly at community colleges, trade schools, and large public universities, which tend to have more open admissions policies and charge less tuition. Still, the gains in minorities were seen at almost all levels of higher education, with white enrollment dipping to 53 percent at community colleges and 62 percent at four-year colleges.
Preliminary government data show freshman college enrollment continued rising in 2009 to fresh highs, but demographic breakdowns were not yet available.

“The nation is moving beyond whether minorities have access to post-secondary education,” said Richard Fry, a senior researcher at Pew who wrote the report. “The question increasingly is not ‘which youth go beyond high school?’ but ‘who goes where?’”

What's up with Oklahoma?

California, the District of Columbia, Arizona, Alabama and Nevada had the largest freshman enrollment increases in 2008, with gains ranging from 11 percent to 21 percent. States registering declines included Minnesota, Nebraska, Delaware and Oklahoma, which dropped as much as 5 percent.

Demographers say much of the college enrollment gains reflect the nation’s rapidly changing demographics, in which 43 percent of all students in K-12 are now minority. But the recession, too, is adding to the increases as more high school graduates — primarily Hispanics — enroll immediately in college rather than take their chances in the labor force.

Among the findings:

• Freshman enrollment of Hispanics in higher education jumped by 15 percent in 2008, compared to 8 percent for blacks, 6 percent for Asians and 3 percent for whites.

• The share of 18- to 24-year-olds who earned a high school diploma reached an all-time high of 85 percent, up from 84 percent in 2007. Among Asians, the number was 92 percent, whites 90 percent, blacks 79 percent and Hispanics 70 percent.
• Colleges showing the largest freshmen increases included Fresno City College in California, jumping 448 percent to 2,998 students; Arizona State University, rising 21 percent to 8,458; and American Public University System in West Virginia, increasing 332 percent to 121 students.

The race debate
The findings add to the burgeoning debate over the role of race in America amid a steady rise in the minority population that is expected to make them the new American majority by mid-century. In Arizona, Gov. Jan Brewer last month signed a measure banning ethnic studies courses in public schools if they serve to promote racial solidarity or are designed primarily for students of a particular race.

Several minority groups have praised Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, who as solicitor general authorized the filing of a brief by the Justice Department defending the constitutionality of the University of Texas’ affirmative action program that considers race in undergraduate admissions. The case, still pending, is expected to be appealed to the Supreme Court.
Fry noted that minority enrollment appeared to be concentrated in the “basic tiers” of higher education, such as community colleges and trade schools. It is not clear whether gains occurred in more selective four-year colleges, which often use affirmative action to promote diversity.

In addition, while Hispanics have seen recent gains in college enrollment, they still lag overall. Hispanics make up roughly 12 percent of full-time undergraduate and graduate students, compared to their 16 percent representation in the total U.S. population.

“These findings are only half reassuring,” Fry said. “Many Hispanic teens still are not graduating high school, and the high school gains may not be sustained when the teen labor market revives. It also remains to be seen how many of these additional minority freshmen will actually complete degrees.”

Pew, an independent research group, based its findings on 2008 data from the Census Bureau and the Education Department. The figures for “white” refer to those whites who are not of Hispanic ethnicity.

Striving for Educational Equity

Striving for Educational Equity
June 18, 2010

WASHINGTON -- Six years after they were first published, the data that
Anthony Carnevale and Stephen J. Rose produced showing that students
from the lowest socioeconomic quartile of Americans were 25 times less
likely than wealthy Americans to enroll in the most selective colleges
have helped to reshape public policy around higher education. In
addition to building the case for more federal and state financial
support for students from low-income backgrounds, the numbers also
helped prompt a group of highly selective public and private
institutions to alter their admissions and financial aid policies and
practices to focus more on low-income students.

One of those programs, the University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill's Carolina Covenant program, was celebrated Thursday at an event
here at which the Century Foundation released a followup to the 2004
book -- America's Untapped Resource: Low-Income Students in Higher
Education -- in which Carnevale's and Rose's original analysis appeared.

The new book, Rewarding Strivers: Helping Low-Income Students Succeed
in College, includes one chapter on the Carolina Covenant, describing
the progress that one highly selective university has made in
transforming itself. As described by Edward B. Fiske, the program's
initial results, in terms of low-income students' access to and
success at North Carolina, are promising.

But that upbeat assessment is more or less overwhelmed by the book's
new analysis from Carnevale, this time co-written with Jeff Strohl,
who works with the economist at Georgetown University's Center on
Education and the Workforce. Their contribution to the volume edited
by Century's Richard D. Kahlenberg argues that social, racial and
ethnic stratification in higher education has actually increased in
recent years, despite the fledgling efforts by the most elite colleges.

That's in large part because in the last decade and a half, more
colleges have ramped up their selectivity, driven by "check-writing
parents sending their kids to test-prep programs chasing selective
colleges that become selective by raising test score requirements and
investing mightily in their faculty and equipment," Carnevale said
Thursday. Selectivity in this case is defined heavily by the
traditional measure of standardized test scores, on which
underrepresented minority students and those from low-income
backgrounds historically score much lower.

Since 1994, the numbers of four-year colleges in the top two tiers of
selectivity as measured by Barron's have increased sharply, while the
third tier has stayed flat and the fourth is "melting," as Carnevale
described it, seen in the table below:

Number of Four-Year Colleges, by Selectivity, 1994-2006

Selectivity Level 1994 2006
Most and Highly Competitive Colleges 146 193
Very Competitive Colleges 253 279
Competitive Colleges 578 572
Less and Non-Competitive Colleges 429 299
As more colleges have moved up the "quality" scale, as measured by
Barron's, the research by Carnevale and Strohl shows, the institutions
have become slightly more racially and ethnically diverse, but
students from lower-income backgrounds have made virtually no progress
in gaining access to more selective colleges. By 2006, students from
the lowest socioeconomic quartile made up 5 percent of students at the
most competitive colleges, 7 percent of students at highly competitive
colleges, and 8 percent of students at very competitive colleges, up
from 3, 4 and 8 percent, respectively, in 1982. They end up
disproportionately in nonselective four-year colleges and in open-
access two-year institutions.

When one considers the differences between the inputs and outcomes at
the more selective institutions and at nonselective ones -- per-
student spending that is 4-5 times as great, and far higher graduation
rates and entry-level earnings of students -- the stratification by
socioeconomic income (and to a lesser but still meaningful extent by
race and ethnicity) means that the higher education system operates as
an "engine of inequality," Carnevale said Thursday. "If this were K-12
education, we'd be in court" over the differences in how low-income
and other students are treated in what he called a "dual system" of
higher education, Carnevale said, noting the major lawsuits that have
been filed (and often won) in many states over inequality of access to
elementary and secondary education.

Potential Changes

How might the stratification be eased? Programs like those adopted at
North Carolina and other public universities (including Colorado State
University, which announced a similar plan of its own Thursday) and at
private elite colleges like Princeton and Harvard Universities
certainly help a little, but such "boutique" approaches "will probably
not change the underlying systems trend toward greater postsecondary
stratification," Carnevale and Strohl write. At Kahlenberg's request,
their contribution to Rewarding Strivers examines the impact that
affirmative action (perhaps of a different sort) might have in
ameliorating the inequity of access and outcomes.

Using regression analysis, the researchers sought to calculate the
relative weight of the impact of various traits and types of
disadvantage on SAT scores, to try to measure how much effect class
and demographic obstacles might pose in the admissions process at
selective institutions. A student loses 48 points if one's father is a
laborer (compared to being a physician), for example, and 41 points if
his or her family has no college savings compared to a comparably
qualified student from a family with $40,000 in accumulated wealth.

Given the political and legal vulnerability of race-based affirmative
action, Carnevale said that he and Strohl "tried mightily to find a
way to replace race with various measures of income class," to see if
they could end up arguing that purely class-based affirmative action
(which is likely to be more palatable to many critics) would suffice.
While they managed to whittle down the effects attributable to race --
being black (as opposed to white) amounted to an SAT penalty of 56
points, they found -- "no matter what we did, we couldn't erase the
stain of race" entirely. "It was incredibly stubborn."

Taken together, the researchers argue that the cumulative effects on
SAT scores for students from highly economically disadvantaged
backgrounds are huge -- hundreds of points, in many cases, enough to
make them unlikely to be successful in selective college admissions
processes that often lean heavily on standardized scores. Instituting
a system of socioeconomic-based affirmative action that took such
disadvantage into account (on top of race- and ethnicity-based
preferences, which they conclude are still necessary) could certainly
begin to erase the class stratification in higher education.

But given the tendency of colleges to pursue status (often defined by
high test scores, etc.), and the desire of parents to get their
children into the selective institutions, trying to use that sort of
affirmative action would be a "bit like spitting in the wind against
that tide," Carnevale said. "It would be a huge undertaking, and
probably unimaginable," to change institutional behavior in that way.

So "if you can't move low-income and minority kids en masse into the
high-quality systems" of colleges, Carnevale said, the likelier
alternative to improving the lot of students ill-served by higher
education is to strengthen the quality of the institutions they do
attend -- "two-year schools and lower-end four-year colleges." The
Obama administration (which Carnevale has advised in both formal and
informal ways) took steps in this direction with its proposed American
Graduation Initiative, which would have poured $10 billion into
community colleges, but had to be scaled back significantly.

But Carnevale said most of the action will be up to the states, as
they consider rewriting funding formulas to reward institutions based
on performance (enrolling and graduating low-income students, etc.),
bolstering student services programs at community colleges, and
encouraging students to get educated at institutions that cost less,
but still have high quality.

"Instead of continuing to struggle to move more students into
selective colleges where the high-priced quality programs reside, we
may be more successful moving money and quality programs to the
community colleges where most of our students reside," he and Strohl
write at the conclusion of their long chapter of Rewarding Strivers.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Black flight" changing the makeup of Dallas schools

Interesting trend in Texas. Quote from within: " The trend seen in Dallas schools is part of a larger national move away from inner cities for many black families, but the plunge is steeper in Dallas ISD than other urban districts in Texas and is among the biggest declines nationally." I wonder to what extent the administrative ranks are Latino...


Black flight" changing the makeup of Dallas schools
The Dallas Morning News (June 9, 2010)

Every morning Vivian King drives her granddaughter past her neighborhood Dallas
ISD school on the five-mile route to her charter school.

Both are "recognized" public schools, but King believes the A.W. Brown-Fellowship Leadership Academy offers her granddaughter, 6-year-old Vivica Griffin, a better education.

"We didn't want her to go to the schools around here," King said.

King's decision makes her part of a historic shift in Dallas ISD: The number of black children attending DISD schools has reached its lowest point since 1965.

The movement mirrors, on a smaller scale, massive white flight from the district in the 1970s.

Black students formed a majority in Dallas schools through the 1980s and '90s. Over the last 10 years, though, the number of black children has fallen by nearly 20,000, or about a third. Meanwhile, Hispanic children have filled their seats as the district's overall enrollment remains fairly flat at about 157,000.

Today, about 41,000 black students attend DISD schools. They make up 26 percent of the district compared with 106,000 Hispanic children, or 68 percent. White students are 5 percent of the district.

For interactive map, click on map

The trend seen in Dallas schools is part of a larger national move away from inner cities for many black families, but the plunge is steeper in Dallas ISD than other urban districts in Texas and is among the biggest declines nationally.

Interviews with dozens of parents reveal that the exodus is not fueled by a single reason, but by myriad forces including issues of race, class, perceptions of problems within DISD, an explosion of charter schools and the quest for the American dream in the suburbs.

Adelfa Callejo, a Latina civil rights activist, said it's like history repeating itself.

"They're doing exactly what the whites are doing, abandoning the school district," Callejo said. "That will leave us with a lack of black leadership. You need leaders of all races to make it happen."

Specifically, black parents most often mentioned the following reasons:

· The perception that Dallas ISD schools offer an inferior education compared with suburban schools, and that the school system is too big and impersonal.

· As Dallas ISD educates a growing number of Hispanic students, many of whom are poor and learning English, some black parents say the district no longer focuses on their children.

· The desire of middle-class blacks to live in bigger, newer, more comfortable homes in the suburbs, away from big-city crime and congestion.

· A growing number of charter schools, which are public schools run by private groups.

· Many of Dallas' traditionally black neighborhoods are aging, and young Hispanic families are moving in to replace them and having children.

Superintendent Michael Hinojosa did not voice concern with the drop in black students, saying the shift is part of a national trend.

Hinojosa disagreed that DISD is losing focus on black children.

"We cannot be successful if those kids are not successful, absolutely not," he said.

He pointed to a district initiative to improve math skills of black students.

"Three years later, those results are bearing out," Hinojosa said. "We've had tremendous growth in those performances."

The most recent TAKS results show that black students improved in all subject areas this year, but Hispanic students showed even greater gains.

'Saggy pants'

Perceptions of Dallas ISD schools play a large role in parental decisions.

For many black parents, Dallas ISD is little more than a place to warehouse kids, a place where educators don't care and students lack discipline.

"I don't want my grandkid in that environment where the teachers don't teach and the kids wear saggy pants," King said. "You don't see that at the charter school."

Yet, state data shows the teachers are less experienced at the charter school King's granddaughter attends than their neighborhood DISD school.

Brianna Sosa, 17, attends Gateway Charter Academy in Oak Cliff. The small size - 340 students - offers a family environment. She said that outweighs the fact that her school does not offer an array of Advanced Placement classes.

Sosa, who is black, has never attended a DISD school and previously attended Lancaster schools. She was concerned when she heard about the metal detectors at DISD high schools.

"I'm not a rough person," Brianna said. "I couldn't imagine walking through metal detectors. I wouldn't feel safe at a school like that."

Still, many black families have stayed with DISD.

"There are excellent teachers in Dallas, and I just elected to stay because I like Dallas," said Ola Allen, whose daughter just graduated from Skyline High School.

And Christopher Davis, whose son attends Thomas Tolbert Elementary, praises the school. "The classes are smaller, and you have more one-on-one type education," he said.

Still, Davis said his family has thought about moving to Mansfield.

"Better schools, a better community, less crime," he said.

Racial friction

Racial friction between blacks and Hispanics has long been a reality in Dallas ISD, from the hiring of Superintendent Michael Hinojosa to racial divisions among board members to arguments over funding priorities for civil rights-era learning centers.

Many black parents are concerned about the attention and money spent bringing native Spanish-speakers up to speed. Some say their children are ignored.

"Nothing is geared towards us; it's all geared towards the Hispanics," said Shirley Daniels, spokeswoman for the Black Coalition to Maximize Education, a civil rights group and plaintiff in DISD's federal desegregation case, which lasted from 1970 to 2003.

On the other hand, community activist Jesse Diaz, whose daughter attends a DISD school in Pleasant Grove, said he believes that some of the district's naysayers have a prejudice against non-English-speaking Hispanic children and poor kids. The percentage of DISD students labeled "economically disadvantaged," meaning they qualify for free or reduced-price school meals, has increased from 73 percent in 2000 to 87 percent this year.

"People always ask me, 'Why are you sending your daughter to DISD?' " said Diaz, who is Hispanic. "They don't want to be there with that class of people."

Marisela Vargas, a longtime DISD volunteer, said her three children received good educations in the district. Two are now teachers in DISD and another served in the Air Force and is now a plumber, she said.

Vargas said the key to having a successful experience in DISD is to get involved and voice any concerns. "We cannot blame everything on DISD," she said.

Suburb migration

Regional student statistics show black families are sending their children to suburban districts such as Cedar Hill, DeSoto, Garland , Plano , Frisco and Mansfield.

Bray Elementary in Cedar Hill has for years carried the state's top rating of "exemplary." Ten years ago, the student body was nearly 80 percent white. This year it's about half black, a quarter white and a quarter Hispanic.

Maurice Addison and his wife moved to Cedar Hill from Detroit two years ago. Addison is a patrol officer with the Dallas Police Department.

Addison, who is black, said he asked around when picking a school for his two sons. He heard good things about Bray.

"Once we came here and went to a few PTA meetings and met a few teachers, we very quickly observed the passion of teaching and all the extra activities," Addison said.

Other plusses: the school's after-school "character chorus" emphasizing respect and responsibility. And all students learn to play string instruments.

Addison, a product of Detroit public schools, said he never considered Dallas public schools. "I'm from the city, and I know the detrimental issues that are going on with city schools right now."

As more black families migrate to the suburbs, figures show white families move farther out.

Bray's principal, Robert Johansen, said much of the white exodus from Cedar Hill schools took place in the early 2000s.

"I believe it was because they didn't feel like people looked like them. We still were an exemplary school. We still were performing. They were afraid that there was going to be a change," he said.

This year's preliminary TAKS scores show more than 95 percent of Bray students - black, white and Hispanic alike - passed their reading and math tests, and half or more scored at the higher "commended" level.

There are DISD schools with economic student demographics similar to Bray's that scored as well.

Switching to charters

An explosion of charter schools in Dallas has offered new options to parents.

About 5,900 black children who live within DISD's boundaries attend charter schools. Houston ISD, by comparison, enrolls more black students than DISD and loses fewer of them to charter schools.

Academy of Dallas in Oak Cliff has the state's lowest academic rating of "unacceptable." But that does not deter Brenda Toliver, whose grandson attends.

"To me, they're more advanced," she said. "The children learn a lot more, and the classes are not that big."

Yet TAKS scores show that last year less than a quarter of fifth-graders passed all their TAKS exams. About a mile away, 60 percent of fifth-graders passed all of their exams at DISD's Henderson Elementary School.

A.W. Brown-Fellowship Leadership school in the Red Bird area is one of the area's larger charters. Nearly all students are black, as that group's enrollment has spiked from 161 kids in 2000 to 948 this year.

The charter has amenities not typical on Dallas ISD campuses, from an indoor golf course to a playground with artificial grass and a kid-size basketball court.

Several A.W. Brown parents said that the school, rated "recognized," has a superior curriculum that encourages parent participation. Fifth and sixth-graders must do 100 hours of community service. They say administrators and teachers seem more concerned about their children and that classes are smaller - though A.W. Brown reports class sizes that well exceed the state average across every grade level.

"Charter schools are on a higher level," said Brandy Redwine, whose daughter attends A.W. Brown. "They get up and personal with the students and tend to care for them."

Housing factors

The loss of black students is also due to larger shifts in neighborhoods. Aging black populations in the city and the destruction of housing has fueled change.

Freda Jones Dunbar lives across the street from H.S. Thompson Elementary. It has lost 635 black students in the last decade, and the 220 students left are evenly split between black and Hispanic.

Dunbar has lived in her South Dallas home for 10 years. "When I moved here, it was flooded with kids," said Dunbar, who is black. Now she sees only a handful of children walk to school each day.

The city recently tore down the Rhoads Terrace projects, which used to be across the railroad tracks from the school. Down Bexar Street, the Turner Courts projects also came down. Nearby blocks are sprinkled with vacant houses.

Jones says she doesn't want to move. She knows everyone who lives on her short block. And she hasn't seen young families move in.

"They're going to Duncanville , Cedar Hill, Arlington."

COMING MONDAY: Some civil rights leaders who once battled for equal education in Dallas schools are now urging black parents to send their kids elsewhere.


The Dallas Morning News analyzed student enrollment data from the Texas Education Agency over the past decade. Among the findings:

· Ten years ago, Dallas ISD had nearly 161,000 students. It was 38 percent black, 52 percent Hispanic and 9 percent white. Today, Dallas enrolls 157,000 students, with 26 percent of them black, 68 percent Hispanic and 5 percent white.

· Black enrollment in Dallas ISD dropped by 19,000, or 31 percent, over the decade. In both raw numbers and percentage change, that's a bigger decline than in Houston, Fort Worth and Austin ISDs.

· DISD's Hispanic enrollment climbed 23,000, or 27 percent. Only Cypress-Fairbanks ISD near Houston and Northside ISD near San Antonio added more Hispanic students over the decade.

· During that period, the number of white students dropped the most in Arlington ISD (a loss of 10,500), followed by Mesquite ISD (10,000), Garland ISD (9,000), Fort Worth ISD (7,500) and Dallas ISD (6,500).

· 5,900 black students who live within Dallas ISD's boundaries attend charter schools. Among Texas districts with a sizable black population, only Lancaster, North Forest and La Marque ISDs have a greater share of resident black students attending charter schools.

· Dallas ISD may be losing black students, but the total number of black people living in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area has surged. According to a new Brookings Institution report, Dallas-Fort Worth gained 159,000 black residents from 2000 to 2008 - second only to Atlanta. The Dallas region also added 597,000 Hispanics, second only to the Riverside, Calif., area.

Truth in Grading Benefits Students, Teachers and Texas

Op-Ed Submission
by Senator Nelson


For Immediate
Contact:  Janet

June 8, 2010                                                                                      
 (512) 463-0112

Texas Insider - -

Truth in Grading Benefits Students, Teachers & Texas
Posted By admin On June 9, 2010 @ 12:37 pm In The Scoop

By Senator Jane Nelson, Texas Insider Report

At a time of heightened scrutiny of how well our public schools are preparing students for college and the workforce, it is difficult to believe that 11 Texas school districts want to overturn a state law requiring truthful grading practices.

If these districts are successful, teachers could be forbidden from assigning grades that reflect a student’s work if those grades fall below an artificial minimum set by administrators.

As a former public school teacher, I was surprised when several teachers approached me before the 2009 legislative session with their concern about grading practices. They said written and unwritten rules at their campuses prevented them from assigning grades below a 50, 60 or, in some cases, 70 percent.

I could not imagine this was widespread, but when Education Commissioner Robert Scott asked for a show of hands at a teachers’ conference about these practices, half of the hands in the room went up.

The bill that I authored last year requires districts to adopt written grading policies prior to the start of the school year.

These policies direct teachers to assign grades that reflect a student’s mastery of the coursework. A district cannot force teachers to assign minimum grades without regard to a student’s quality of work.

However, a district can adopt policies to provide reasonable opportunity for a student to make up or redo a class assignment or examination for which the student received a failing grade.

Support from all four statewide teachers’ groups helped propel the bill to unanimous passage in the Texas Legislature.

When school began last fall, the vast majority of districts followed the law, and adopted appropriate grading policies. But a few began looking for a way around the law. They argued that the statute makes no mention of report card grades, so it should apply only to course assignments and tests.

That argument struck me as ridiculous. Report card grades, after all, are cumulative of a student’s scores on assignment and tests. Commissioner Scott agreed, and notified districts they should comply.

Unfortunately, a few districts decided that they would rather use taxpayer dollars in a court challenge instead of on classroom instruction. A state district judge in Travis County will hear evidence in the lawsuit this summer.

The districts are arguing that they must give some students higher grades than they have earned to keep them from dropping out. They also complain that the law infringes on local control.

But the real local control is between teacher and student. We should trust teachers like the professionals they are and give them the authority to fail a child who fails to master the content.

Our public school system does students a disservice by simply passing them through grade levels.

Eventually, those students will hit a wall, often with high school final exams, or, worse, they will graduate with extremely sub-par skills.

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Chicago Teachers Wise Up to Obama School Privatizations

Chicago Teachers Wise Up to Obama School Privatizations
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

"So-called school reform is not an education plan. It's a business plan."

The nation's unionized public school teachers are in a race for survival, whether they know it or not. Their worst enemy - the one that can do them and the public the most harm - was not George Bush, the white Republican, who called teachers' unions "terrorists." It is Barack Obama, the Black Democrat, who has taken the corporate education agenda farther than Bush could ever dream of.

By all rights, the nation's five million unionized teachers should be in the forefront of resistance to the corporate money bags that dominate the Republican and Democratic parties. Teachers are the best-equipped for the job, in raw numbers, in depth of union penetration and, especially on the moral front: most people like and admire teachers. George Bush's Republicans were made to look like ogres when they tried to vilify teachers as a class. Yet that is precisely what Barack Obama is doing: making teachers the scapegoats and villains for all the ills that have been inflicted on the inner cities of America for the past five or six decades. Obama is having considerably more success than Bush in his offensive against teachers, mostly because teachers' unions cannot seem to recognize their enemy when he is a Democrat, and Black.

That lesson has finally been learned in Chicago, hometown of Obama and his Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. Chicago's teachers, students and neighborhoods were the guinea pigs for Arne Duncan's campaign to hand over public education to corporations, when Duncan was CEO of the city's schools. Mass firings were the order of the day, decimating the ranks of Black teachers, especially. Whole communities were destabilized.

"Barack Obama, the Black Democrat, who has taken the corporate education agenda farther than Bush could ever dream of."
Last week, reformers finally won control of the Chicago Teachers Union, in what will hopefully set an example for teachers, nationwide. Karen Lewis, co-chair of the victorious Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators, or CORE, told the truth that so many teachers' union hacks have been avoiding: "This so-called school reform is not an education plan," she said. "It's a business plan." Lewis continued:

"Fifteen years ago, this city purposely began starving our lowest-income neighborhood schools of greatly needed resources and personnel. Class sizes rose, schools were closed. Then standardized tests, which in this town alone is a $60 million business, measured that slow death by starvation. These tests labeled our students, families and educators failures, because standardized tests reveal more about a student's zip code than it does about academic growth," said the union reformer.
And that is the heart of the matter. Public and private policies have devastated inner city America, with totally predictable results in terms of inner city student performance. And yet, what do both the Obama's and the Bush's propose? They demand more privatization, more so-called "public-private" initiatives that outsource Black and brown schools to corporations, for profit. Barack Obama and Arne Duncan learned the privatization game in Chicago. Hopefully, Chicago teachers can awaken five million union members and millions more inner city residents to the clear and present danger posed by Obama's corporate school agenda. For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, go to

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Assessing Arizona

Since its enactment in April, the Arizona law that gives local and state police the ability to arrest and detain people they suspect to be undocumented immigrants has spurred a whirlwind of discussion and activism concerning immigration policy and race relations. 

With the specter of racial profiling and civil rights violations looming, a coalition of civil rights groups and activists around the country has condemned the law (SB 1070). The National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies (NACCS) and the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) are among groups that have called for an economic boycott of Arizona. 

Diverse interviewed three prominent Mexican-American academics about the law, its impact on Arizona colleges, and what they hope to see in real immigration reform moving forward.

Dr. Roberto Rodriguez is an assistant professor in the Department of Mexican American and Raza Studies at the University of Arizona. In his nationally syndicated “Column of the Americas,” he compared Arizona to the apartheid South Africa. Dr. Josephine Mendez-Negrete, an associate professor of bicultural-bilingual studies at the University of Texas at San Antonio, is the editor of the journal Chicana/Latina Studies. Dr. Devon Peña, the chair of NACCS and author of its statement against Senate Bill 1070, is a professor of anthropology and Chicano studies at the University of Washington.

Read on here.

State Board of Education Considers Renting to Charters

State Board of Education Considers Renting to Charters

by Brian Thevenot
June 24, 2010

Hoping to tackle the long-standing challenge of financing charter school facilities, the State Board of Education is considering taking on a novel and controversial role for an elected body: landlord.

The proposal, spearheaded by member David Bradley, R-Beaumont, would draw about $100 million from the state’s $23 billion Permanent School Fund to purchase buildings that would be leased back to charter schools. Bradley and Commissioner of Education Robert Scott, both vocal charter advocates, call the arrangement a “win-win,” saying the fund could make money on the investment while at the same time saving charter schools money. The board will take up the matter on July 21, Bradley says.

Some observers, however, seem baffled at what looks like a too-good-to-be-true scheme. The logic simply doesn’t work, they say: Laws governing the Permanent School Fund require the board to invest the money to its best-possible advantage — so how can that standard be met while giving charter operators terms more favorable rates than they can get in the private market?

“Why would charters do this," asks state Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, the vice chair of the House Public Education Committee, unless the board gave them a rent break? “How does this help anybody?”

It’s complicated, Bradley concedes. But such an arrangement, he says, could take charters out of the business of facilities management and ownership — which they never wanted to enter in the first place — and realize cost savings. That’s because charter organizations often run into problems getting reasonably priced credit to buy buildings, he says. Unlike traditional school districts, charters have no taxing power, are politically controversial and operate on five- or 10-year contracts with the state, all factors the private lending market doesn’t particularly like. In addition, the schools that rent space pay hidden property taxes as part of their leases, which are not tax-exempt for their landlords because charters, though financed by tax dollars, are actually private entities.

Both situations could be avoided, Bradley said, with the SBOE taking a tiny percentage of the fund to purchase buildings and then lease them back, at market rates, to charters. The YES Prep charter school network in Houston just embarked on an ambitious building campaign that will seek to raise $100 million — roughly half in debt and half in donations, says Anne McClellan, the network's chief growth officer. But if there were an opportunity to pay a “reasonable” lease, YES Prep might just jump at the chance, she says. “We’re not in the business of having to build schools because we want to be,” she says. “If we didn’t have to do fundraising to build $9 million buildings, we could spend more money on students in the classroom.”

Facilities issues have long been the thorn in the side of the charter movement, because the Legislature has never given the schools extra money for buildings. Instead, they must finance facilities out of their regular operating budgets — meaning they can spend less in the classroom than comparable campuses run by traditional school districts, which have broad taxing and borrowing power. But the question of whether the SBOE could offer the schools “reasonable” rent hinges entirely on what rate of return the board needs to meet the “prudent person standard” it must follow for all Permanent School Fund investments. In other words: Would a prudent person choose investing in the charter school facilities business — or, more accurately, directly running that business — over all other real estate investments available on the open market?

Some remained unconvinced, including Board Chair Gail Lowe, R-Lampasas, usually an ally of Bradley’s in the board’s bloc of social conservatives. “I like the traditional asset allocation pathway we’ve taken,” Lowe says. “If [investments] help charters as a side effect, that’s nice. But that’s not the main goal. I think you have to prove that charter facilities are a better investment than anything else, and I haven’t seen anything to substantiate that claim.”

Potential conflicts

It’s unclear whether Bradley can muster the political support to secure board approval — particularly amid shifting politics on the SBOE. Newly elected board member Thomas Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, who will take over from former chair Don McLeroy, R-Bryan, in January, said the board has no business going into the rental business.

“If they want to do it, they better do it quick, because I don’t think the votes will be there on the board in January,” he says. “Charter school facilities are a legitimate issue. But it’s a problem for the state Legislature to solve. … If a charter school has a good business model, than it should be no problem getting a loan in the commercial space. And if not, why would we want to invest?”

Charter advocates have concerns, as well, about how much value the proposition would offer individual schools. David Dunn, executive director of the Texas Charter School Association, says the group prefers an alternate proposal being floated by some legislators that would have the state guarantee loans to charter operators, thereby allowing them to borrow money at favorable rates. “We would of course support anything that made lease payments lower for charter schools,” he says. “But I’m not sure the state would be able to write a lease that’s really favorable to the charter schools.”

Whatever money schools renting from the state might save through a property tax exemption might well be eaten up by whatever profits a “prudent” SBOE would need to make on its investment, Dunn says. The state could, however, provide a potential advantage in simple stability, he says. “Right now, charters are going in and out of shopping centers with private landlords. Presumably, the state would be a more stable landlord, hopefully under favorable leases. But there’s something to be said for stability alone.”

Legislative support?

Bradley remains confident he can pull together support for his proposal. “This proposal is going to get buy-in from everybody,” he says. “I’ve had nothing but positive feedback at the Capitol.”

He noted the support of state Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, chair of the Senate Education Committee. Shapiro confirmed interest in the idea but says it has “pros and cons.” Specifically, she says, it’s not clear if the Permanent School Fund can legally be used to aid charter schools, as opposed to traditional school districts. And she had the same concern raised by others about the ultimate value of Bradley’s plan for charters.

But she says such complex ideas stem directly from the Legislature’s failure to do the obvious thing: give charter schools enough money to pay for their facilities in cash, whether they choose to rent or own. Shapiro, like some other lawmakers, has tried and failed in the past to introduce measures to finance charter facilities. “I’m looking to try and give them incentive money, to reward good charter schools with money for facilities, but I haven’t been able to pass that,” she says. “What Bradley is doing is looking at alternatives.”

On the House side, Hochberg says the alternative stretches the SBOE far out of the bounds of its authority over the public school fund. Common sense dictates that the best-possible investment mix to maximize Permanent School Fund revenues will change constantly, as the market changes. Real estate in general might be a great investment today and a terrible one a month from now. A board decision to lock itself into specific properties for the specific purpose of renting only to charters can’t possibly be the best business decision for all market environments — if it makes sense at all, Hochberg says.

“Let’s say you decide to invest a certain amount in real estate, and you buy a building and rent it to Wal-Mart — and then the market changes, so you decide to change investments and sell it. You can do that. But what if a charter school is in there?” Hochberg asks. “They’re not supposed to be in a specific business — they’re supposed to be investing in the long-term interest of the children of the state of Texas.”

Mexicans Are Not Dumb: The Schools Fail by Rudy Acuña

Rough Draft

Mexicans Are Not Dumb: The Schools Fail


Rodolfo F. Acuña

The great American educator, John Dewey, repeatedly made the case that
students did not fail, schools failed students. This principle is one of
the canons of Chicana/o or La Raza Studies. For the most part, the
American public schools wrote them off as failures, blaming it on their
culture—called them culturally deprived or culturally disadvantaged.
Mexican American journalist Ruben Salazar, killed by Los Angeles Sheriff
deputies while covering the Chicano Moratorium of August 29, 1970,
reacting to educators calling Mexicans “culturally deprived,” wrote in
1963, “Presumably they want to save these poor people terrible void by
giving them culture…What they don’t seem to realize is that Mexican
Americans have a culture…”

Two years later the National Education Association came out with a
study, _The Invisible Minority,_ part of its findings were based on a
survey of the Tucson Schools. Aside from the teaching of bilingual
education, the report recommended the building of pride in Mexican
American students. It quotes an essay of a 13-year old eighth grade
Chicana: “To begin with, I am a Mexican. That sentence has a scent of
bitterness as it is written. I feel if it weren’t for my nationality I
would accomplish more. My being a Mexican has brought about my lack of
initiative. No matter what I attempt to do, my dark skin always makes me
feel that I will fail. Another thing that “gripes” me is that I am such
a coward. I absolutely will not fight for something even if I know I’m
right. I do not have the vocabulary that it would take to express myself
strongly enough.”

The report wanted to ameliorate the high dropout rate among Mexican
Americans. The solution was not to Americanize them and take their
identity away from them. It asks the question: “Is there something
inherent in our system of public schooling that impedes the education of
the Mexican-American child—that, indeed drives him to drop out?” The NEA
report found that it did, Mexican-Americans were schooled to fit a
stereotype. It ingrained a negative self-image that produced the
haunting words “I feel if it weren’t for my nationality I would
accomplish more.”

Increasingly, during the sixties an emerging Mexican American
Middle-Class challenged the premise that “Mexicans are dumb.” World War
II and the Korean War had shined a bright light on the high price that
they had paid for denied equality. Arizona State University Chicana/o
Studies Professor Carlos Vélez-Ibañez writes that “80% of Marine Reserve
Easy Company … were Mexicans and Mexican Americans from Tucson, Arizona.
Some at seventeen and still in high school were called up in June of
1950 and with very limited training fought valiantly through the Inchon
invasion, the battle for the City of Seoul, and to the Yalu River
bordering China. Some returned to graduate from Tucson High School, many
wounded and all suffering from different levels of battle shock. Some
Marine officers in Korea derided units with many Mexican Americans as
only ‘Mexican Marines’ but were defended hotly by fists and hearts by
other Marine officers like Captain Herbert Oxnam.” Mexican Americans
were awarded six Medals of Honor.

The 1960 U.S. Census drove home the points that Mexican Americans
despite these sacrifices were not equal and one of the reasons was that
they are getting an inferior education. Without a minimum education,
they did not qualify for college and were unable to take advantage of
the educational benefits other veterans enjoyed.

By 1968, Pueblo and Sunnyside High Schools were almost half Mexican
American. Students such as Salvador Baldenegro chafed at the high
dropout rate and the premise that “Mexicans are dumb.” Baldenegro called
attention to the failure of the schools and in March 1969 he along with
other Chicano studies led walkouts at Tucson and Pueblo high schools.
The grievances were that there were not enough Mexican American teachers
in the schools, that Mexican cultures were dismissed, the lack of
bilingual education and discrimination. Baldenegro said, "These students
feel that education might be the key to break the whole cycle of
poverty." In September 1969, Baldenegro led a boycott of Mexican
American studies program at the University of Arizona. He and Raul
Grijalva, president of the MALC, accused the administration of tokenism.
They wanted a quality education. This idealism attracted students such
as Guadalupe Castillo, Isabel García and others who knew Mexicans were
not dumb.

These events merged with other streams throughout the Southwest, Midwest
and Northwest, in calling for pedagogy to address the high dropout rate
and stop the schools from failing them. The pedagogy consisted of
building positives image and knowing more about the development of
people of Mexican extraction in the United States. It employed the
multi-disciplines to study the corpus of knowledge that had been
accumulated in areas such as history, sociology, education, the arts and
humanities. And just like there were specialists in Asian, Latin
American, American and European Studies, higher education and that
teachers in particular should know the Mexican American student and not
make they feel like “My being a Mexican has brought about my lack of
initiative. No matter what I attempt to do, my dark skin always makes me
feel that I will fail.”

La Raza or Chicana/o Studies has left a rich heritage. It has addressed
the problem the National Education Association described as the
“Invisible Minority.” It has called attention to the presence of Latinos
nationally and exposed idiotic suppositions such as “Mexicans are dumb.”
Through building pride in themselves many Latinos have succeeded in
higher education. Their dark skin doesn’t make them feel inferior, they
are not cowards and will fight for what they believe in. In Tucson, La
Raza Studies proves _que si se puede_ and for once the schools are not
failing them.