Monthly Archives: January 2015

PGCPS teen charged as adult in triple shooting.

Football player allegedly shot teammates, self after argument

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A month after the Frederick Douglass High School football team won the state 2A championships and three days after it was honored by the Prince George’s County school board, a team member allegedly shot and wounded two other players and himself.

Delano Dunmore, 16, has been charged as an adult with attempted first-degree and second-degree murder, according to Prince George’s County police.

Investigators believe an argument erupted in Dunmore’s Clinton home Sunday afternoon and officers arrived at the scene around 4 p.m. to find the three teams members suffering from gunshot wounds, police said. The victims, whose names have not been released, are 16 and 17 years old and one of them is at a local hospital in critical condition, police said.

Sherrie Johnson, a spokeswoman for the county school system, said extra counselors will be available to any Frederick Douglass student who would like support processing through the incident.

>>> Read more Gazette 

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President Obama Calls on Congress to Protect Arctic

…Refuge as Wilderness

Each year, as the darkness of the Arctic winter brightens into spring, as the snow melts and the hills and valleys slowly turn green, the tens of thousands of members of the Porcupine caribou herd begin their great migration — traveling some 1,500 miles through Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to their calving grounds on the Coastal Plain.

This far northern region is known as “The Sacred Place Where Life Begins” to Alaska Native communities. The Refuge sustains the most diverse array of wildlife in the entire Arctic — home not only to the Porcupine caribou, but to polar bears, gray wolves, and muskoxen. Bird species from the Coastal Plain migrate to all 50 states of the country — meaning that no matter where you live, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is part of your landscape.

But the majority of the Refuge is not protected as wilderness, including the Coastal Plain. For more than three decades, some voices have clamored to drill for oil in the Coastal Plain — a move that could irreparably damage this ecological treasure and harm the Alaska Native communities who still depend on the caribou for subsistence.

Today, the Department of the Interior released a revised Comprehensive Conservation Plan to better sustain and manage the entire Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — and President Obama took it a step further and announced his plans to ask Congress to designate the Coastal Plain and other core areas of the refuge as wilderness:

>>> Read more 

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Now it’s Hogan’s time to shine.

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Maryland New Governor Larry Hogan.

By Matt Dragonette

Last week, Larry Hogan, now this state’s 62nd governor, took the oath of office and officially began his first term in elected office. Hogan, our second Republican governor since 1969, was the winner of the nation’s biggest electoral upset of 2014, defeating former Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown by almost 70,000 votes.

The victory was thanks to a campaign that should be studied in political science classes, an economically focused message and an opponent who did not take the election seriously. But now that the campaign is over, Hogan has to implement his administration and deliver on his campaign promises — especially on government spending and taxation.

On the surface, the obstacles to Hogan’s agenda seem almost insurmountable. The General Assembly is dominated by Democrats, who have 90 delegates and 33 senators (Republicans have 51 and 14, respectively). An inherited budgetary shortfall — to the tune of $750 million in fiscal 2016 — will be a serious challenge that will most likely lead to unpopular budget cuts.

This challenge is one of the reasons voters selected Hogan in November. Hogan wasted no time getting down to business, releasing a budget (for the general fund) Friday that would balance projected revenues and expenditures.To close the current general fund budget deficit, cuts must be made or taxes increased. Hogan has adamantly opposed raising taxes on an already burdened populace — the Tax Foundation has found that this state’s tax burden is one of the worst in the country. More tax hikes would also be discouraging for business owners.

Therefore, the budget adjustments are significant: a 2 percent cut for state agencies, a freeze on state employees’ salaries and a reduction in the annual increase on education spending (education spending increases at a lower rate).

This state ranks highly on a variety of economic indicators: education, income, research and development and quality of life, among other advantages. Most of these indicate that the state has tremendous potential to create one of the nation’s best economies. But when the federal government directly or indirectly comprises one-third of the state’s economy, it is important to have a strong private sector to weather federal uncertainties.

Even with all this potential, this state still ranks near the bottom among states in terms of actual GDP growth, and its business climate is not considered particularly strong. By improving the tax structure, regulatory systems and infrastructure, this state can certainly leverage its already strong potential into a model economy for the nation.

>>> Read more The Diamond Back 

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A New Study Reveals Much About How Parents Really Choose Schools.

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A painted map of the U.S. seen from inside a classroom at Homer A. Plessy Community School, a charter school in New Orleans. Eric Westervelt/NPR

The charter school movement is built on the premise that increased competition among schools will sort the wheat from the chaff.

It seems self-evident that parents, empowered by choice, will vote with their feet for academically stronger schools. As the argument goes, the overall effect should be to improve equity as well: Lower-income parents won’t have to send their kids to an under-resourced and underperforming school just because it is the closest one to them geographically.

But an intriguing new study from the Education Research Alliance for New Orleanssuggests that parent choice doesn’t always work that way. Parents, especially low-income parents, actually show strong preferences for other qualities like location and extracurriculars — preferences that can outweigh academics.

New Orleans offers a unique opportunity to study parent choice. As we’ve reported earlier, more than 9 out of 10 New Orleans children attend charter schools. Choice, in other words, is hardly optional there.

By analyzing student enrollment records going back before Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the authors of this study were able to look at parents’ “revealed preferences.” That is, not what they say they are looking for in a school when interviewed by researchers, but the schools they actually pick. Here’s what the research found:

  • Parents care about academics, but not as much as they say they do. “The role of academics seemed somewhat lower [than in other studies],” says Douglas Harris, lead author on the report. And because of the nature of the study, which shows where families actually enroll, “we’re actually able to quantify that in ways that other studies couldn’t.”
  • Distance matters. A lot. Schools in New Orleans are ranked by letter grades, depending mostly on their scores on state tests. What the researchers found was that three-quarters of a mile in distance was equal to a letter grade in terms of family preferences. In other words, a C-grade school across the street was slightly preferable to a B-grade school just a mile away.
  • Extended hours matter. Parents of younger children preferred extended school hours and after-school programs.
  • Extracurriculars matter. Especially for high school students — and perhaps even more so in this city famous for its music and its love of the NFL’s Saints. A C-grade school with a well-known football and band program could beat out a B-grade school without them. (Of note: In traditional public school systems, most high schools offer these extracurriculars; New Orleans has many smaller specialized schools that don’t.)
  • Poorer families care more about other factors — and less about academics. The study split families up into thirds based on the median income in their census tract. What they found was that the lowest-income New Orleans families were even more likely to pick schools that were close by, that offered extended days, and that had football and band in high school — and, conversely, they had a weaker preference for schools based on test scores.

This last point is crucial because it suggests that a choice-based system all by itself won’t necessarily increase equity. The most economically disadvantaged students may have parents who are making decisions differently from other families. These parents appear to be more interested in factors other than academic quality as the state defines it. Maybe they have access to different, or less, information. If this is true, choice could actually increase, rather than diminish, achievement gaps within a city.

>>> Read more NPR

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Here’s One Way to Get Early Admission to College: Be Rich

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Top colleges are filling more of their classes in early-admissions programs that favor affluent families, placing another barrier before poorer students hoping to better themselves through higher education.

Families that need financial aid often wait for the regular round, which starts this month, so they can compare aid offers. Because early-decision programs require a binding commitment to one school in November and boost admissions chances, many slots are taken before lower-income students even apply.

At Northwestern and Duke, about half the spots for this fall’s freshman class are already spoken for. Ten years ago, the universities each took about a quarter through early admissions. Vanderbilt expects its class to be as much as 44 percent full by next month, compared with a third a decade ago.

“The scale is definitely tipped to the kids who have more behind them financially,” said Bruce Poch, former dean of admissions at Pomona College in Claremont, California. The trend of colleges filling up early “has gotten more extreme in recent years.”

Such programs aren’t helping Jackson Le, a high school senior from Quincy, Massachusetts. His single mother, who emigrated from Vietnam, has a job as a manicurist in a nail salon.

Senior Envy

Le has his sights on Boston University. Since he needs to shop around for the best financial aid possible, he didn’t apply there for early decision in the fall. The percentage of places filled early at Boston University has doubled to 20 percent over the past seven years. He envies wealthier classmates who are already broadcasting their acceptance letters on Twitter.

“It makes me sad because I wish I had that opportunity to apply early,” said Le, 18, an honors student who works as much as 20 hours a week at Starbucks to help pay for college.

The College Board counted 460 schools last year offering early admissions. That’s up from about 100 in the 1990s, according to a 2010 study by Christopher Avery, a public policy professor at Harvard University, and Jonathan Levin, an economist at Stanford University. Colleges say scholarships are available to those who apply early, and they are increasing such aid so more low-income students can attend.

Still, their early applicants are far more likely to be from wealthy, white families who hire private college counselors to steer them to such programs, according to a 2011 report by the Center for Enrollment Research, Policy and Practice at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Such advisers can cost families thousands of dollars. The early plans “perpetuate social privilege,” the researchers said.

>>> Read more bloomberg >>> See video

iJ1NSRWw7cD8Photographer: Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images

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The school system spent $716,917.25 defending the cases

…between July 2012 and December 2014…

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Thatcher Law Firm since 2009 or earlier  has siphoned millions within the county at the expense of the Prince George’s county citizenry.

…Between the jury award and legal expenses, the cases have cost the county schools more than $1 million. The school system spent $716,917.25 defending the cases between July 2012 and December 2014, according to information obtained through a Maryland Public Information Act request.
Late last summer, a jury awarded $350,000 to a former English teacher, who accused the school system of discriminating against him because he is white. Jon Everhart said he was forced out of his job by Simpson-Marcus, who is black, because of his race. Months later, the school system settled a second case, filed by a former employee, a black secretary, who sued because she said she was retaliated against for reporting Simpson-Marcus to supervisors…

>>> Read more Washington Post 

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Black Lives Matter—at School, Too

black_lives_matter_protest_ss_img_0“Black lives matter! The EAA is killing me!” On December 5, students at Eastern Michigan University staged a die-in at their school’s Board of Regents meeting, after the board voted to continue its partnership with the Education Achievement Authority, the controversial state-run district which has taken over fifteen Detroit public schools since its inception in 2012. Almost two weeks later, on December 17, when Baltimore’s school board voted to shut down the first of five schools, high school students also staged a die-in, chanting, “Black lives matter!” and “The school board has failed us!” The board soon fled. Without missing a beat, the students took the commissioners’ chairs and held a community forum on the closures. The next day in an uncoordinated action in Philadelphia, public school student organizers staged a die-in in front of their district building, mourning the 2013 loss of 12-year-old Laporshia Massey, who died from an asthma attack after being sent home from a school with no nurse on duty.

Like most majority black school districts in America, the school districts of Baltimore, Detroit and Philadelphia regularly suffer school closures, high teacher attrition, understaffed schools and increasingly crowded classrooms. But while these deprivations are often written off as the inevitable result of urban white flight and depreciating tax bases, the reality is not so simple. In the neoliberal era, urban school districts’ financial woes have been aggravated by state takeovers, gratuitous budget cuts and wasteful privatization efforts. As black student activists nationwide have made clear in these recent demonstrations, public school austerity, like police brutality, is another form of racist state violence. Public school austerity, driven in part by the much-celebrated school reform movement, assaults these students’ central community institutions, crams them into over-policed schools, and reduces their education to preparation for the low wage workforce rather than democratic self-determination.

>>> Read more 

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