Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Court decision today

Today’s Supreme Court decision on school integration plans.

Lets be honest: The Supreme court decision was a victory for conservatives. It reflects the Bush Supreme Court. Our opponents, such as the Linda Chavez Equal Opportunity Commission, Ward Connerly and others, oppose the sue of racial and ethnic measures to make school assignments. But, they do nothing to improve the quality of schooling in the poverty schools. They want to fight about racial categories but not work to improve schools. It is important to not ask the oppressor to design the remedies for past discrimination.

But, our moderate allies and elected officials share the responsibility for this defeat.
The school integration policies of cities have not worked, they have not produced high levels of school achievement for all. So, parents fight sending their children to integrated schools because many of these schools are dysfunctional. ( See Choosing Democracy, 2004)
School districts in Seattle and Louisville were defeated ( as will be Sacramento, Los Angeles and others) because they relied upon the lawyers approach and refused to listen to or to change the educators approach.
Since the 1990’s, we have had a school reform plans usually based upon writing standards and standardized testing, placing pressure on teachers to follow a specific curriculum and a focus on testing. The data on this process is in- it has not significantly improved most schools.
While there are exciting examples of improved achievement, in general, school achievement has remained stagnant. (NAEP) There is only limited evidence that this process actually improves schools , student achievement, or improves student opportunity. (Rothstein)
There has been limited improvement in most schools because the interventions used do not deal with basic causes of low achievement, unequal funding of schools, high teacher turn over, family disruption, un safe schools, crime, safety, unemployment have not changed—and therefore the local school is unlikely to change.
We need to improve the schools. The current dominant school leadership and legislative leadership has not improved the schools. The refuse to make the necessary changes to improve schools. The lawyers approach of integration- without school improvement, has failed.
In most cities, including Sacramento, Los Angeles, S.F., Oakland, etc, we have legal integration, but we also have extreme inequality of opportunity. The goal is not diversity, the goal is equal educational opportunity. These lawyers- these school administrators- have not worked for equal opportunity.
Now, in response to the Supreme Court decision, it is time to improve the schools. It is time to stop using lawyers as a substitute for school reform.
Our opponents, such as the Linda Chavez Equal Opportunity Commission, Ward Connerly and others, oppose the sue of racial and ethnic measures to make school assignments. But, they do nothing to improve the quality of schooling in the poverty schools. They want to fight about racial categories but not work to improve schools. It is important to not ask the oppressor to design the remedies for past discrimination.
Duane Campbell.
author. Choosing Democracy: a practical guide to multicultural education. (2004)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

SF Chooses New Schools Superintendent Carlos Garcia; African Americans and Immigrant Rights Groups Build Alliances

San Francisco Unified School District's 2-year nationwide search for a new superintendent concluded last night at our Board of Education meeting and this morning with our official announcement of Carlos Garcia as our new Superintendent.
Garcia is a veteran urban school district superintendent with 11 years experience overseeing districts with enrollments ranging from 7,800 to 300,000 students including two large urban school districts - Fresno , California , and Clark County , Nevada . Clark County District is the 5th largest school district in the country.

Garcia was principal at San Francisco's Horace Mann Middle School - in the Mission District - from 1988 to 1991. During his tenure, the school was restructured, student achievement improved, and the school was designated as both a California Distinguished school and a Blue Ribbon school. Under his leadership Mann was one of the first middle schools in the country to implement block scheduling and there was a long waiting list of families seeking admission.

June Jordan School for Equity teacher Giulio Sorro, a former student of Garcia's at Horace Mann, said Garcia brings a strong sense of community and compassion to his leadership. Sorro and hundreds of district staff welcomed Carlos back home today with open arms. Outgoing superintendent Gwenn Chan who is retiring this summer passed a torch to Garcia and wished him good luck in taking the reins of SFUSD.

To me, Carlos brings the spirit of a 'street fighter' who will challenge all our students to reach their full potential. Our board and district staff will be working him as well to aggressively fight for equity and social justice and to move our district forward for all our communities.

Mainstream press coverage about Garcia's record, accomplishments and challenges -
- SF Chronicle 6/13
SF Examiner 6/13
SF Bay Guardian Opinion 0606
In the tradition of building stronger unity within and between communities of color, San Francisco Bay Area African American and immigrant rights groups are building bridges for racial justice and human rights this evening.

Please join The Black Alliance for Just Immigration and the Bay AreaImmigrant Rights Coalition

A Forum and Report Back from: Braving Borders, Building Bridges: A Journey for Human Rights

An African American Tour of the U.S.-Mexico Border

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Dinner: 5:30 p.m.

Program: 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.

Laney College Forum

900 Fallon Street, Oakland

Donations accepted

African American leaders will share their experiences on a human rights tour of the US-Mexico border. They include Rev. Phil Lawson, San Pablo City Councilmember Leonard McNeil, former Peralta Community College Board Member Alona Clifton, Liz Derias of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and BAJI Coordinator Gerald Lenoir.

We will hear music, have dinner and begin creating relationships necessary to foster true positive change for all our communities.

For more information, contact Gerald Lenoir at bajimail@yahoo. com, (510) 849-9940 or Larisa Casillas at 510-839-7598, larisa@immigrantrig

MORE INFO on Bay Area Immigrant Rights Coalition

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

David Bacon: Who Killed the Immigration Bill, and Who Wants it to Come Back?

See labor journalist David Bacon's insightful analysis of the demise of the recent immigration bill. I worked with David in the Northern California Coalition for Immigrant Rights years ago in San Francisco. Bacon lays out the political forces involved- from big business giants to small grassroots groups and the influential 'liberal' immigrant lobbying organizations. Bacon also lays out the future challenges for grassroots immigrant rights groups and labor activists in supporting comprehensive immigration reform that is based on human rights and economic justice for immigrant workers and their families.

By David Bacon - TruthOut/Report Oakland, CA 6/9/07

Within hours of the Senate vote to kill its comprehensive immigration reform bill, the lobbyist for software giant Oracle Corp. had already declared that Silicon Valley's proposal for more guest workers was still alive. "We don't think it's dead," Robert Hoffman told the San Francisco Chronicle. Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer threatened to move more high tech jobs out of the country if electronics corporations didn't get more contract migrant labor. Other corporate spokespeople also announced they were looking for ways to revive the Senate bill in which they'd invested so much political capital.Immigrant communities and union activists had been in the streets for months, trying to stop the same bill.

In San Francisco alone, seven were arrested in the office of Senator Diane Feinstein, during the recess that preceded the June 7 vote. Dozens more debated the senator in front of her home the morning after the arrests. Around the country, similar demonstrations did what they could to kill the bill. The National Day Labor Organizing Network called it a "cynical and mean-spirited effort of those Senators that seek to poison the immigration reform debate yet again," and warned, "we are fearful that an insufficient Senate bill cannot be adequately repaired in the House of Representatives or in a conference session." It was no surprise that many greeted the (perhaps temporary) death of comprehensive immigration reform as a necessary move to protect immigrants themselves. These groups saw in the bill a threat of more contract labor programs, more enforcement and raids, greater militarization of the border and erosion of basic due process rights.

Filipinos for Affirmative Action, voicing a criticism common in Asian American and Latino communities, said the bill "moved away from permanent, family-based immigration toward a temporary employment system." As debate in the Senate proceeded, even the bill's promise of legalization for the nation's 12 million undocumented residents proved so restrictive that only a small percentage eventually would have qualified. Migrants without status would have had to place their families in jeopardy just to apply.

After the vote in the Senate defeating cloture, killing the bill at least for the moment, John Sweeney, head of the AFL-CIO, declared it "plagued by anti-family, anti-worker provisions," and called it " doomed at the onset. The bill abandoned long-standing U.S. policy favoring the reunification of families and failed to protect workers' most basic rights." Despite the fact that the bill was brokered by the Bush administration, many of its proponents were not Republicans, but liberal Democrats, most prominently Senator Edward Kennedy.

Supporting it was a network of lobbyists referred to in the press as "immigration advocates," large employers, and conservative think tanks. For two years this alliance advocated a strategy of trading legalization of undocumented immigrants for increased immigration enforcement and guest worker programs. The National Immigration Forum and the DC umbrella group it initiated, the Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, were key players in this strategy. Behind them was the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition, which brought together over 40 of the largest corporate trade and manufacturing associations in the country, under the aegis of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. EWIC head John Gay, also head of the National Restaurant Association, chairs the NIF board.

These Washington groups supported all the compromise bills embodying the legalization/enforcement/guest worker tradeoff, beginning with the original Kennedy/McCain bill in 2005. The same argument was used to justify them all: "It's not possible to get legalization without including more enforcement and guest worker programs." While the groups occasionally disagreed with individual provisions of the proposals that followed, they not only agreed with the basic structure and architecture of these bills, but became their ardent advocates in meetings around the country.

As the proposals moved through negotiations with the administration and Congressional Republicans, legalization schemes became more restrictive, enforcement provisions more ferocious, and contract labor schemes more extensive. Yet the recently defeated Senate compromise was greeted as a "good starting point." Even at the end, the DC groups called on immigrant communities to urge defeat of "bad" amendments to it, while continuing to urge Senators to support the comprehensive immigration reform, or tradeoff, framework.

While Congress considered this series of proposals, the Bush administration embarked on a series of highly publicized immigration raids and workplace firings, to put pressure on immigrant communities and unions to accept its reform program. The bills themselves called for giving the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security, more enforcement authority to conduct these raids. The administration, for instance, proposed that employers be required to fire any worker whose Social Security number didn't match the agency's database. Although Bush never actually issued this regulation, and the bills obviously hadn't passed, ICE and employers began using it as the basis for enforcement actions.

Workers at the Woodfin Suites in Emeryville, California, were fired after they tried to enforce the city's living wage ordinance. At the Smithfield pork plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina, hundreds were fired, and many then deported, during the hardest-fought union organizing drive in years. Similar raids and firings swept the country, as the administration set ICE loose on immigrant communities, implementing the very language in the comprehensive reform bills. Beltway lobbying groups often expressed alarm over the raids, but didn't withdraw their support for bills that would have made such raids more widespread.

After coordinated raids at Swift meatpacking plants in November, in which over a thousand workers were picked up for deportation, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told reporters the enforcement actions would show Congress the need for "stronger border security, effective interior enforcement and a temporary-worker program.'' Bush wants, he said, "a program that would allow businesses that need foreign workers, because they can't otherwise satisfy their labor needs, to be able to get those workers in a regulated program." Within weeks of Chertoff's statement, the Southern Poverty Law Center issued a report, "Close to Slavery," which provided exhaustive documentation that current guest worker programs, like those the administration proposed, systematically violated workers' rights. Abuse in H-2 programs was so extensive, and government enforcement of existing labor protections so completely absent, that SPLC called them "fundamentally flawed."

The SPLC and other exposes gave guest worker programs such a bad reputation that DC-based groups took pains to disassociate themselves from the term. The bills they supported would "break the mold," they claimed, by creating contract labor programs that wouldn't exploit workers. They invented new terms: "essential worker" or "new worker" plans. Behind the semantic fog, however, the bills preserved the two crucial characteristics of all employment-based guest worker schemes: new migrants could only come if recruited by an employer or labor contractor, and people had to remain employed to stay. Migrants losing a job and unable to find another within a short time would be deported.

To justify contract labor programs, the DC coalition asserted constantly that U.S. corporations face dire labor shortages. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, estimates the May, 2007 unemployment rate at 4.5%, and says over 7 million workers were unemployed in 2006. Most unions believe these are serious undercounts. Unemployment in African American and Chicano communities is much higher, over double digits even during economic booms. Yet instead of raising wage and benefits to attract workers, or paying more taxes to improve education and training in working class communities, employers held that only huge guest worker programs could meet their labor needs. In an joint oped piece for, Thomas Donahue, CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Andy Stern, President of the Service Employees International Union (one of two unions that supported the tradeoff bills) stated that "we need legislation that will create a carefully monitored essential worker program," and called it "a system that provides U.S. businesses with the workers it needs."

Meanwhile, legalization proposals in the same tradeoff bills were presented as the payoff for immigrant communities. Yet many of the legalization schemes threatened to disqualify immigrants guilty of document fraud. ICE now says this includes anyone who's given a false SS number to get a job, something almost all undocumented workers have done. Other proposals would have imposed employment requirements, imposed high fines difficult for most working families to pay, and required people to take an undetermined amount of time off work to return to their home countries to apply for readmittance, with no guarantee they could pass a host of bureaucratic checks. Most proposals would have had people wait at least a decade before they could get a green card for permanent legal residence (not citizenship). Legalization programs wouldn't even take effect until the U.S. gained "operational control" of the border, leaving the door open for years of increased enforcement with no change at all in the status of the undocumented.

Many organizations outside DC did not support this approach to immigration reform. Instead they called for a positive agenda focusing on human and workplace rights, legal status and equality. They proposed reforms that didn't criminalize migration, work or the border itself, and that instead protected families and communities. The National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights urged that "we work for a different "starting point" for immigration reform that protects the rights of all immigrant families, workers and communities."

The beltway lobbying strategy started by asking what employers and a Republican administration would be willing to accept. Groups like NDLON, however, proposed building a popular movement to change the political terrain in Washington, like the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Responding to lobbyists who called the Senate bill the only chance to reform immigration law for years, NDLON said "We know the struggle for justice and immigration reform requires a long view of history, and we will not be pressured into accepting an insufficient compromise simply for sake of political expediency. We owe it to this and future generations to pass a bill that we can all be proud of."

"The best way to guarantee the rights and wages of all workers in this country," added the AFL-CIO's John Sweeney, "is to give every immigrant the opportunity to become a citizen, with all the rights and duties that entails. At the same time, Congress must revise our immigration system so that in the face of labor shortages, future foreign workers may enter this country not as dispensable units of production but as permanent residents with the same rights and protections as all other U.S. workers."

Basic differences have divided the immigrant rights and labor movements, not just over tactics and strategy, but also over goals. Should immigrant rights groups and unions support increased enforcement? Should they allow employers to recruit hundreds of thousands of workers a year, on visas which condition their right to stay in the US on continued employment? Should temporary or contract labor programs be the condition under which the undocumented are allowed to stay?

This division, between Washington-based organizations, and grassroots coalitions outside the beltway, has existed for over a decade. In 1996 many community-based coalitions around the country withdrew from the National Immigration Forum when it insisted it was not possible to save the rights of undocumented immigrants in the Clinton-backed immigration bill. The DC-based strategy tacitly called for saving the rights of legal immigrants by telling Congress that while the country needed to do something about illegal immigration, legal residents shouldn't be punished in the same bill. The strategy failed, and according to Filipinos for Affirmative Action, "the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act undermined the basic rights of all immigrants, denied their right to due process, and expanded the reasons for detention and deportation." The starting point for immigration reform should be instead an agreement that "all immigrants have a right to be treated equally, with full legal, employment, human and civil rights."

Today's disagreements are similar. They are in part over strategy and tactics, but also raise a deeper issue: Should U.S. immigration policy become a labor supply system for corporations, or should it support families and communities? In the mainstream press, this question gets little coverage because the framework proposed in Congress so heavily sets the media agenda. Anger over exclusion from the debate provoked the Mexican American Political Association to declare that "We are totally opposed to the off-handed declarations made by compromising individual Latino television commentators or organizations that advocate - NOTHING IS WORSE [than failure to pass an immigration bill]. In fact, NOTHING WILL BE WORSE [than the proposed Senate legislation] in terms of the millions of individuals and families who will be criminalized in perpetuity."

Moving from an effort to defeat anti-immigrant legislation to an agenda that can win more progressive reforms requires an open debate over those disagreements. As Silicon Valley and other employer groups move to bring the Senate bill back, that discussion is more urgent than ever.

Friday, June 08, 2007

NCLB sets immigrants, kids of color and working class kids further behind

As our SF Board of Education debates our advocacy stance on Eliminating NCLB through a policy I drafted with our teachers, parents and the Educator Roundtable, the traditional advocates of Equal Educational Opportunity - Chicano/Latino advocacy groups, liberal politicians, teachers unions, etc. - appear divided on the upcoming re-authorization of NCLB.
Thanks to Judy Rabin of Schools Matter and Duane Campbell of Choosing Democracy for their plug of James Crawford's June 6 Education Week commentary, No Child Left Behind: A Diminished Vision of Civil Rights which helps explain the divide.
James Crawford, president of the Institute for Language and Education Policy, argues No Child Left Behind represents a "diminished vision of civil rights" and is actually creating a growing divide in educational equity. The vision of a child's most basic rights to an equal education has been lost and forgotten in an era of accountability and test scores. In fact, in this article, he builds a solid case against NCLB by explaining how the consequences of the legislation are antithetical to the original purpose of ESEA.It is a powerful article because it provide a historical perspective and goes beyond the usual rhetoric to make a case against NCLB as a inherently unjust and unfair law that violates the basic civil rights of children.
But Crawford also gives great insight into how conservative forces have taken the upper hand in FRAMING the issues:

Eliminating achievement gaps is paramount among the law’s goals; equal educational opportunity is not. In fact, the latter term—which had been prominent in previous versions of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act—appears nowhere in NCLB. (No doubt an anonymous congressional staffer performed a search-and-delete operation on the bill, just as one did with the word “bilingual,” which was also expunged.)

What’s the significance of this shift in terminology? Achievement gap is all about measurable “outputs” standardized-test scores—and not about equalizing resources, addressing poverty, combating segregation, or guaranteeing children an opportunity to learn. The No Child Left Behind Act is silent on such matters.
Dropping equal educational opportunity, which highlights the role of inputs, has a subtle but powerful effect on how we think about accountability. It shifts the entire burden of reform from legislators and policymakers to teachers and kids and schools.