Tuition Free College Offers More than Hope to Students

NY Governor Cuomo and Bernie Sanders at recent news conference

Last week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled a proposal to make public college tuition free for low and middle-income students. At a recent news conference he said, “New York state is going to start this year the Excelsior scholarship: if you come from any family earning $125,000 or less, you are going to get free tuition………It’s the first program like it in the US… and it should be a wake-up call to this nation.”

It would be a great kick off to 2017 if Georgia’s graduating high school seniors could get a similar deal. Georgia families deserve the same opportunities as New York students – the unfettered chance to advance their post secondary education to compete in a world economy. New York Governor Cuomo gets it. His initiative is worthy of state funding because the state budget reaps the benefits of the higher income of its residents and a highly educated workforce is the foundation of economic development.  While Georgia’s HOPE scholarship serves a record number of middle-income students, recent studies have found Georgia students from the lowest income families are underserved. Let’s improve education at every level simultaneously – improve K through 12 public education, fund research universities, and high performing students and invest in the children and the families who need it most- those with the lowest wages from working families who can support themselves but don’t earn enough to save for college. Let’s put hope and opportunity back into Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship program.

All I want for Georgia is bold leadership that sets high standards and seeks to support all Georgians especially our youth. Go Governor Cuomo! Cheers and good luck! Here in Georgia, we’re pulling for your success hoping that Governor Deal might follow your lead.

A super highlight of a super-man in New York Times voter feature

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At Antonio’s 2010 Lincoln University graduation in Jefferson City, Missouri is Lincoln University SGA President Antonio Lewis and Dr. Carolyn Mahoney, Lincoln University President.

NYTimesThis is a super story about a super young man in the New York Times, Of the People feature. It highlights Antonio Lewis, one of the Mayor’s Youth Program (MYP) students during my term as mayor. He  graduated from Atlanta Public Schools and earned a scholarship to Middle Georgia, which he lost after the first semester. While he was on winter break, he visited me as mayor and asked for my help in attending a local community college. Instead, I called our local Lincoln University-Missouri alumni contact who arranged for a partial scholarship that was matched with MYP funds. Four years later Lewis graduated with honors as Lincoln University student body president. The following year he joined the Obama field team and the rest is history. This happened hundreds of times during the six years of the program at the City. His success is the result of a village of people like, Deborah Lum and the staff at the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency, who supported him. I am happy that we caught him before he fell through the cracks like far too many of our young people, unfortunately, have done.

Demographics haven’t shifted elections in Georgia, yet!

Vinson Institute-UGAAs more and more people become engaged in the presidential campaigns either as voters, caucus members or active campaigners, news articles and columns are speculating about which supporters are best positioned or angling for appointments and VIP statuses the new administration.

There is talk all over Atlanta about who will get the nod for which positions in which administration. Ambassadorships and Cabinet appointments are among the most mentioned. Hopes are high in political circles that at least a few Georgians will follow their predecessors – United Nations  Ambassador Andrew Young, White House staff person Rita Samuels, Director of Presidential Personnel Veronica Biggins, Ambassador Gordon Giffen or Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates are among the host of other Atlantans who have served among a President’s most respected and trusted advisors. Even as those considerations are being entertained, most voters and most polls expect Georgia to remain a red state in November. The growth of Georgia’s population over the last decades and the demographics – young, black, brown and international have changed the “color” and “culture”  of the state’s residents,  but we have yet to see a change from “conservative and right leaning” political philosophy in statewide or Congressional elections.

Last year Cabral reminded me about having thousands of qualified registered yet seemingly uninterested voters move to the state or the city doesn’t automatically change election outcomes. Even massive voter registration drives like Georgia House Minority Leader and State Representative for the 89th House District Stacey Abrams’ New Georgia Project in 2012 haven’t moved the needle much. The population of Georgia might be browner and more left leaning but so far election results haven’t shifted.

Before anyone starts packing for Washington, DC maybe we should ask them to focus on a few of the issues that face at least a million Georgians. Those who live on limited or fixed incomes have the greatest needs but all Georgians suffer when we “play politics” while Georgians face social and political obstacles to improve their everyday lives. From the LIMITED accessible, affordable, clean public transportation, affordable housing, healthcare and mental healthcare options, affordable post-secondary and higher education, funding for medical research, support for technology incubators, business retention and expansion incentives,  business opportunities for small, minority and female businesses to HIGH rates of incarceration and recidivism, high school, community college and college dropout rates, family and child poverty and persistent and growing high levels of homelessness in both cities and the suburbs, Georgia officials and civic leaders, all of us, have a lot of work to do at home before moving up the ladder to national leadership.

I count myself as responsible to do some of the hard work too. Whether Georgia is red, blue or purple in the November elections, we should choose the road less traveled and double down on getting Georgia on the right track for those who are most in need.

“If I Were Mayor”— A Young Student Explains the Job

Fifteen years ago in January 2001 a few friends, colleagues and I gathered in my living room to discuss whether my candidacy for mayor could be successful. We talked about the likely candidates, their years of public service and accomplishments; we had an honest discussion about whether I, as a first time candidate even with promised endorsements, could win a race against a seasoned politician and former City Council member. We talked very little about what I would or should do as mayor beyond continuing the legacy programs of previous mayors going back to William Hartsfield.ifIweremayor

Mine was a long shot candidacy and the voters proved the prediction true when the winning percentage of votes in the election barely tipped over the required 50 percentile.  At some level I longed to be in the public discussion about issues held dear to my heart as much as winning the race. Such is the value of democracy. Each of us can be in the public debate about issues we hold dear. Voting is only part of the equation.

During the campaign I found people had opinions about the city, what the mayor should or should not do. Time after time I was struck by the opinions of children.

Here is an essay  written by a Fernbank Elementary School student in August 2002 two months before the November election.

If I Were Mayor

If I were mayor, I would make bigger candy stores, more ice cream trucks, and better playgrounds. But wait a minute. What exactly is a mayor supposed to do? It sounds like a big job-so many things to be done, so many things to be fixed, so many expectations and responsibilities! Decisions, decisions, hmmm…what would I do?

I once heard a poem that said to put your big rocks in the jar first. Then you add the gravel, sand, and water. The big rocks symbolize one’s main priorities, and the gravel and sand symbolize other small projects. One big rock in Atlanta that needs to be put in first, is the task of decreasing air pollution and traffic. If I were mayor, I would change the minimum number of people in an H.O.V. lane to three instead of two; increasing carpool rates and reducing pollution. Then I would encourage the expanding of MARTA. Hopefully, this would reduce traffic. Finally, I’d develop highway clean up teams to keep our roads clean and safe.

Another big rock is the task of helping and caring for the homeless or needy. I, as mayor, would start a sort of “homeless hospital” which would provide good, reliable and cheap medical dental care for the needy. Also at the “hospital”, homeless could sign-up for job skills courses, where trainers would come in and teach certain skills they could use to get a job.

Now comes the gravel and sand. I would paint over graffiti, restore old buildings, improve schools, clean parks, and find good homes for the orphaned children. These and other small things help fill the jar.

Finally, another very important thing that every mayor should do is keep his or her promises. Citizens want an honest and trustworthy mayor who will make fair decisions and listen to the problems of the city. Our city deserves a good mayor. And who knows, one day, it could be me!

” Citizens want an honest and trustworthy mayor who will make fair decisions and listens to the problems of the city. Our city deserves a good mayor.” This young woman captures the expectations of nearly all the voters I’ve ever met.

 

 

Mizzou is a Reminder to Reset our Moral Compass

mizzoufb

Missouri football players who are refusing to play until president Wolfe resigns.

While the national media attention has shifted from protests about police shootings and the racial identity of the victims in those shootings to the 2016 presidential candidates squabble of the day, the students at the University of Missouri are struggling with increased racial, sexist and hateful behavior on their campus in Columbia. National coverage and social media are telling the story of a climate on campus that is the impetus of the current protest that now includes the Mizzou football players of color who are supporting the protest by refusing to play until the president resigns.

It has been reported that the incidents that lead to the latest activism on campus started a few months ago when the president of the Missouri Student Association shared a racist experience on Facebook. Members of the Black student organization (Legion of Black Collegians) were targets of racial slurs on campus; Black students created a group called Concerned Student 1950 (the year that the first Black student attended the school); protesting students were bumped by the car of the University of Missouri System president Tim Wolfe during a homecoming parade when they blocked his vehicle; and a swastika was smeared with feces in a dorm bathroom. Graduate student Jonathan Butler is currently on a hunger strike that he said he will continue until Wolfe resigns.

The students and athletes on that campus have decided not to look the other way. Their collective resistance to derogatory comments and treatment is both courageous and reminiscent of a time when students refused to just go along and ignore an uncomfortable situation because it didn’t affect them. The problem of race and hatred of all kinds is everywhere and we see it, whether we want to or not because technology puts us in the heat of the battle in real time.

A few years ago I asked a retail telephone salesman if I could buy a cell phone without the camera because I didn’t need it. That was a pretty naïve request. The phone images are a window to what can happen when our worse selves are in charge. It allows us to see and hear for ourselves what has been known in some communities and unknown or ignored in others. America needs to reset its moral compass to respect human life and the students at Mizzou are yet another reminder of that charge.

To achieve equity in our cities, start at the neighborhood level

Originally posted in Saporta Report

By Guest Columnist SHIRLEY FRANKLIN, executive board chair of Purpose Built Communities and Atlanta’s mayor from 2002 to 2010

eastlakeSRLast week, Lesley Grady of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta wrote an insightful piece called “Equity, Inequality and Myth Busting” that highlighted the extreme income inequality between white households and African-American households in Atlanta.

“Addressing income inequality will require our collective courage to acknowledge historic, pervasive biases and structures, bounded by race and class, which anchor whole families and communities in perpetual poverty,” she argued.

We agree.

I just returned from the sixth annual Purpose Built Communities Conference in Fort Worth, TX, which brought together leaders from fields including business, real estate, medicine, public health, housing, education, social entrepreneurship, social justice, criminal justice, and the faith community.

More than 350 people from 49 communities across the country came together to learn about neighborhood transformation and breaking the cycle of inter-generational poverty.

There are those who think a neighborhood focus is too narrow. According to the latest data and research, neighborhoods are exactly where we should be focusing if we want to reverse decades of concentrated poverty and create equity and prosperity.

There are those who think a neighborhood focus is too narrow. According to the latest data and research, neighborhoods are exactly where we should be focusing if we want to reverse decades of concentrated poverty and create equity and prosperity.

Several sessions at the conference focused on the ways neighborhoods determine health outcomes. Dr. Lisa Chamberlain from the Stanford Medical School and Dr. Douglas Jutte from the Build Healthy Places Network shared striking data from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Commission to Build a Healthy America  about life expectancies in different neighborhoods within cities.

In Minneapolis, a distance of three miles could equal a 13-year difference in lifespan. In New Orleans, life expectancy can vary as much as 25 years from one neighborhood to another.

New York University professor Patrick Sharkey’s research about place and poverty shows that having a mother who was raised in a distressed neighborhood puts a child at a two-to-four year cognitive development deficit at birth.

The question is, why is this the case?

According to Jutte and Chamberlain, the science shows that environment has a greater impact on health outcomes than genetics.

Our neighborhood environment, including physical conditions (e.g. presence or lack of sidewalks and lead paint), service conditions (e.g. transportation, stores, schools) and social conditions (e.g. crime, sense of community or lack thereof), largely determine how long a person will live and what kind of quality of life they will have.

Factors like toxic stress, which is prevalent in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty, impact both neurological and physical development.

Dr. David Erickson, director of the Center for Community Development Investments for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, and Carol Naughton, president of Purpose Built Communities, shared the latest research impacting community development, including the work of economist Raj Chetty, whose research found a strong correlation between place and upward economic mobility.

There are two ways we know of to address this: one is to move people out of neighborhoods of concentrated poverty to ones where the physical, service and social conditions are qualitatively better.

Another is to improve those conditions in distressed neighborhoods.

Purpose Built Communities exists to help with the latter, assisting local leaders implement a comprehensive model consisting of mixed-income housing; a cradle-to-college education pipeline; and community wellness programs and services guided by a dedicated “community quarterback” nonprofit organization whose sole focus is the health of the neighborhood.

In the span of just six years, we now have 13 Purpose Built Communities Network Members from coast to coast, including East Lake here in Atlanta which provided the blueprint for this model of neighborhood transformation. All of these neighborhoods have community quarterbacks and partners implementing this model to break the cycle of inter-generational poverty.

Our Annual Conference is a chance for those working in these neighborhoods, and those who are thinking about doing this work, to learn from one another to achieve the results we so desperately need.

As Lesley Grady said, “we have to go further and deeper and fix the fault line that prevents all families and communities from sharing in the region’s growth and prosperity.”

By focusing on the neighborhood level in a holistic manner, Atlanta and other cities can change the trajectory for hundreds of families, especially children, so that a zip code will no longer determine a person’s health, income or lifespan.

 

 

Post Katrina Leadership Emerging in New Orleans

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, three New Orleans businessmen and civic leaders, Gerry Barousse, Mike Rodrigue and Gary Solomon, teamed up to play an inspirational role in the rebirth of their beloved city. Their effort to rebuild New Orleans through the creation of the Bayou District Foundation led to demonstrable results in the standard of living and people’s lives. They are part of a new, emerging brand of leadership that we should applaud and support nationally.

Two months after the storm, many people doubted whether certain parts of their city would ever recover. Gerry, Mike and Gary believed otherwise. They decided to focus their attention in the former St. Bernard public housing development, which was largely destroyed by the floods. They created the Bayou District Foundation, a nonprofit that served, to use a football metaphor, as a “community quarterback” for one of the greatest rebuilding efforts in New Orleans. Working with Columbia Residential as its development partner and the Housing Authority of New Orleans, they contacted displaced residents in New Orleans and across the country, engaging those who wanted to shape the new development with their input.

The three men were inspired to take on this enormous challenge after visiting the East Lake neighborhood in Atlanta, where businessman and philanthropist Tom Cousins championed the revitalization of one of the most dangerous and under-invested parts of the city. What the three men saw at East Lake provided a vision for what was possible: a revitalization that could have impact far beyond neighborhood boundaries.

Gerry Barousse, Mike Rodrigue and Gary Solomon understood the potential for a better future for New Orleans that could be accomplished through civic and business leadership. Over the past nine years, the Bayou District Foundation, with Columbia Residential, has led the development of 685 new, high-quality mixed-income apartments at Columbia Parc. Now it’s a fully leased development that is a safe and welcoming environment full of families and individuals spanning a wide range of ages.

Before the storm in 2005, the St. Bernard public housing development was only 72% occupied, according to the Housing Authority of New Orleans, due to the deteriorating condition of the buildings. In addition, it was an unsafe environment for families and children. From 2001 to 2005, there were 684 felonies and 42 murders within the 52-acre site.

Today, crime is virtually nonexistent. All residents of Columbia Parc are either employed, in school, in a vocational training program, or retired, and incomes of residents represent a healthy mix, from low income to those earning six-figure salaries. It is a community where people want to live that offers paths out of poverty for the lowest income residents.

The Bayou District Foundation also partnered with Educare to create an early childhood education center on the campus serving 167 children ages 0-5; created a health clinic with St. Thomas Community Health Center which serves more than 300 patients per month; and will break ground on a new K-8 charter school in 2016.

The leaders of the Bayou District Foundation are taking risks and making long term commitments, tackling issues that have bedeviled American society for generations. They are investing their reputations, connections, political capital and even their philanthropy in neighborhoods that have long suffered from the effects of concentrated poverty. Neighborhoods like this exist in just about every city across the country. The question is, why would leaders like this want to invest in them, and to what end?

The answer is that these leaders care about people and results. They believe that if given the opportunity to grow up and live in a healthy community, every child can succeed in school and achieve their full potential. It sounds idealistic, and it is, but there is now a track record of work in several fields that demonstrates this is no pipe dream.

At Purpose Built Communities, we are looking for more leaders who are not afraid to embark on a difficult path working with the community to transform neighborhoods of concentrated poverty, change lives, and ultimately, create a better country. We should all recognize and support this brand of leadership that can make a real difference in urban areas across the country.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/shirley-franklin/ten-years-after-katrina-n_b_7977198.html

 

Taking the Flag Down is a First Step, Not a Giant Step for Mankind

SCflagOn Friday, the Confederate flag waved a final goodbye in the wind as it was lowered from a pole on the South Carolina statehouse grounds. But it was not without ceremony and controversy. An estimated crowd of over a 1,000 people gathered at the site and cheered the removal of the flag to its final resting place in a museum. Even as the flag removal was being streamed online and broadcasted live, the commentaries of “so what” were making headway on the information highway. There is nothing wrong with presenting multiple sides of an issue. This post is not a criticism of the dissonance but an observation of how some first steps have helped to advance our understanding of the incredibly complex issue of race in America.

History has aptly documented that legislation and legal authority do not change hearts and minds.

—The 13th Amendment to the US Constitution abolished slavery but did not provide citizenship nor equal rights.

—The 14th Amendment granted African Americans citizenship but not civil rights

—The 15th Amendment said that race could not be used to deprive men of the ability to vote yet voter suppression continues

—The Supreme Court’s decision in Plessy v. Ferguson confirmed the principle of “Separate but Equal” and sanctioned Jim Crow laws

—The Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education ordered the desegregation of public schools yet 61 years later segregation is still commonplace for many American school children

We know that neither the South Carolina legislature nor the US Supreme Court can order the end of hate. And as other states examine their collective responses to the removal of racist and offensive monuments and images around the country, the debate will continue. Some will argue it is not enough to simply remove these images that honor intolerance and bigotry. We agree. More must be done to begin the long overdue journey to eradicating racism. But it is important to remember historic first steps that help make the journey possible.

With all deliberate speed has not worked in the dismantling of discrimination. The removal of the Confederate flag is merely a first step— it is not a giant step for mankind. It is a subtle reminder that first steps make impressions in the sand, no matter how long the journey. Without Jackie Robinson’s first step, there might not have been a Hank Aaron; without Althea Gibson, no Serena Williams; without Benjamin O. Davis Sr., no Colin Powell; without Gwendolyn Brooks, no Toni Morrison; without the first African American Senator Hiram Revels, no Barack Obama. So while there will be no victory battle hymn sung for the removal of the flag, it is worth honoring a first step in the march toward justice and equality. This is as good a time as any for people of goodwill and earnest hearts to recommit themselves to achieving fairness and opportunity for all Americans and immigrants whose contributions are essential to America’s future.

 

Mayor’s Youth Program meets Achieve Atlanta

MYPBWBIn 2001 while campaigning for mayor it was clear from people all over the city that they wanted the new mayor to engage in the reform of Atlanta Public Schools, in spite of the arrival of the newly selected superintendent. In every forum (and there were over 100) and in small groups, it was a frequent topic by concerned voters. By the November 2001 election, the new superintendent was firmly settled in the circles of power in Atlanta and they and she were committed to a formal APS school reform plan.

The plan expected the new mayor to support the various public referenda and occasional special projects. For four years I played my part, rarely engaging with either the Superintendent or the Board of Education. In 2005 during my reelection campaign, I revisited the public’s cry for mayoral involvement with public education and I announced my plan to “adopt” the graduating class of the Atlanta Public School System with the intention to assist every interested student in supporting their transition from high school to college, technical school or the workforce.

The students asked for career related summer jobs, assistance with identifying college opportunities and financial aid, and support for pursuing their dreams and those are the program components we developed. They welcomed our candid exchange of ideas and our opinions. We coached, advocated and supervised their transition planning. By fall over 400 seniors were headed to college after 8 to 10 weeks of paid summer internships in dozens of local businesses, government agencies, including the police and fire cadet programs. Some attended and graduated from healthcare certificate programs conducted at Atlanta Technical College.

We raised $1,000,000 over the summer and 100% of the funding was spent on student unmet needs from typical college fees and costs, to transportation, to laptop computers and bus and airplane transportation. It was the easiest fundraising I’ve ever done because local leaders starting with the Kendeda Foundation and Aaron Rents Chairman Charlie Loudermilk supported this innovative approach. But not all the local civic leaders supported this nontraditional, cutting edge program to support Atlanta’s neediest students. Over five years the initial $500,000 grant from Kendeda was matched over 10 times and nearly 4,000 college and technical school bound youth benefitted. Their stories are the greatest achievement of this program, I continue to get updates on the many students whose lives where touched by the Mayor’s Youth Program (MYP).

Thanks to Deborah Lum, Executive Director of AWDA, the AWDA staff and dozens of donors who supported the MYP, the new program Achieve Atlanta can build on the lessons learned and success of MYP. What fun it is to have our experimental program adopted by a new group of donors and civic leaders.

Hard Lessons to Create a Better Future

By Courtney EnglishEnglish
Educational reformer John Dewey once said: “Schools are the fundamental method of social progress and reform.”

There are few institutions as important in our society as our public schools. There remains an essential compact between a community and its public schools that helped make America what it is today. And this mutual pledge demands that our schools teach every child, whether they are poor or rich, black or white, to the best of their ability. It demands that our teachers possess tools needed to be successful, and entails a guarantee to parents that their kids’ interests always come first.
That trust was broken in Atlanta when it was discovered that widespread cheating on annual state exams occurred, robbing students of promised education and learning.
That scandal and subsequent trial have been a sad, painful and tragic chapter for Atlanta Public Schools and our community. Its impact will be felt for years to come.
As the trial ends, close observers of APS must know that efforts to restore the integrity of the system began three years ago and accelerated more recently with the election of a new board and appointment of a dynamic superintendent, Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen, in 2014. We are working hand-in-hand, focusing on high student outcomes to implement reforms and to ensure that a scandal like this never happens again.
We’ve set a strategic course for a new direction of improved instructional quality and systemwide efficiencies with a goal to regain the trust of our community, parents and students through hard work, integrity, transparency and leadership.
We are making progress.
A senior cabinet chief accountability office has been created, and we have built systems and procedures to ensure data integrity. It’s working to continually review recommendations to improve data monitoring and controls.
An ethics program was launched in 2011 that includes ethics advocates at each school and a mandate for all employees as a condition of employment. It also:
› Installed automatic triggers for test scores that rise or decline sharply;
› Created an anonymous hotline to report unethical behavior;
› Instituted automatic investigations of schools with unusual gains in test scores;
› Created stronger safeguards related to the handling and storage of test materials;
› Suspended incentive or bonus programs;
› Replaced 60 percent of the district’s principals.
As a result of these reforms, APS was recently recognized by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement for significantly improving auditing and test security procedures.
For students who needed additional academic assistance, our district launched a comprehensive remediation program. In fact, structured remediation is now mandatory so that we can meet the specific needs of all struggling students, not just those caught up in the scandal.
Dr. Carstarphen, the board and I have made a vow that together we will create a new culture at APS, one of trust and collaboration where every student graduates ready for college and career. This will be a culture where students love to learn, educators inspire, families engage and the community trusts the system.
Courtney English is chairman of the Atlanta Board of Education