Friday, October 16, 2009

Commentary: Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson And Plain Dealer Columnist Phillip Morris Fight It Out.. Read What President Obama Had To Say

Posted Friday, October 16, 2009
(National and Cleveland, Ohio Area News)

Commentary By Kathy Wray Coleman
Editor of The Determiner Weekly and The
Kathy Wray Coleman Online News Blog and Media Network

I hate to see two Black men at each others throats as has occurred this week with Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and talented but conservative Cleveland Plain Dealer Columnist Phillip Morris. Nonetheless, it stirs up dialogue and increases readership in a country where few people read on a regular basis and even fewer internalize the high points of what is written. It also reminds us that Cleveland's Black children are still at risk educationally where the federal and state governments, unlike Jackson, have thrown them to the waste side.

The long overdue debate is over the state of affairs of Cleveland's predominantly Black public school children. Jackson has taken on Morris and others at the PD for criticizing a student scholarship program for kids under his watch to attend Cleveland's Cuyahoga County Community College. It seems that 54 percent of the high school graduates who started in the college program last year and who received some $3,000 for tuition supplements have dropped out. Morris says parameters for entrance must be in place such as a GPA limit. Jackson counters that he will not deny Black children access to higher education. Closer to Jackson's side is the reality that Black children in America's schools, Cleveland children in particular, are in trouble and its not as simple as demanding high standards as the naive suburbanite Morris contends.

Via state law Cleveland's mayor controls the city schools, an initiative implemented per the Ohio State Legislature that took effect in 1998 when then U.S. District Court Judge George White granted unitary status to the school district, thereby relieving it from the desegregation court order initiated in the late 1970's. That federal court order, which had 12 remedial provisions known as the remedial orders that included staff desegregation and crosstown busing, came shortly after then Federal District Court Judge Frank Battisti found the school district and the state of Ohio guilty of running a dual school system to the detriment of Black children and their families in a case dubbed Reed v. Rhodes. (Reed was a Black plaintiff, then a student, and Rhodes was then the governor of Ohio).

Busing may not have been productive but court watch was because it forced the state of Ohio and the school district to monitor the failures and the successes of Cleveland's Black children. When I interviewed now U.S. President Barack Obama one-on-one during last year's Democratic primary in Ohio for the Call and Post Newspaper, Ohio's Black Press, I posed the following question:

What would you recommend as an effective mechanism for monitoring the achievement gap between Black and White students in Cleveland's public schools in the absence of the now defunct desegregation court order that once measured the successes and failures of Black children, and in consideration of your promise to revise the Republican-centered No Child Left Behind Act?

President Obama responded that “The No Child Left Behind Act actually has provisions for monitoring the achievement gap between Black and White children. Whether they are doing it on the local level, I don't know.”

The president's comments have teeth, but not enough. Cleveland needs court watch again to help struggling Black children because Jackson lacks authority to get beyond the red tape that the Cleveland Teachers Union and other school district unions have in place that keeps the community from knowing what is really happening with our kids. I am pro-union sometimes, but I am pro-student first, regardless of race or gender. Moreover, the vestiges of racial discrimination were never remedied to the extent practicable as required via the desegregation court order, no matter what White ruled when he dissolved it in 1998 to the detriment of Black children. Bring back the desegregation court order minus busing.