Friday, March 12, 2010

An "endless cycle of poverty and failure"

A few days ago Don Samuels and the Star Tribune asserted that the "endless cycle of poverty and failure" in north Minneapolis schools are somehow the fault of teachers' unions. Their arguments were ludicrous at best, and libelous at worst. Samuels accused the teachers of being "cynical and morally bankrupt."

Putting aside Samuels' assessment of why there is a "cycle of poverty and failure" in north Minneapolis schools, let's assume he is right that there is, in fact, a pattern of students failing there. What, then, might be the real reason for that failure? In a healthy discourse we could rely on media to help suss out the answer to that question.

Certainly lack of funding, and the socio-economic-status of the students and parents play a part. There is also fresh evidence that people of color receive unequal, harsher "justice" than Whites. But for traditional media like the Star Tribune, such questions are never asked. Softened up by conservative philanthropy supported propagandists, the teachers are just too easy a target.

That doesn't mean that the answers don't exist. At least part of the answer has been the war on minorities waged by Republicans. Tax and government spending policies, both at the national and state level over the past 30 years have inordinately hurt people of color.

Here in Minnesota you'll never hear racist comments coming from the mouth of Governor Pawlenty: He's too smart for that. Moderate voters just will not put up with overt racism. But the impact of his budgets, policies, and spending cuts have unquestionably hurt minorities and the poor more than White and the middle and upper classes.

Writing in the Spokeman-Reporter, a Black newspaper in the Twin Cities, Charles Hallman asserts that "Pawlenty budgets exhibit racial bias" :
The budget cuts “continue to operate in ways that continue [racial disparities]… They protect the status quo,” says Starstep Foundation President Alfred Babbington-Johnson.
Combined with the unallotment powers he used last year to slash health care and state aid to cities among other things, Pawlenty’s proposals have harmed Blacks, other persons of color, and low-income families the most, says the Minneapolis-based Organizing Apprenticeship Project (OAP) in a recent analysis of the governor’s budget cuts, including his initial decision to eliminate on April 1 the General Assistance Medical Care (GMAC) program. Almost 40 percent of over 70,000 Minnesotans served by GAMC are Blacks and Native Americans.
According to the OAP, 69 percent of clinic visits covered by GAMC at Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) in 2009 were by people of color, compared to just 30 percent for White patients. “I know a lot of people who receive GMAC,” says Libby Osborne of Minneapolis.
...the governor also proposed a 27-percent cut in the state renters’ credit program. Under that proposal, approximately 274,000 renters will face a reduction, and 18,200 renters actually will lose their credit, the OAP estimates. This would disproportionately affect elderly renters, low income renters and the renters of color who make up 20 percent of all state renters.
The OAP’s analysis also included $300 million in state aid to local governments that Pawlenty either unalloted or cut. “We found that the counties with the highest [number of] people of color, with the highest unemployment, with the highest poverty, are the ones being hit the most by unallotment,” says OAP Lead Policy Analyst Jermaine Toney.
One of the benefits of the civil rights movement of the 1960s is that it is no longer acceptable to be openly racist. Modern racists instead use code words, and, when in power, target for cuts programs which serve minorities and the poor, such as legal aide and medical assistance. Governor Pawlently no doubt hopes his adherence to this script will endear him to the lily White Republican base. And he may be right.

At any rate, an analysis of government policy helps put the lie to the notion that somehow teachers, the people in the trenches trying to help people of color and the poor, should somehow be responsible for their plight.

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