Saturday, April 23, 2011

Tonya McDowell, US School Financing and the "Theft" of High Quality Education

In the United States, education is a valuable commodity that parents buy for their children when parents select the town, city or state in which they will live. Schools typically are funded largely based on the taxes imposed on home-owners and others in a particular locale.  Where house values are high, more money is raised by charging realty taxes based on a percentage of the values of the homes.

When parents buy or rent real estate in a given town, they simultaneously buy the right to send their children to the school in that town that is closest to their home.  This creates a direct and predictable relationship between the income and assets of the parents and the funding available for the education of their children.

The quality of education is determined not only by expenses per student, but also the qualifications of teachers, class sizes quality of libraries and lab equipment and other factors.  Above all, educators and  supervisors know that they will be held accountable for the percentage of students graduating and entering high quality and high status colleges and universities.  Wealthy parent simply will not permit their children to receive an education whose poverty is evident in college entrance exams.

This brings us to the case of the allegation that Tonya McDowell "the homeless single mother who was arrested for sending her child to the “wrong” school district (similar to the case of Kelley Williams-Bolar a few months ago)." 

Short of murder, it ought not be a crime to send one's children to the best available schools, regardless of where they are.  To the contrary, the failure to seek out the best education available might even be considered child neglect, if American society were not ordered in such a way as to guarantee that poor children typically receive poor educations.  For example, it is not unusual in some major urban school districts for 50% of high school students to leave high school without receiving a high school diploma.

It's in this context that we see the motivation and intent of Tonya McDowell, and we cannot help but agree with her laudable goal even if some readers find fault with the way in which she sought to achieve her goal, which was to obtain the best quality education available to her for her child.

Should "stealing" education from  a wealthy school district be a crime at all?  Or should we all be attempting to do the same thing--to achieve the best possible educations for our children, even if it is paid for by wealthy parents' property taxes in a suburb where we parents are unable to rent or buy a home?

The system of funding schools through property taxes is obviously unfair to children whose only crime was to be born on the wrong side of the train tracks.   It is this system that must ultimately be modified so that a quality education for our children is a right and not commodity that only the rich can afford through their property taxes.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Georgia to Execute Troy Davis, Despite Gaping Holes In State's Case

Troy Davis is about to be executed -- even though he may be innocent.
Tell Georgia to spare Troy Davis' life.
This is an emergency announcement from Color of Change:

Dear Atty,
In 1991, Troy Davis was convicted of murdering a white police officer. Though there's major evidence that Davis didn't commit the crime, Georgia is prepared to put him to death. We have a good chance of stopping this -- but only if we speak up now.
The fact is, no physical evidence connected Davis to the murder. Seven of the original nine witnesses have recanted, with many saying their testimony was a result of law enforcement pressure. Of the remaining witnesses, one is highly suspect and the other could be the actual culprit in the officer's murder.
Now, despite these and other facts, the state of Georgia has taken the first steps toward Davis' execution -- and only the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole stands between Davis and the lethal injection chamber.
Georgia may be about to kill an innocent man. That's not justice. Please ask the Georgia Parole Board to spare Troy Davis' life, before it's too late -- and it's critical that you ask others to do the same:
Since Troy Davis' 1991 conviction, numerous facts have emerged that introduce significant doubt as to his guilt. These facts include:
  • All but two of the original witnesses against Troy Davis have signed affidavits recanting their earlier testimony. Most claim that their testimony was coerced by police officers.1
  • Multiple witnesses say that another man -- one of the original witnesses against Davis -- has claimed to have slain the fallen officer.2
  • The weapon used in the murder was never found. The only physical evidence connecting Davis to the crime was indirect, circumstantial -- and new testimony disputes Davis's connection to that evidence.3
In light of this evidence, the Supreme Court granted Davis another chance. But instead of an actual new trial before a jury, which would mean the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt is on the prosecutor, he got an evidentiary hearing before a single federal judge where Davis' lawyers had the burden to meet an impossibly high and undefined legal standard.
In light of this, it was sad -- but no surprise -- when the judge rejected the new evidence and cleared the way for Davis' execution. However, even he acknowledged lingering doubt, noting that the case against Davis was not "ironclad."
But "ironclad" is exactly what the evidence should be in order to put someone to death. If the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole doesn't act to stop Davis' execution, they'll run a serious risk of putting an innocent man to death. That is not acceptable.
Please join us, along with our partners at Amnesty International and the NAACP, in asking the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole to save Troy Davis' life by commuting his sentence to life in prison. And when you do, please ask your friends and family to do the same.
Thanks and Peace,
-- James, Gabriel, William, Dani, Matt, Natasha and the rest of the team
   April 20th, 2011
Help support our work. is powered by YOU--your energy and dollars. We take no money from lobbyists or large corporations that don't share our values, and our tiny staff ensures your contributions go a long way. You can contribute here:
1. “Troy Davis – Finality over Fairness,” Amnesty International USA
2. See Reference 1
3. See Reference 1

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The second segment of the above video reports that a teenage high school girl was on the bus when she observed the manner in which Newark, NJ police were treating a man who had become unconscious on a city bus in which she, also, was a passenger.  The girl began filming the public's police in a public place and then she was arrested my Newark Police.  She was later released with no charges filed.  Obviously, she was exercising her First Amendment right to free speech and the police had no reason to arrest her in the first place.

What is remarkable about this second segment of the above video is that Fox News, a Republican propaganda organ, (which is so not because I say so, but because Fox hires Republican candidates such as Sarah Palin as commentators when they are not in office), Fox nonetheless reports negatively on illegal police behavior and abuse of the public.  I wonder (and I imagine) that the girl arrested was Black.  If so, that makes Fox News' interest in this story doubly notable, since Fox is not known to focus on Police brutality as a cause for them to take up. 

Meanwhile, the first segment of the Fox video above hammers President Obama, blaming him for what they call a "one hundred percent increase in gas prices" since he was elected.  Although I'm not even sure why Obama wants to be president anymore, I cannot publish the first segment above without putting it in some factual context.  Just for some perspective from a mainstream (but not necessarily honest) news source, we go to the US News site and find the following:
Few issues have more of an impact on voters than the rising cost of gasoline. Soaring prices at the pump make commuting more expensive and put a crimp in motorists' vacation plans. Businesses that rely on gasoline often raise prices to keep pace and are sometimes forced to limit expansion and hiring. At another level, high gas prices suggest that America's fate is not in its own hands, that the country's way of life is at the mercy of oil-rich nations that mean us harm or don't care about our well-being.  (Link to other page deleted.)
That's why so many politicians in Washington are suddenly jumping on the gas-price issue. The stakes are particularly high for President Obama, who is up for re-election next year. Some of the lowest presidential approval ratings have been recorded when there was a "gas crisis," either shortages or high prices or both, according to Gallup. This happened to President Richard Nixon in 1973, President Jimmy Carter in 1979, George H.W. Bush in 1990, and George W. Bush in 2005. Americans of a certain age remember vividly one of the worst gasoline-related crises in recent history, when oil shortages resulted in long lines at filling stations across the country during the mid-1970s. No one wants to go through that again.
I would have tended to agree that high gas prices would weigh against a President's re-election, until I recall that President George W. Bush started wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, both of which wars made the availability of gasoline and heating oil seem less certain, and therefore caused gas prices to spike. Nonetheless, he was re-elected for a number of reasons which are not the subject of the Police Brutality (and Atrocity) Blog.