Insight News

Feb 08th


Another barrier to achievement for students of color

At the end of the 2009-2010 school year, the rate of non-proficiency on the MCA Math test among black students at all grade levels in Minneapolis Public Schools was 74%. In St. Paul, it was 68%. The Parent Fact Sheet on the Minnesota Department of Education’s Web site states that the MCAs “are given every spring to measure student performance against the Minnesota Academic Standards, which specify what students in a particular grade should know and do.” In other words, only about one in four black students in Minneapolis, and one in three in St. Paul, were able to demonstrate that they learned what they were supposed to in Math. The question is, to what extent were these students, and their parents, being given valid feedback throughout the school year?

Republicans propose devastating legislation

We are heading into the last leg of the 2011 legislative session and the stakes continue to be high for Minnesotans. Budget proposals passed by the Republican majority will have particularly devastating effects on our community.

As a new member to the Minnesota State Legislature, I ran with the belief that it was our job to do right by Minnesotans across the state regardless of political affiliation. Despite the perceived difficulties of no longer being in the majority, I was confident that the new Republican majority would be fair and balanced in their budget approach, setting in place resources for those who need it most, while making sure that everyone participates in a shared sacrifice for our state’s economic future. I must admit, my confidence in this shared ideal has been shaken. 

Children’s health on the chopping block

Like many parents, California mother Anne-Marie Skinner knows “accidents happen.” Her active, athletic teenagers Constance and Lucas are both involved in a number of extracurricular activities, and both have unfortunately suffered sports-related injuries that required serious medical care. One of the worst accidents happened when a basketball hit Constance in the face, requiring an emergency room visit, an MRI, and follow-up care from multiple doctors, including a pediatric eye care specialist. Thankfully, both Constance and Lucas have been able to get the care they need because they are enrolled in Healthy Families, California’s version of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)—low-cost health insurance for children, teenagers, and pregnant women. Healthy Families makes Constance and Lucas’s care affordable for their family. Anne-Marie has already cut her family’s budget back to bare bones in this economy, including spending less on buying food. “If it wasn’t for Healthy Families I would be buried in a blanket of medical debt,” she says.

Smarter on crime

The nation’s decades long war on drugs and ‘tough on crime’ posture has failed to reduce crime rates and control the rising prison population.  Additionally, our current crime fighting strategy puts us at a disadvantage in other critical sectors, namely education.  Knowing what we now know, it is clear that it’s beyond time to take a different approach on crime…a smarter one.

Obama’s tightrope: What about the workers?

President Barack Obama is adept at walking a tightrope.  That’s what he did last week when he talked about the budget, chastising both Democrats and Republicans.  He spoke to the need for government to stand in the gap for the needy even as he understood the ramifications of the Ryan budget.  Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), chair of the House Budget Committee, is bound and determined to reduce the size of government.  He will do it on the backs of the poor and the needy, and he will, if he has his way, eviscerate the role that government plays in providing a safety net for those at the bottom.

Dr. David French: Pioneering physician

“This was a man who lived a life of urgency, but never an urgency in the service of self, but rather in the service of the society, of mankind, of others.”  So said Howard French at a memorial service for his father, Dr. David French who passed away March 31 at age 86.  I was blessed to have him, his wife Carolyn, and their children as friends over many decades.  As one of the founders of the Medical Committee for Human Rights, Dr. David French helped organize fellow medical professionals during the Civil Rights Movement to provide first aid to marchers and protesters.  His civil rights work was a turning point in a lifetime of pioneering professional work, from becoming one of the first Black board-certified surgeons in America to establishing innovative community health clinics in the United States and Africa.

Manning, Malcolm and meaning

Dr. Manning Marable made his transition a few days before his Malcolm X biography was released on April 4.  The community of scholars that admired him was saddened by his death, and also anticipated the work that would be the product of his decades of research.  In many ways, the product did not disappoint.  Manning Marable interpreted Malcolm X through a lens that is both familiar and unfamiliar.  He decoded Alex Haley’s Autobiography of Malcolm X like a surgeon with a scalpel, finding inconsistencies, reinventions, and hard truths.  At the same time there were questions that remain unanswered, suggesting that Dr. Marable, much like Brother Alex Haley, could not totally crack the code called Malcolm X.
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