Educational Equality: the Case for Vouchers and Collaboration between Schools in Cleveland

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In a time of racial strife, growing inequality and more questions than answers on how to fix it, it is time that we re-examine what Horace Mann once called “the great equalizer”: education.

Educational equality can change the lives of the country’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens. A good education is the key to unlocking the promise of America’s New Economy. From kindergarten to college, a good education is more important now than ever before.

We already know that there are thousands upon thousands of jobs that go unfilled every year in America for lack of a skilled workforce. We also know that, according to some statistics, both Charter and Catholic schools produce more eventual college graduates than their public school counterparts. Furthermore, we also know that it is critical to have a college degree in the New Economy. But in many cities across the country, including Cleveland, there’s still a long way to go to unlock the promise of the 21st century in Education.

There were 96,450 children living in the city of Cleveland in 2015, according to the Center for Community Solutions. 58 percent of those children live in poverty. The Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program, the city’s voucher system, gives priority to “verified” low income families, but only 6,000-7,000 vouchers are available each year. This means that there are likely thousands of eligible children who do not get access to these vouchers. There are some high performing Charter and Public schools in Cleveland currently but far too many students are still in low-rated schools.

Far too often educational equality is viewed as a battle between public, charter and private schools over limited resources. This needs to change. If the leaders of public, private and public charter schools agree to work together with the ultimate goal of doing what’s best for the kids, our education system can be fixed.

For example, in Cleveland vouchers should be universally available, particularly to low-income students. In exchange for that, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District should be allowed to count and apply to their numbers test scores and attendance records of all students across public, private and public charter schools. Private schools will remain autonomous and independent, similar to public charters who today work with the city and its Transformation Plan. But there would be a shared incentive to work together and to view education in the district as a collaborative effort, instead of a competitive one.

The public school district may benefit financially as well, with the increase of students that would technically be on its rolls as well as an improvement in overall test scores. The increase of resources allows the public school district to re-invest in itself while also providing more investment in its private and charter partners. Best practices can be shared (but not mandated, beyond the state standards that everyone follows now), which could help lift all schools. Private and public charter schools, many of whom do not have the same security presence as public ones, can pay the district to provide CMSD police on campus. That would likely lead to an increase of the CMSD police force, which is positive for job growth and, most importantly, keeping our children safe.

The bottom line is that if we want to provide equality in education, we must increase collaboration and decrease hostility. The Cleveland Transformation Plan had led to more cooperation between public and public charters, but we need to go further. Private schools should be at the table too.

Strive Preparatory Schools are Changing Lives in Denver and Showing Ohio the Blueprint

Strive Preparatory Schools, a charter school system in Denver, is achieving significant results with a diverse group of children.

Strive Prep, which opened its first school in 2006, is now home to 11 schools and over 3,500 students. 97 percent of their students are people of color and 87 percent are low income. 42 percent are English learners and 12 percent are students with special needs. With a majority-minority and low income population, they are achieving results that surpass many of the public school systems in America.

Between 2007 and 2013, a Strive Prep school led all Denver Public Schools in academic growth at the middle school level. 92 percent of their first senior class was accepted to a four year college.

Strive’s philosophy is community oriented. Chris Gibbons, Founder and CEO of Strive, says “College preparation is a means to an end where scholars are equipped to earn a four-year college degree, come back to their community and lead and transform their own neighborhood in the ways that they imagine and the ways that they seek and believe are possible.”

The city of Denver is home to a robust school choice system. According to the Brookings Institution, Denver Public Schools is the best large district in the country for School Choice.  There has been unprecedented bipartisanship among Republicans and Democrats in the state and many of the stakeholders have come together to put the needs of their population first.

It would be difficult to imagine a charter school group like Strive being successful in an environment where there is the typical partisan rancor over education. In many cities across the country, the school choice conversation immediately turns into war between political parties, parents and teachers unions. In Denver, stakeholders were determined to come together to find solutions for children. As a result of that, the environment was created for schools like Strive Prep to thrive.

The results of the Ohio Charter School system is mixed, with the combination of partisan squabbles and some low performing schools stunting growth in the sector. Cleveland is an exception, with an unorthodox mix of a Democratic mayor and a public school district CEO working together with public and charter schools to enhance the quality of education in the city.

Cleveland has seen growth in education as a result of their ambitious “Cleveland Plan”. Test scores are improving and enrollment in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District went up for the first time in two decades. There is more work to be done, however, with far too many schools in the district still failing and not enough charter schools to meet the need. Residents will decide if work will continue on the robust project when they go to the polls this November to vote on renewing a school levy.

There is some friction in Cleveland between the school district and the teacher’s union, who has threatened to go on strike and has taken a vote of “no confidence” against pro-reform CEO Eric Gordon. However, for the most part community stakeholders in Cleveland, like Denver, are working together to fix education. The hope is to have the same results that Strive Prep and others have been able to deliver for its residents.

Conservative Media’s Lack of Diversity Contributed to the Rise of Trump

367F7A4000000578-0-image-a-8_1469180571446There have been many articles written by journalists and columnists about the issues surrounding the conservative media. With the rise of Donald Trump being aided and abetted by many in the conservative media, serious journalists and commentators are asking “how did this happen?”

John Zeigler and others have given us tremendous insight into the reasons why so many who claim to be true believers in conservatism sold out to someone who is not conservative. However I believe that there is another point that needs to be addressed. The alarming lack of racial and ethnic diversity in the audience of conservative media is one of the main contributors to the rise of Trump.

Those of us in the media understand that we have a responsibility to our audience. That is, after all, how we make money. Businesses, organizations and political candidates pay us for access to our audience. No audience, no money. So it is important to understand who your audience is and to cater to them in order to attract businesses that want to speak to that audience.

Too often, that does not include people of color. The audience of Fox News, conservative talk radio and most conservative media outlets is overwhelmingly white. Why does that matter? Because if your audience is even somewhat diverse, the cost-benefit analysis of going all in on someone like Donald Trump changes. Do we really think that Laura Ingraham would be worshipping at the altar of Trump if even 15 or 20 percent of her audience was Hispanic? Would the multitude of conservative news outlets that essentially serve as Trump’s Pravda be comfortable in that role if they knew that they could lose part of their audience? Conservative Media suffers the same demographic pitfalls as the Republican Party as a whole: its adherents are too old and too white.

Outlets and personalities do not even have to consider the sensibilities of a young or racially diverse audience because they are not in the fanbase. They rarely hear from non-activist members of those minority groups and as a result there is no cost to elevating a man that habitually says racist, sexist and xenophobic things. There is no threat of a listener backlash or protest (other than from committed liberals, who are agenda driven anyway). Unless white conservatives themselves revolt against Trump’s media sycophants, they will be free to do whatever they want without any fear of financial or audience repercussions. This development has contributed to the intellectual and ideological ghetto that these outlets and personalities have placed themselves in.

If we understand, then, that the conservative media is too racially and demographically homogenous, the natural next question is: what can be done about it? I believe there is nothing that one can do to diversify the audience of the current crop of super famous conservatives. They will live on their financial models until it falls apart (which may be coming sooner than they think). It is going to take new outlets, personalities and the development of a conservative media counter-culture, one that can still be right leaning, but with a different cost benefit analysis. A new conservative media culture that does not cater to demagogues and thinly veiled white supremacists is the only thing that can bring in new people.

Had the conservative media audience (and GOP primary voters) been more diverse, the rise of Donald Trump would have never happened in the first place. Imagine conservative talk show hosts or media outlets with even 20 percent of their audience being nonwhite. Now imagine how they would respond to a character like Trump. Would some risk alienating that 20 percent for the 80 percent who may like him? Sure, but many wouldn’t. An outlet with a diverse audience is also more likely to attract white people with different sensibilities, people who would be offended by Trump’s rhetoric and actions.

The conservative media runs the Republican Party in a way that we’ve never seen in American politics. If you’re concerned about the electoral futures of the GOP, job number one should be fixing and diversifying the media that controls it.

Darvio Morrow is the CEO of FCB Entertainment and co-host of The Outlaws Radio Show on iHeartRadio.

Puerto Ricans Speak Loud and Clear: Do Not Nominate Ted Cruz or Donald Trump

On Sunday, a crucial bloc of Hispanic voters had a chance to weigh in on the GOP Presidential Primary. They made a statement, loud and clear. In Puerto Rico, Marco Rubio won by a landslide. He took 71 percent of the vote. Donald Trump, the national frontrunner, received 13 percent while Ted Cruz only received a paltry 8 percent. The results of this race potentially has wide implications for not only the nomination battle but the general election as well.

The immediate result is that Mr. Rubio received all 23 of Puerto Rico’s delegates, which is the same amount that Mr. Cruz won in Maine the night before. In the race for the nomination, any increase in the delegate count helps. But more importantly, the result could help Mr. Rubio in his crucial (and tight) race to win his home state of Florida. Puerto Ricans are a large and growing voting bloc in Florida and they typically tend to follow the lead of voters on the island. With this blowout, Mr. Rubio’s path to victory in his home state may have just gotten a little easier.

But the results also show that Hispanic voters may not be enamored at all with either Mr. Trump or Mr. Cruz. It should be especially concerning for Mr. Cruz, as he was rejected soundly and unequivocally. Mr. Cruz could not even reach double digits in a territory that his campaign clearly expected to do better in. They had people on the ground for months. They were openly discussing the possibility of competing in Puerto Rico and the results showed that Mr. Cruz barely beat the collective vote of people no longer in the race.

That Mr. Cruz and Mr. Trump, the two men currently leading the national race, were beaten so soundly in Puerto Rico is a bad omen for the general election if either one is the nominee. It shows that Mr. Trump, who loves to brag that he will win the Hispanic vote, has in fact alienated these voters (as polling suggests) with what is seen as anti-Hispanic language and behavior.

For Mr. Cruz, it shows that he too has alienated a critical bloc of Hispanics with his rhetoric. The results in Puerto Rico are a wake up call and a reality check to any Cruz supporter who believes that he would be as competitive as Mr. Rubio among Latino voters.

The Republican Party must perform better among Hispanics in order to have any shot at winning the Presidency. Mitt Romney won only 27 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2012, a disaster that was caused, in large part, by the same anti-immigration rhetoric currently used by Mr. Cruz and Mr. Trump.

In order to offset the losses among black voters and the constant decrease in white turnout, the GOP needs a minimum of 40 percent of Hispanic voters (some say it’s now as high as 47 percent) to win the White House. They are going to have a hard time doing that if they nominate either a man who refers to Mexicans as “rapists” or a man who refers to illegal immigrants as “undocumented Democrats”. Even though those issues pertain to specific subgroups, it sends an antagonistic message to all Hispanics, including Puerto Ricans, who are American citizens.

A Rubio volunteer who participated in Get Out the Vote efforts in Puerto Rico told me that the general attitude was that those voters were motivated to make a statement against Mr. Trump. A voter told her, “We are all here for Marco because we don’t like Trump”. The margin of victory was no accident. Puerto Rican voters are not impacted by immigration policy, so the fact that they were so passionately against both Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz should be a red flag to those concerned about winning the general election.

Regardless of how the Trump campaign tried to spin the results of the Nevada caucus, the truth is that the race in Puerto Rico was the first that Hispanics in large numbers let their voices be heard in the GOP primary. The results were clear. They wholeheartedly embraced Mr. Rubio and soundly rejected both Mr. Cruz and Mr. Trump. If either of the two leading candidates are nominated and lose the Hispanic vote by historic proportions, no one should be surprised. Puerto Rico tried to warn you.

Darvio Morrow is the CEO of FCB Entertainment, Inc and co-host of The Outlaws Radio Show on iHeartRadio.

Donald Trump’s Disgustingly Racist Comments About Marco Rubio Should End His Campaign

trump1Presidential Candidate Donald Trump has said many, many, many offensive things over the course of his inexplicably successful (so far) campaign. However, yesterday in a CNN interview he said at least two things that should permanently disqualify him from running for political office.

First, while taking an unnecessary shot at fellow Presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson, Donald compared Dr. Carson to a child molester. If that wasn’t bad enough he said in the same interview that Marco Rubio was a supporter of what he called “amnesty” because he is Hispanic. It is hard to write the words that give justice to how ignorant and bigoted that statement is.

By saying that Marco only supports “amnesty” because he is Hispanic, he is making an attempt to “otherize” him. He is subtly reminding people that Marco isn’t like them. He is also insinuating (loudly) that Marco cannot possibly be fair and impartial as president because he is one of “those” people and will only be supportive of his “own” people. It is perhaps the height of modern political bigotry and a throwback to every racist politician of our past that has made that exact same argument to justify why a person of color should never be elected, regardless of party. This is textbook, boilerplate political racism.

For those of us who have noticed, this is nothing new. Donald Trump has built his entire presidential campaign on what The Federalist called “white identity politics“. His call to resurrect the controversial policy “Operation Wetback” was lauded by white supremacists, a group that his campaign has disturbingly attracted quite a few of. Even prior to his current presidential run, the Donald had made more than his fair share of racially questionable (at best) comments about African-Americans. When placed in that context, the comments about Marco Rubio are just another in a long line of bigoted and racially insensitive statements made by Mr. Trump.

What is more concerning is the relative silence of many in the conservative world to this rare display of blatant racism from a leading presidential candidate. With the exception of political guru Rick Wilson and others, few people in the conservative world (particularly in the media) has stood up and called this what it is. Allowing Mr. Trump to get away with what even the most clueless observer can see as racism sends a clear signal to other aspiring minority conservatives as to what they can expect. They will be attacked with racially tinged comments on the left and the right with very little public defense from their side. I’m sure there are tons of minority conservatives jumping at the chance to live that life.

A clear, public signal must be sent that, while Donald Trump certainly has the right to say whatever he wants, the public has the right to call him out when he steps over the line. There is a somewhat understandable hesitancy on the part of some conservatives to call out true racism when it is seen. Too often, the charge of racism is used as a political weapon to bludgeon one’s opponents. Honest misunderstandings and lost-in-translation cultural incidences are given nefarious motives by those who want to gain power. I get it. This is not one of those times. A major presidential candidate from the party of Lincoln is spewing hateful, racist rhetoric and he should be called out on it. Loudly. Consistently. Unequivocally. The backlash needs to be so deafening that even he and his worshipers can hear it.