Voices in Focus: Will Competitive Grants for Education Shortchange Poor Districts?

As a new week begins, here are some stories percolating in the community and ethnic media:

* The Amsterdam News warns that “Governor Cuomo’s proposed budget leaves black and brown communities out in the cold,” in an article that digs into the education funding in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed executive budget for 2012. The article zeroes in on the portion of the proposed budget allocated for the “competitive grant process,” which invites schools that have demonstrated success to apply for grants:

Since becoming governor, Cuomo has argued for giving more money to high performing school districts, claiming that taking such action will make lower-performing school districts perform better.

“Throwing money at the education bureaucracy and watching students fail has not worked, which is why the governor is creating incentives that support districts and reward performance so that we are putting our students first,”  read a statement from an official from the governor’s office.

The Amsterdam News argues that the money for competitive grants may be an attempt to sidestep court-mandated requirements to increase funding for poor districts:

For many, this seems like Cuomo doing an endgame around the landmark Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. New York State court case, which has been the basis for creating economic equality for rich and poor districts throughout the state.  After years of objection during the Pataki years, in 2007, the state Legislature finally approved standards to ensure fairness for less well-off districts.

* The Jewish Daily Forward reported on last weekend’s conference at the University of Pennsylvania on the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel — known as the BDS movement. The expected clashes between the BDS group and supporters of Israel never materialized, the paper reported:

“Spending our time and resources and efforts standing outside, protesting the event, says that this is mainstream political discourse,” added Noah Feit, a sophomore who is president of Penn Friends of Israel. “We decided not to stage a protest, because we prefer not to legitimize radical political discourse. We think there are better and more effective forums to express our opinions.”

This contrast — a nascent pro-Palestinian movement craving legitimacy, with the Jewish establishment ignoring it — was a surprising outcome of what some had expected to be a volatile few days on an Ivy League campus with a large percentage of Jewish students and graduates.

* DNAinfo continued its regular updates on the aftermath of the shooting death of Pvt. Danny Chen, who military officials said committed suicide in Afghanistan after prolonged racially motivated abuse from his fellow soldiers:

The third of eight soldiers accused in the bullying death of Army Pvt. Danny Chen is set to face a pretrial hearing Wednesday in Afghanistan.

The hearing will determine whether Lt. Daniel Schwartz, 25, will face a court-martial on eight charges of dereliction of duty in the Chinatown native’s apparent suicide on Oct. 3, military officials said.

Army investigators have already recommended that Spc. Ryan Offutt face trial on negligent homicide charges, and the hearing for Sgt. Travis Carden, who faces maltreatment and assault charges, started on Monday in Afghanistan and is ongoing, DNAinfo reported. Five other soldiers will face hearings to determine the charges against them over the next couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, Our Chinatown reported that State Senator Daniel Squadron took the floor in support of a resolution that “mourns the untimely death of Private Danny Chen and pays tribute to his courageous actions as a member of U.S. Army.”


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