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NAACP Calls for Moratorium on Charter Schools

August 17, 2016 – The NAACP unveiled strong new resolutions at its national convention in Cincinnati.  One of its loudest was a demand for a nationwide halt on new charter schools.

The NAACP has been opposed to charter schools for two years, but this year organization delegates voted for an outright moratorium on privately managed charter schools, after acknowledging what they consider to be numerous civil violations by charter schools’ privately appointed boards.

“Charter schools have contributed to the increased segregation rather than diverse integration of our public school system,” claims the NAACP’s 2016 resolution, which was voted on and approved in July.

Delegates agreed that charter schools have the ability to pick and choose their students through “disproportionately high use of punitive and exclusionary discipline,” which tosses out underprivileged students who don’t perform as well as affluent youth do on some tests and helps give charter schools an unfair performance edge over public schools in test scores.  Delegates also agreed that, unlike public schools – which MUST accept even problem students – charter schools can boost enrollment of high-performing students with more stringent entrance requirements.

Critics often use the tiered charter school system in New Orleans as an example.  The University of Minnesota Law School Institute on Race and Poverty issued a 2010 report revealing that in 2009, 87 percent of all white students in New Orleans attended the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) or Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) charter schools, while only 18 percent of African Americans and Latinos attended those same schools.  Instead, 75 percent of African-American and Latino students attended the Recovery School District (RSD) schools that same year.  Nearly all RSD schools qualified as high-poverty schools, while the OPSB and BESE sectors contained the lowest shares of high-poverty schools.

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund, LatinoJustice, and the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College argue that the most effective tool of separation that charter schools use is standardized testing.  Louisiana education consultant and researcher Raynard Sanders told the MSNAACP in 2013 that he shared that view.

“Standardized tests as a means of measuring student success don’t work well because it is such a narrow measurement process.  It’s just a snapshot, really,” said Sanders.  “By using that instrument of measurement, you hurt students who don’t do well on it, not because they don’t have the ability, but because they have limited resources in their lives, mostly related to poverty.  They don’t do so well on standardized tests.”

Sanders said that he was also familiar with charter schools’ punitive and exclusionary discipline.

“Once the kids are in the school, you may have to commit to 100 hours a year of volunteer time, or pay extra fees, or any number of conditions,” said Sanders.  “Let’s say you’ve got a parent working two jobs and you can’t meet those conditions.  You end up with a very select group of kids, rather than the kids who are most challenged.  The schools are doing the choosing, not the parents.”

Mississippi, which has a decades-long problem with school segregation, now has laws making it easier to open charter schools in the state.  Lawmakers passed the Charter Schools Act of 2013, which diverts public money to charter schools through two funding streams: ad valorem tax funds from local school districts and per-pupil funds from the Mississippi Department of Education.

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a July 11 suit seeking to close the existing charter schools and stop any more from opening.  The suit, representing seven Jackson Public Schools parents, argues that charter schools violate the state constitution by forcing cash-strapped school districts to share meager property tax collections with charter schools that they neither supervise nor control.

“Traditional public schools,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, “will have fewer teachers, books, and educational resources.  These schools will no longer be able to provide Mississippi schoolchildren the education that they are constitutionally entitled to receive.”

The suit explains that the funding provisions of the Charter Schools Act of 2013 cost JPS school­children “more than $1.85 million in state per-pupil funding and ad valorem tax revenue in the 2015-2016 school year alone.”  That JPS money could have otherwise funded 42 teacher salaries, 18 new school buses, guidance counselors for 6,870 students, or vocational education programming for 6,672 students.

Currently, two charter schools, Reimagine Prep and Midtown Public Charter School, are operating in Mississippi.  Both schools are located within the boundaries of the Jackson Public School District.  A third school is slated to open inside the JPS district either this year or next year.  The Southern Poverty Law Center argues that JPS could lose up to $4 million during the 2016-2017 school year because of these three charter schools.

The Mississippi NAACP is in accord with the National NAACP’s July statement supporting the suit.

“The landscape of public education has room for new ideas,” state NAACP President Derrick Johnson said.  “However, innovation must not come at the expense of our state’s traditional public school system.  We must endeavor to improve our public education system, not destroy it.”


Source: MS NAACP State Conference

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Money Woes Mount Under GOP Super-Majority

August 17, 2016 – In a state already laboring under severe deficits, Mississippi’s Republican super-majority continues to implement deep budget cuts, the latest of which directly threaten some of Mississippi’s most vulnerable citizens.

“I’m very concerned about the plight of the poor, who are the first to suffer,” said Jackson Rep. Kathy Sykes.  “It may not hit everybody at first, but it is coming.  Poor people are the canaries in the coalmine.  We’re the first to suffer, and then it tends to spread.  The shame is that a lot of the folks who are or will be affected are the same people who voted for these elected officials who are insensitive to their plight.  This should be a wake-up call to all Mississippians that they need to hold all of us accountable.”

A Department of Revenue document reveals that the state generated $887.8 million less than anticipated by revenue estimates from April 2015.  Critics like Sykes and Rep. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, say multiple tax cuts during the last four years of Gov. Phil Bryant’s term are a major contributor to the slow revenue.

The Sun Herald reported that Bryant and the legislature approved more than $300 million in tax breaks and credits, including a $126 million reduction in business inventory taxes, as well as alterations to the state’s method for calculating business taxes.  Added to those cuts are multiple sales tax breaks for developers, as well as a series of “tax-free holidays.”

Despite the fact that the tax giveaways were driving down revenue, Bryant quickly signed yet another tax cut this year — one of the biggest in the state’s history — amounting to nearly $415 million in revenue loss over the next 12 years.  The tax cut created by Senate Bill 2858, which is now law, not only destroys the state’s franchise tax, but also reduces personal income taxes paid by individuals.  And while the new law eliminates more than $400 million in revenue, its benefits to individual taxpayers are marginal.  Under the law, the state will exempt the first $10,000 of earnings from state income tax.  Mississippi residents earning $16,000 or less will only save an average of $14 a year, while those earning more than $150,000 will save about $270 annually.

Even though Bryant made two separate mid-year budget cuts and the state raided the Rainy Day Fund for $45 million while managing to grab a massive one-time payment from a Mississippi Attorney General’s Office settlement, the slashed revenue has forced legislators to revise revenue estimates downward twice just since April 2015.  As a result, nothing could stop the state from going into June with about a $200 million shortfall.

More recently, Mississippi legislators voted in a June special session to allow the governor to raid the state’s “Rainy Day” cash reserves of another $50 million to cover the shortfalls.  While Republican legislators killed bills tapping the same reserve to fully fund education or Medicaid in previous sessions, they held no such reservation drawing on the $350 million fund to cover tax cuts.

Despite the Rainy Day raid, the state is still facing a series of cuts in valuable programs affecting the disadvantaged.  Many Mississippi community colleges, which serve middle- and low-income students, now have to raise fees as state college funding has fallen by $5 million this year.  Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, for example, is looking at a 20 percent hike in tuition fees, while Hinds Community College will go up about 4 percent.

The Mississippi Library Commission, which offers education and internet service to many low-income or poverty-level people, now faces lay-offs, reduced hours, and possible closures as it contends with $1 million in cuts.

Making matters worse are about $8.3 million in cuts to the state’s mental health system, resulting in the closure of about 100 beds at Mississippi State Hospital at Whitfield and East Mississippi State Hospital.  The cuts will also result in the elimination of special instruction services to almost 130 mentally ill children up to age 3 at Ellisville State School, and the closure of Male Chemical Dependency Units at MSH and EMSH, offering prison as the most likely substitute for addiction-related problems.

Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves offered his particularly chilling motivation behind the painful cuts, saying the various mental health programs weren’t curing anybody.

“… we have programs we’re spending money on that aren’t working,” Reeves told online news organization Mississippi Today. “You should have asked the Department of Mental Health:  The program they’re shutting down, 750 patients they had last year, how many of those have repeated a similar program either in the Department of Mental Health or outside the Department of Mental Health?”

Reeves’ opinion runs counter to professional opinion that many forms of mental illness cannot be cured so much as treated, often requiring a lifetime of medicine or therapy.

Sykes said some Republicans who voted in favor of the tax cuts regretted their decision to support these efforts, but were powerless to vote any other way.

“In private conversations with some of my Republican colleagues, they are getting concerned about the pressure they’re feeling to vote a certain way.  The moderates, in particular, are really beginning to express concern,” Sykes said.  “They’re told to toe the party line, and they can’t be sensitive to the needs of their own people.  They’re powerless.”

She would not name any of the “moderate Republicans” because she feared the label, itself, would work against them in their next primary.  She, like other Democrats, complains that Bryant is a lame duck plodding through his last term, so he can afford to ignore the pain of his own voters, and he can use his campaign war chest to influence other elections by “primarying” Republicans who do not do what they are told.

“That’s why (GOP) moderates can’t adopt an open stance on issues that bother them,” Sykes said.  “This really isn’t democracy anymore.”


Source: MS NAACP State Conference

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Anti-Union and Out of Compliance at Nissan

August 17, 2016 – Non-union workers at the Nissan manufacturing plant in Canton have complained for years about safety hazards and long, irregular working hours.  In June, they got some validation on one of those complaints from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which found multiple and repeated safety violations on the factory floor.

Like most car manufacturing plants, some areas on the assembly line contain pits in the floor that provide workers easier access to vehicle undercarriages.  Federal safety guidelines require these pits to have guardrails or covers to protect workers from accidentally plummeting to the bottom of the nearly-10-feet-deep concrete hole.  OSHA inspectors cited Nissan last October for precisely that problem after a worker toppled in and hit the unforgiving concrete.  Compounding the lack of a guardrail or cover, the absence of a safety net at the pit led the employee to suffer severe injuries that required hospitalization.  A fall this February caused yet another employee to be hospitalized.

This repeat violation earned Nissan a $25,000 penalty.

Other worker complaints led to similar OSHA citations at the plant for its failure to keep walkways and aisles free of oil, water, or similarly hazardous liquids.  While a slip and fall at home can be a dangerous prospect, a fall at a car factory with its sharp metal edges and hard, concrete floor can be very serious indeed.  The federal organization noted that Nissan had committed floor hazard violations in five separate locations and hit them with the maximum penalty of a $7,000 fine.

Nissan employee Travis Parks, who installs airbags and steering wheels, said he did not believe the penalties would have been needed if Nissan employees had a real voice regarding work environment and work practices prior to the OSHA investigation.

“In this plant, the workers have to go by what the company says, and a lot of times that’s not the best we can do to protect the workers.  There’s so much more we could do that we are not able to do now because we don’t have a contract,” Parks said.

Employees at the facility have attempted multiple campaigns to unionize the plant over the years, but have had to do so while battling anti-union sentiment from management and staunchly anti-worker Mississippi politicians.  Full-time employees claim plant managers have committed to hiring “pathway” workers – workers hired under temporary employment that supposedly can lead to full employment, but rarely does.  These “pathway” workers, supplied in droves by temp agencies, allow Nissan to avoid filling many positions with the full-time staff that would require full-time benefits and protections.  However, reliance upon temporary workers undermines the promises company leaders made to state government in the years preceding plant construction, promises that they would bring stable, high-paying jobs to the area in exchange for millions of dollars in tax breaks and government investment.

Management has complete control over this army of temporary workers and may fire them with only minor inconvenience.  For this reason, the temp workers remain powerless and fearful, often rejecting unionization attempts for fear of angering management.  The United Auto Workers union stalled recent attempts to hold an official vote due to lingering employee anxiety over management blow-back.  In the meantime, workers still report unsafe conditions particularly during assembly line speedups and problems with overtime and long shifts.  Workers also complain that without unionization, management neither has to clear sudden schedule changes nor give employees time to make family arrangements.

University of Mississippi journalism professor Joe Atkins, an organized labor advocate, said the OSHA violations are not a surprise, considering the lack of communication that traditionally plagues employees and management in a non-unionized environment.

“Some things just don’t happen in a non-unionized environment, and it makes things dangerous for everybody.  Consider that when there is an injury on the job they have to clear this injury with medi­cal personnel at the plant, but the medical personnel is usually not a doctor.  It’s usually a nurse practitioner, who tends to say ‘things are okay.  Just get back to work.’  So we have a few examples coming up in Canton of injuries on the job that were not treated properly onsite before transporta­tion to the hospital, so they became more serious once they got to the hospital,” Atkins said.

Atkins said that unions “help keep people honest” in these situations, primarily because unions want what management wants: a productive workforce that’s healthy and enjoying its job.

Nissan officials deny putting any anti-union pressure on workers, even though employees say they have endured multiple anti-union one-on-one meetings with managers.  French and European offi­cials find Nissan’s claim to be dubious at best.  More than 30 French and European policymakers demanded Renault-Nissan remain neutral in union organizing efforts in Canton, and a member of the French Parliament visited Mississippi recently in an effort to push the company to stay out of the union argument.

However, Nissan officials turned French Parliament leader Christian Hutin away from the plant last month, claiming the French officials had no scheduled appointment.  Hutin and French representatives are involved because the French government has an ownership stake in Nissan’s business partner, the Renault Group, which owns 42 percent of Nissan.

Currently, the push to unionize the Canton plant has been visible in Brazil as union supporters protest Nissan as a sponsor of the Olympic Games.


Source: MS NAACP State Conference

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NAACP Press Statement: HB 1523 Found Unconstitutional

2016/07/01 – The Mississippi State Conference NAACP applauds the ruling issued by U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves on the true nature of H.B. 1523, deceptively named “Religious Freedom” law, as unconstitutional. H.B. 1523 was an attempt to legitimize discrimination and superimpose the rights and beliefs of some citizens over the rights and beliefs of others. “That is not how our society, how our state, or how our Constitution works,” stated President of the MS State Conference NAACP Derrick Johnson.
The court’s decision exposes the weak justifications and insidious purposes of the law. The law, by its own language and intent, sought to force a whole class of Mississippians into a second-class citizenship. Though plainly targeting the LGBT community in an attempt to win-back perceived lost ground, H.B. 1523’s sweeping language of discrimination also attacked single parents and any sexually active, unmarried adult making any of these citizens punishment-free targets for discrimination.
“The opinion and order issued by Judge Reeves rightfully condemns the State’s attempt to legislate hate and discrimination,” stated Johnson. Just as a person’s “sincerely held religious beliefs” were not found to be an adequate justification for past legislative discriminatory acts regarding race or gender, the “Religious Freedom” law and its purported reasons are also insufficient and ring hollow under any scrutiny.“There will always be someone who feels differently, thinks differently, believes differently than you,” Johnson said. “When that happens, it is not the state of Mississippi’s job or place to take sides. That’s what H.B. 1523 called for. It was a law designed to tell some Mississippians that my beliefs are worth more than your rights.”

Source: Mississippi State Conference NAACP

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Decades Later, Mississippi is Still Burning

2016/06/27 –

In 1964, the brutal slayings of three civil rights workers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, rocked the country. Their deaths cast a spotlight on the horrific violence and injustice already known by those who lived in the state of Mississippi.

In 1970, 18 members of Mississippi’s Ku Klux Klan were federally indicted for violating Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner’s civil rights. Of the 18 men indicted, only seven were found guilty, and none of those seven spent more than six years in prison. Despite the heinousness of the crime, the state of Mississippi chose not to pursue any murder charges.

What Mississippi did choose to do was create the very weapon that enabled the murders to happen. In 1956, the Legislature created the State Sovereignty Commission “to prevent encroachment upon the rights of this and other states by the federal government.” The rights they were speaking of were equal protection under the law for African-Americans — more specifically, the right to vote for African-Americans free of barriers and intimidation and the rights of an equal and integrated education.

To achieve its goals, the Sovereignty Commission and its spies and agents told the Klansmen what road the civil rights trio would be traveling and when. In these gruesome slaying and others, a man may have pulled the trigger, but it was the state of Mississippi that provided the gun.

After nearly 30 years of indifference and silence, the case was reopened. Still, it took six years before the instigator of the murderous plot, Edgar Ray Killen, was charged with three counts of murder; however, he was only convicted of three counts of manslaughter.

Other known conspirators were alive at that time, but no others were indicted, and the state’s collusion in the murders was never even considered.

Now, in 2016, Mississippi has chosen to close the case. There will be no further investigation into the murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner. The reason given for this closing is that it is unlikely that further investigation would result in any other prosecutions.

But at least one known conspirator is still around today and has yet to be held accountable. That conspirator is the state of Mississippi.

The tragic and senseless murders of Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner were made more famous with the motion picture “Mississippi Burning.” Although many civil rights veterans disagreed with the depictions of the hero, it was an appropriate title then and it has not lost its relevance today.

Because Mississippi still burns.

The fire did not begin in 1964. The sparks were born much earlier, and the embers have smouldered much longer than that. Even in 1817, at Mississippi’s birth, the fire was there, and its flames have constantly been stoked with racial hatred, inequities and terrorism. In the recent past, this fire has been fueled by burning crosses and firebombs, all under the Confederate symbol that still exists on the state flag today. While today’s accelerants do not light up the night, they still serve the same purposes of evil.

Mississippi still burns.

The current flames of hate still burn brightly as Mississippi, in defiance of reason and even in defiance of the sister states who have in the past stood proudly in the well of racism, Mississippi chooses to keep a symbol of racial hatred on its flag. Mississippi chooses to honor those who fought against the United States and fought for the right to own other human beings. Mississippi chooses to underfund education while teaching a, quite literally, white-washed history, according to which the white Citizens Councils weren’t “all that bad” and in which Confederate history doesn’t involve the mention of slavery or treats it as “no big deal.”

Hatred still sears. Intolerance still singes. Discrimination still scalds. Racism still scorches, but now indifference feeds these flames and the blaze grows higher. Indifference keeps the Confederate battle emblem on Mississippi’s flag flying over this state. Indifference has closed the case on the Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner slayings. Indifference has caused over 50 years of inaction and injustice for the dozens, maybe hundreds of others who died by racist violence. Eight bodies of African-American men were found while the FBI searched for Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner, but where was their investigation? Where was the national outrage over their deaths? Where was their justice?

The state of Mississippi bears as much blood on its hands as any of the men who killed Chaney, Goodman, Schwerner, and the named and nameless others who fell victim to racist violence. Mississippi has closed this case, but the larger case will never be closed until the state is held accountable for its part in this crime.

Until that day, Mississippi will still burn.

James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and the many, many others whose names are not known, whose faces are not pictured, whose full justice is still denied deserve more than just a nod of acknowledgment and a rueful shaking of a head. Their cases should not be closed, and their causes must not be forgotten because when we do that we fan the flames of this Mississippi burning.


Source: Derrick Johnson, Guest Columnist


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Sheriff Teaming Up with Unions to Offer Occupational Opportunity to Felons

2016/06/12 –

Hinds County Sheriff Victor Mason told the crowd at a recent “Take A.C.T.I.O.N Jackson Community Meeting,” sponsored by the Jackson Branch NAACP, that he was moving forward with the creation of a new education program for youth offenders and non-violent offenders.

“I’m working on a new prisoner re-entry project that promises more than just letting people go and then locking them up again when they make another mistake,” Mason told the audience at M.W. Stringer Lodge, in Jackson. “Young people who make mistakes need a way to re-enter society with skills that give them a stable income and no need to turn to crime. There’s no incentive to break the law if you earn a comfortable income and have a plan for life.”

Mason said he has not widely touted the incoming program because of the complexities involved in assembling a re-education package, but he said he has high hopes that it can come together.

Despite media and Hollywood fantasies, a large percentage of crime is unglamorous and economics-based. It’s less about thrills and malevolence and more about disadvantaged people looking for a way to put food on the table or pay bills. Mason said youths are more commonly prone to commit crime, due to economic problems and woefully underdeveloped judgement skills. Numerous socio-economic think tanks, such as the Brookings Institute, support his opinion.

Number of Offenders in the United States, by Age and Offense, 2012

Number of Offenders in the United States, by Age and Offense, 2012 (Source)

Underprivileged youths, having few economic prospects in the form of affordable education, affluent connections, or even reliable adult guidance, face a future containing a dismal minimum wage of slightly more than $7 hourly. A standard theory behind property crime is that the attractiveness of alternatives to crime—which likely includes a rotten minimum wage for hard, greasy work and long hours—is extremely low. For teens living in poor neighborhoods and facing such a depressing future, the prospect of property crime or illegal substance distribution becomes comparatively attractive. Couple these economic factors with the consistent risky behavior common to all youths, both poor and affluent, and you’ve got a high potential for incarceration, according to the Brookings Institute.

Once a youth stands before a judge, his or her potential for spinning out of control increases exponentially. In many cases, a criminal record, no matter how non-violent, means an instant lock-out for many well-paying and stable careers. From then on, a wayward youth is more liable to face a life of miserable instability that only exacerbates the problem.

Mason says he wants to offer an alternative to that, and he’s turning to local unions to de-rail disaster. The sheriff has been making overtures to John Smith, manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) to tweak a pre-existing union training program to give young felons valuable career skills that will ensure a lifetime of well-paid work and stability.

“We’ll be having some meetings with the sheriff and we’re working towards this, even though we can’t confirm if it’s a go just yet. We already have an apprenticeship program for younger guys that have had a little brush with the law, and we believe in giving folks a second chance,” Smith told the MSNAACP. “The jails are full of folks with non-violent offenses. They get in the system, and then they got conflict behind their name and they’re behind the eight ball after that.”

Smith said he agrees with Mason that poverty is central to the city’s crime issue.

“In the poorer parts of the state, in the inner cities, folks are just trapped. They’re stuck and they can’t get out and the only way to make a buck or get something to eat is to steal or sell something illegal. Then, if they get caught, they’re stuck in the revolving door of the prison system.”

The IBEW just recently sorted through its yearly selection of program trainees. The training program currently requires applicants to be a high school graduate or have a GED, and have at least one year of high school algebra under their belt, as well as reliable transportation.

Smith said most building and trades unions offer similar training programs. The IBEW program is five years long. Enrollees go to school one night a week from August to June 1, but it costs them no tuition. All they pay for is their books and their hand tools, their tool pouch and work boots and work clothes, since they are required to work in the field.

“Most of our jobs start at seven o’clock in the morning. We take a young man with zero experience, and give them a career. If you get through the program, there’s no way you won’t have a good job,” Smith said. “We have an agreement with contractors around the United States. People depend on us supplying them with labor, so our job placement is the highest around. You’re basically married to a job.”


Source: MSNAACP Writers

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Mother of the Year Awards Winners

2016/06/12 – 

Cynthia Lee, Biloxi Branch

Mrs. Cynthia Lee is married to Ephron Lee, has two beautiful daughters, Katherine and Amber, and one son-in-law, Michael. She enjoys cooking, entertaining, shopping, traveling, and volunteering. She attends First Missionary Baptist Chruch where she is a member of the Julia Moore Christian Women Society. She is also chairman of the Hospitality Committtee of Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Mississippi Gulf Coast. Cynthia believes that a person can achieve anything he or she sets their mind to stating that she lives her life by her parents’ often repeated phrase, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”


Mrs. Cynthia Lee with Mississippi State Conference President, Derrick Johnson

Rosie Kersh, Smith County Branch

Mrs. Rosie Kersh is a member of the Smith County branch of the NAACP and has been a member since 1972 and has served as 1st Vice President for over 20 years. Rosie is married to Arthur Kersh and is the proud mother of Andrea and Angela. Rosie is a retired school teacher having taught for over 45 years in the Mississippi Public School System. She attends Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church and she is a member of the Smith County Democratic Party Executive Committee, the Smith County Economics Board, the Smith County Voter’s League, the Smith County Retired Teachers Association, the NEA, and the Solomon Union Note Singers. Rosie believes that her success and happiness in life is due to her faith in God, always remembering, “to God be the glory.”

Mrs. Rosie Kersh

Mrs. Rosie Kersh


Mrs. Ellie Dahmer

Ellie Dahmer attended Alcorn A & M College, transferred to Tennessee State A & I, and received a Bachelor of Science in Home Economics in 1947. Mrs. Dahmer later did summer graduate studies at Indiana University and also earned an Elementary Education Certification from Jackson State University.

She was married to Vernon F. Dahmer, Sr. and was his most trusted confidant and biggest supporter. She was also an eye witness to the verbal threats, economic intimidation tactics, and violence directed towards her husband as a result of his Civil Rights activity.

Mrs. Ellie Dahmer with MS State Conference President Derrick Johnson

Mrs. Ellie Dahmer with MS State Conference President Derrick Johnson

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MSNAACP Official Statement on Clarksdale School District Investigation

2016/06/12 – 

The Mississippi State Conference NAACP is troubled by the progress of the Clarksdale hearings regarding the allegations of cheating at Heidelburg Elementary School in the Clarksdale Municipal School District. Our concern, at its heart, is for the well-being and best interests of the children involved. However, the way this investigation, and its subsequent hearing, has been conducted is questionable at best and suspicious at worst. From its inception, this investigation has been shrouded in darkness. Children have been interrogated without the consent, knowledge, or presence of their parents. Teachers have been harassed and threatened. And yet, the supposed “evidence” collected from these efforts has not been shown. When the “evidence” has been requested, those requests have been denied or parties have been told that the evidence has been destroyed.

This is not only unacceptable, it also suggests the possibility of wrong-doing by the state and the investigative firm.

Lowanda Tyler-Jones, principal at Heidelburg Elementary School, faces allegations that are damning to any education professional. The allegation itself is likely to forever cast a cloud of doubt upon her integrity. And yet,Tyler-Jones has been met with delays at the absence of a quorum of commission members. She has been informed that there exists testimony from witnesses supporting the allegations, but neither she nor her council has been allowed to interview these witnesses. There exists videos that capture the interrogation of some of the children involved, but once again, these videos have been produced to neither Tyler-Jones and her council nor to the children’s parents.

The costly erasure mark analysis provided by the Caveon Test Security Company is another questionable piece of evidence of against Tyler-Jones. Supposedly, the analysis shows that there is evidence of possible cheating on the children’s answers sheets. However, neither the comparison sheets nor the children’s sheets have been produced. All in all, the lack of

opportunity to review and respond to the evidence being used against her triggers some alarming due process concerns.

“It seems the position of MDE is that the growth seen at Heidelburg Elementary School could only be the result of cheating and not student, parent, teacher, and community effort,” stated Derrick Johnson, President of the Mississippi State Conference NAACP. “This entire process appears to be an assault on the possibility of success in impoverished districts.” Johnson continued saying, “This teaches our children the wrong lesson. It tells them that that their academic successes will be answered with scrutiny and not support, and with accusations and not applause. This is not the sort of lesson the state should be teaching.”

This entire process, so far, has been one questionable decision after another and has displayed none of the necessary transparency demanded in such proceedings.

“We do not support bad actors who undermine quality education for children nor do we support accusations without providing transparency and due process rights. Our concern is to ensure the best interest of children are protected.”


Clarksdale Test
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Clarksdale Hearings Continue to Raise Suspicions

2016/06/12 – 

Jackson attorney Lisa Ross said she fears Mississippi Department of Education officials are defining the argument in their case against her client, Heidelberg Elementary School Principal Lawanda Tyler-Jones.

In its ongoing investigation into allegations of widespread teacher-assisted student cheating at the school, the department has accused three Heidelberg Elementary School educators of influencing standardized exam results in 2013, with Tyler-Jones being the latest case. The Department of Education alleges that Tyler-Jones instructed teachers to tamper with tests and artificially raise the school’s score. Teacher Frances Smith-Kemp surrendered her license for two years, while the state licensure board suspended Tetra Winters’s license for five years after allegations went public.

Students’ May 2013 Mississippi Curriculum Test scores at the Clarksdale elementary school gave the school an A-rating, up from an F-score two years earlier. Officials began an inquiry when the students were promoted to Oakhurst Intermediate School, but then appeared to have difficulties with basic math and reading.

Ross describes the investigation as a “witch hunt” aimed at a Clarksdale school that is already trying to do battle with widespread poverty and deflects many of the accusations hurled at her client. She kicked off the May 23 hearing by attacking the licensure commission subcommittee by objecting to panelists Rilla Jones and Chair Pamela Manners, who served on a related hearing last November that culminated in the suspension of Winters’s license. The commission overruled the motion, claiming the two panelists could be fair and impartial to Tyler-Jones. The department also submitted a motion to quash Ross’s subpoena to MS Education Superintendent Carey Wright, demanding Wright provide testimony over statements she released to the press alleging test tampering in Clarksdale.

“There’s no reason to believe that my client will get a fair hearing in this environment,” Ross said. “They have no real evidence upon which to base their argument. They have the word of educators who worked with them in an effort to preserve their own retirements and careers and the word of students who appear to be backing away from some of their initial allegations. They interviewed students without their parents’ consent.”

No students were named in the investigation and, so far, none have been called to the hearings for cross examination.

The Mississippi Department of Education paid Caveon Test Security and Caveon Investigative Services $246,000 to investigate the Clarksdale Municipal School District matter. Caveon Test Security data analyst Dennis Maynes testified that testing data revealed that the same students from Heidelberg scored lower than expected and made fewer wrong-to-right erasures a year later from when they attended school at Oakhurst.

Ross claims Caveon limited their testing group by not comparing it against that of the whole school.

“Our expert says they didn’t pick a big enough sample to test,” said Ross, “and now we know that a bigger sample will never be done because they destroyed the (test) booklets. Why would you do that? When their expert was on the stand he kept talking about this Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC) down in Georgia and the work they’d done for the Atlanta school district. Well, guess what: The same criticism we use is the same criticism Georgia had with their work. They didn’t save the booklets to make a proper sample.”

In 2011, after a scathing report by the Georgia governor’s office, the BRC hired Caveon as one of two firms crunching Atlanta testing data. However, Caveon only compared Atlanta’s 58 suspicious schools to each other, rather than statewide students.

State investigators called the report flawed and claimed using the “worst of the worst” skewed the data. Task force investigator Richard Hyde compared the situation to “trying to determine the average height of an Atlantan by only using Atlanta Hawks.”

The Clarion-Ledger reported a statement by University of Kansas Associate Statistics Professor William Skorupski expressing concern over Caveon’s methods, which make no use of a control group because test booklets belonging to other Georgia state students weren’t examined.

“It’s our theory that Caveon makes their numbers say whatever the person paying them wants them to say,” Ross said. “They’ve been doing business with Mississippi since 2006, but nobody’s vetting this company.”

Department of Education officials piled onto Tyler-Jones throughout the course of the three-day hearing, with Mississippi Department of Education Student Assessment and Accountability Executive Director Walt Drane claiming the principal coaxed good test scores when she “anointed the desks, the pencils, the doorways, and also the students’ heads with holy water.”

Ross called Drane’s statement “embellished.”

“It was a statement made to embarrass her,” Ross said. “If they really want the public to know what my client said, they have a taped recording of that interview. Why won’t they just release it to the public? Again, why are they hiding these tapes, these witnesses, and this paperwork? If I’ve got testimony of them saying horrible things about my client, don’t you think I’d use it in my case? I certainly wouldn’t be hiding them. But they don’t want to produce the tapes because people have lied, and they want us to believe the lie. If they’re not using their evidence then it must not be favorable.”


Source: MSNAACP Writers

ACLU Story
600 400 Deante Morgan

ACLU Takes Civil Rights to the Community

2016/06/12 –

The Mississippi ACLU is teaming up with local NAACP branches to convince the public to back a proposed Mississippi Civil Rights Act as well as other progressive issues.

The group met in Tupelo last month and has been working with small organizations to host a series of town hall meetings, titled “Community Conversations.” These town halls meeting have been conducted throughout May and early June in the cities of Biloxi, Hattiesburg, McComb, Natchez, Jackson, and other spots. The town halls provide an open space for concerned community members to ask questions and get answers. The forums also serve as a safe place to vent frustrations regarding the recent legislation that legalized religion-based discrimination.

“Are we preaching to the choir? Yes, we are,” said ACLU Equality Advocate Todd Allen. “We’re not so much trying to win over new converts as we are helping the choir get active and organize more choir members.”

The group promoted the idea of a Mississippi Civil Rights Act to protect vulnerable populations and urged voters to push their representatives to favor such a bill. The state of Mississippi currently has no law explicitly protecting individuals from discrimination in housing, employment, or in the use of public accommodations. Both the ACLU and the MSNAACP supported bills during the 2016 legislative session that would have prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, disability, gender identity, and sexual orientation, but the bills failed to survive the session.

ACLU Advocacy and Policy Director Erik Fleming said the failure should have sparked outrage considering that the majority of Mississippians are women, and an additional 37 percent of the state is African-American, with no state civil rights protections.

Fleming said the ACLU and its supporters will again push for passage of the Mississippi Civil Rights Act next year, but the probability of its survival depends on how vocal correct-thinking voters are next year.

“We need pressure on legislators to get it through. It only happens when we use our voices,” Fleming said.

Had the Mississippi Civil Rights Act passed, it would have provided legal protection to successfully counter the recent state legislature launched attacks on individual rights. Legislation like “The Regligious Freedom Bill” (House Bill 1523) would have been prevented from providing state protection to business-owners and government agencies that seek to discriminate against others based on religion or morality. Unfortunately, without the MS Civil Rights Act, or a bill like it, to stop it House Bill 1523 was pushed through by the new Republican super-majority in the House. The law has already made national news by allowing businesses to deny services specifically to same-sex couples, transgender people, and single parents despite the national trend toward tolerance. The new law also allows an employer, government, or private school to restrict bathroom privileges to the gender specified on a person’s birth certificate.

The Mississippi NAACP, like the ACLU and other progressive organizations, opposed the bill because it mirrored similar denial of service state sanctions imposed against people of color during the infamous Jim Crow era.

Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, who also attended the Tupelo meeting, slammed both the bill and the legislators who passed it.

“It was the deadest, most putrefied skunk of a bill I have ever seen leave the legislature, and I have served in the legislature for 35 years,” said Holland. “It passed with no public hearing. It was out (of committee) at 1:30 and on the House floor for consideration by 2:00. They passed it because they could.”

Holland said he was particularly disgusted at what he described as the militaristic, lock-step of the new Republican majority. Members, he said, ignore the will of voters and business interests and are completely beholden to their GOP masters, following them without question, even if the marching orders passed down from the House Speaker’s office and the Lt. Governor’s office ultimately embarrass the state and wreck the economy. Holland said he knew of at least 13 potential business prospects for the state that have evaporated since the bill’s passage.

“The GOP loves Wall Street. They love the Mississippi Economic Council and the Mississippi Manufacturer’s Association, all of whom hated this bill. But the GOP went ahead and voted to pass it anyway. Hell, they’re crazy. There’s no nice way to put it anymore.”

The law takes effect July 1.

One of the attendees, Amory resident Judy Crump, lamented that there were no black residents in the audience even thought the city is about 30 percent black. She fretted that both races had to meet on a united front in order to tackle new discriminatory laws emerging from the backwards state legislature. Unity was equally required, she said, to get rid of the state’s racist flag, which still contains the Confederate battle emblem representing slavery and oppression.

Fleming pointed out that blacks are indeed strongly united behind progressive efforts and that similar meetings in towns like Holly Springs had just as many black participants as Tupelo had whites.

“I can’t say African-Americans in Mississippi are in any way homophobic or discriminatory,” Allen said in the minutes leading up to the meeting. “Keep in mind that almost every black Mississippi legislator united in opposition to the passage of HB 1523. That really says something right there.”

Fleming and other leaders urged audience members to “get loud” and make their anger heard through “letters to the editor” and through localized efforts to pass city ordinances and referendums against discriminatory laws and symbols.

“Local government generally leads the way,” Fleming said. “You can be heard on the local level, but each community is different. You know your community better than we do. Get out there and organize.”

Crump, for example, approached the Amory City Board of Alderman to pass a resolution against discriminatory laws in the weeks following the passage of HB 1523 and easily succeeded in her effort.

“They were already open to it,” Crump told the MSNAACP. “It was hardly even a fight. Nobody wanted to be on the wrong side of that issue.”

Source: MSNAACP Writers