Boggs Center Living for Change News Letter – December 12th – 19th, 2016

Our mission is to nurture the transformational leadership capacities of individuals and organizations committed to creating productive, sustainable, ecologically responsible, and just communities. Through local, national and international networks of activists, artists and intellectuals we foster new ways of living, being and thinking to face the challenges of the 21st century.
Living for Change News
December 12th – December 19th
 
Dear Friends and Comrades of the Boggs Center, 

 

We are deeply grateful for all of the support you have given to us over the years.

 

As we face a tremendous moment of both crisis and opportunity, we feel an enormous responsibility to continue the commitment to revolutionary and visionary work and resistance that was at the heart of the lives and works of Grace and Jimmy.

 

We also believe that at this “time on the clock of the world,” their vision of possibilities for a new America are not only relevant, but urgent.

 

As 2016 comes to an end, we are asking for your support. 

 

Please visit our website to make a donation or send checks to 

 

Boggs Center

3061 Field St
Detroit, MI
48214
Thinking for Ourselves

Our Reality
Shea Howell

 

One of the clear casualties of this political moment is any semblance of a shared reality based in fact. Last week the Wall Street Journal offered a headline that demonstrated how out of touch they are with the truth of people’s lives. The headline of an opinion column penned by Detroit News editor Ingrid Jacques read, “How Trump’s Schools Chief Helped Turn Around Detroit.” The sub heading, which for most people in the city is an explanation for why public education is in trouble, read “There’s still work to do, but thanks to Besty DeVos more than half the city’s students attend charters.”

The text of the article begins with the real reason why the right wing loves Betsy Devos. Her education reform is primarily an attack on unions, and has nothing to do with education. The opening sentence defining the “turn around” is “To the dismay of teachers unions nationwide, President elect Donald Trump has picked Betsy DeVos” as the next education secretary. The thrust of the article then chronicles DeVos’s long history in promoting schools of choice “free from union constraints, “ and notes these schools “have flourished—especially in Detroit, where more than half of students attend charters.” Jacques then defends the virtues of charter schools with the lame claim, “charters are doing better.”

Better than what is unclear. By any reasonable standard the DeVos initiatives have been a failure. In the spring of this year, before the distortions of reality became so widely endorsed, the New York Times published a page one story with the headline, “Heralded Choice Fails to Fix Detroit Schools.” The online version states “A Sea of Charter Schools in Detroit Leaves Students Adrift.”

The Times article opens with the a summation of the move to charter schools saying Detroit “got competition, and chaos” and the DeVos backed initiatives have “produced a public education fiasco that is perhaps unparalleled in the United States.” The Times reports “half the charters perform only as well, or worse than, Detroit’s traditional public schools.”

For profit charters now operate 80 percent of the charters in Michigan thanks to the efforts of DeVos’s Great Lakes Education Project. Today, after nearly two decades of State control over Detroit schools they are “found to be the lowest performing urban school district on national tests.” The Times concluded, Detroit was “awash in choice but not quality.” It notes that efforts backed by DeVos to lift caps on the number of charters resulted in  “twenty four charter schools have opened the since the cap was lifted in 2011. Eighteen charters whose existing schools were at or below the districts dismal performance expanded or opened new schools.” These included schools operated by the Leona Group, an Arizona based for profit company identified by the Stanford University Center for Research on Education Outcomes as producing schools where students “grew less academically than students in the neighboring traditional public schools.”

The failure to protect our children or to think seriously about what it means to develop young people to make critical decisions in a democracy has forced many of us in Detroit to ask basic questions about education.  What is the purpose of education today? What role do schools play in educating our children? What responsibility does the community have to offer education? How do we organize ourselves to engage young people in solving the problems we all face?

Rethinking how to raise our children as caring, socially responsible people will not come from the DeVos’s of the world. Their reality sees our children as sources of profit and our educated adults as threats. We in Detroit, and now the rest of the country, have to create a different reality, holding tightly to our children to protect them from this onslaught. This means finding ways to keep the reality of our lives and hopes central to all we do.

**Please call your state representative and ask them to oppose SB 1162-63.**

 

Call Your State Representative: AK Steel Company Requests a Tax Break Without Environmental Accountability
Senate Bills 1162 and 1163 would extend tax credits to AK Steel for its Dearborn plant — credits that were previously provided to the factory’s former owner, Severstal Steel. Both bills were passed out of the Senate today, 31-6.

 

Based on information provided by the Department of Treasury and MEDC, the bills would permit an estimated $50 to $60 million of existing certificated credits to be claimed over roughly the next 20 years. AK Steel, located in Dearborn’s south end, near the notorious 48217 ZIP code, is arguably one of the state’s biggest polluters.

 

The air pollution in Southeast Michigan continues to jeopardize public health of our most vulnerable residents. Asthma hospitalization rates in Detroit are three times higher than that of the state as a whole.* 275 deaths per year take place because of the air pollution in Michigan.**

 

AK Steel violated their 2006 Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ)-issued air permit, releasing pollutants at levels up to 725 times higher than the permit initially allowed. Since July 23, 2010, there have been 117 citizen complaints alleging fallout and smokestack violations from varying processes at the plant; and more than 20 violation notices sent to the company.
Despite new ownership, the plant has continued to receive violation notices from the MDEQ, as recently as October 14, 2016, less than two months ago, for failing to obtain a permit and for not monitoring particulate matter.

 

Please call your State Representative (http://www.house.mi.gov) and Speaker Kevin Cotter (517-373-1789 /kevincotter@house.mi.gov), urging them to oppose Senate Bills 1162 and 1163, unless the environmental accountability amendment is adopted. The amendment would ensure that a company doesn’t get the tax break unless they have zero environmental violations that tax year and work with the community on air monitoring and pollution control equipment upgrades.

 

*Wasilevich EA, Lyon-Callo S, Rafferty A, Dombkowski K. “Detroit – The Epicenter of Asthma Burden.” Epidemiology of Asthma in Michigan. Bureau of Epidemiology, MI Department of Community Health, 2008.
**http://www.mlive.com/news/index.ssf/2016/08/air_pollution_causes_275_death.html

 
WHAT WE’RE WATCHING
In an op-ed for Mic, Opal Tometi, cofounder of Black Lives Matter, shares her thoughts on what to do in the wake of Donald Trump’s victory. WATCH IT HERE

 

 

The Boggs Book Shop is open and waiting for you!
Among many other titles, don’t miss…
Ron Scott’s – How to End Police Brutality

{R}evolution in the 21st Century Anthology

…or the classic, Conversations in Maine

The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership

.

3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214
US

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