Category Archives: Higher Education

Biden States Case For Latino Support

credit: Alamy

Joe Biden stated his case for the Latino electorate with a lengthy article stating where he stands on issues affecting Latinos.

President Trump’s assault on Latino dignity started on the very first day of his campaign. His assault doesn’t just reveal itself in the betrayal of the Dreamers or in the pardoning of a sheriff who has terrorized the Latino community. It’s in the underfunding of schools, in attacks on labor and the ability of workers to bargain for their worth, and in the neglect of Puerto Ricans after Hurricane Maria. Trump’s strategy is to sow division — to cast out Latinos as being less than fully American.

Generally, he promised the following.

Biden will:

  • Invest in Latinos’ economic mobility.

  • Make far-reaching investments in ending health disparities by race.

  • Expand access to high-quality education and tackle racial inequity in our education system.

  • Combat hate crimes and gun violence.

  • Secure our values as a nation of immigrants.

Specifically, he talked about supporting a Latino museum at the Smithsonian and political appointees to his administration that will look like America. Included is a promise to expand Latino small business opportunities and jobs creation through infrastructure development. Within this, improving the treatment of workers and expanding worker protection is on his to-do list. To support Latino families, he would address lack of access to child care for essential workers and early education. Expanding Latino homeownership is on his list, too.

One important part of his plan is expanding access to health care through a public option for health insurance and ACA subsidies to make Obamacare more affordable. Most importantly, addressing the inequality experienced by the Latino community that block their access to health care. It’s not Medicare-for-all, but given his primary campaign, I didn’t expect it. Given how COVID-19 has exposed the weaknesses in health care and insurance, it should still be discussed.

In the realm of higher education, Biden is committed to increasing college graduation rates, tuition-free higher education including 2-year workforce programs, increased access to student financial aid, student debt forgiveness, investing in Hispanic-Serving Institutions, bringing HSI and HBCUs into high-tech research, among other commitments.

Pointing to Trump’s anti-immigrant nature, Biden promises to send an immigration bill to Congress on Day 1 which will modernize the immigration system and include a roadmap to citizenship for 11 million undocumented residents of the US.

On the detention side, Biden promises to decrease its use, passing on the case management responsibility to nonprofit groups while migrants go through the system. And Biden also promises to stop Trump’s policy of caging children in favor of family reunification. [I hope they aren’t reunified in family-style prisons.] Added on is a decrease in the use of 287(g) agreements to take out local law enforcement from the equation.

Really, folks, check out this article, which includes links to his policy pronouncements on his campaign website. It’s actually better than I expected, though, we will have conversations about his Latin America policy soon enough since it doesn’t seem to be any different than what Republicans offer:  More election meddling and coups in support of right-wing, murderous regimes who care little for the poor and indigenous.

Some of you will see articles about the Orange one making a play for Latinos, too. Basically, he’ll speak to the same self-hating, anti-immigrant, bigoted brown folk (including some of our relatives) who think they’re excluded from Trump’s anti-Latino hate. For some reason, they buy into it. So, Democrats should not waste time with them, instead concentrate on increasing the bottom line with folks who want a reason to vote for Democrats.

Yes, many of us feel like we’re just voting for the next guy we’ll be protesting. For sure, we will be making Biden accountable for these promises during the campaign and once in office. And another thing, Biden cannot be a repeat of the Obama years in which access for Latino activists to the White House was controlled by elitists not involved in progressive causes. Latino activists must be part of the discussion of issues, and not just inclusive of those content with invites to the White House Cinco de Mayo event and other photo ops.

And guess what? There will be Dems (brown ones included) who will be upset for the people demanding what was promised. But tough shit. We are only exercising our right to participate and to petition our government for a redress of grievances. Trump has expanded those grievances and “going back to normal” is not an option. It must be better.

The job for everyone who wants to rid us of the Orange one is to sell what Biden is offering, and NOT what Trump is doing or saying. Dems need to stop being a free ad for the Orange one where all they do is point a finger at how bad Trump is. Biden has stated his case and Dems need to back it up when trying to earn the Latino vote.

 

The Reality of Vaccines and Reopenings

I’ve been reading about reopenings of various industries and many industry leaders point to “local authorities” as their benchmark for how they will roll-out any reopening. Of course, what precautions are put in place to protect workers  and how effective those protections will be is up to those industries

Harris County has a color code at which we are currently at RED and it is safe to say that many industries are looking forward to ORANGE as the mark to begin phases for increased employees on-site.

To get to ORANGE, Harris County would need to have 14 days each of flat or decreasing rates of:  new COVID19 cases; COVID19-related hospitalizations; COVID19 ICU admits; and fewer than 15% of general and ICU beds in use. To get from ORANGE to YELLOW, it would take continued decreases at similar rates, as well as widespread deployment of a vaccine or treatment for COVID19.

It’s safe to say that it may take a while to get back to ORANGE, as changes in personal responsibility (behaviors) and public policy (Abbott/Trump) are still a work in progress (or in digging a deeper hole). It may take more death and infection to convince people and leaders to adapt, unfortunately. Still, it would seem that some sort of comfort in reopening would be found at YELLOW. Certainly, reopening at YELLOW would give the impression that an industry actually cares about their employees, instead of the crap-shoot at ORANGE.

While Trump and his minions and some in the science community are selling us on the development of a COVID-19 vaccine and that one may be ready as early as October, 2020 (to December, 2020), there are others being a bit more honest about vaccine development and the eventual issues in efficacy, production, and roll-out.

I read a lengthy report by management consulting firm McKinsey that brought all the information out there together to explain the reality. Carolyn Johnson at the Washington Post had a lengthy article, too. For all the attempt at excitement by Trump and his minions, the bottom line is that it is going to be a lot more challenging than what he’s selling. Here are a few of those challenges:

  • More than 50 vaccine candidates are expected to enter human trials in 2020, and 250 total vaccine candidates are being pursued. Historical attrition rates would suggest that such a pipeline could yield more than seven approved products over the next few years.
  • A number of hurdles remain, including validating unproven platform technologies, demonstrating vaccine candidates’ safety and protection against COVID-19, and delivering the highest-impact vaccine profiles.
  • Regulatory bodies are still finalizing guidelines for COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Vaccine manufacturers have announced cumulative capacity that could produce as many as one billion doses by the end of 2020 and nine billion doses by the end of 2021. [Note:  FDA has set a benchmark of 50% effectiveness to approve a vaccine.]

As the post article mentions, how effective the initial vaccines that are approved really are will influence how much buy-in by consumers there will be. And, as previous vaccines in US history have shown, it has taken a few years for some vaccines to reach a trusted level of efficacy. We are also reminded:

Even the word “effective” will be parsed by experts and may need to be carefully explained. The goal is for a vaccine to prevent infections altogether. But that’s not the only definition of a successful vaccine, which could also include shots that reduce the severity of symptoms people experience. Ideally, a vaccine would do both. But what happens in real life will influence decisions about who should get the vaccine first.

Mark Mulligan of the New York Langone Vaccine Center (quoted in the Post) states that

he believes people should view vaccines in much the same way they have regarded reopening — as something that must occur in gradual phases to be safe and could even double back on itself as we learn more. Governments and companies are investing billions of dollars to ramp up the vaccine supply now, but even so, it won’t be possible to vaccinate everyone in the first week or even the first month after the first vaccine becomes available. The world will become safer, bit by bit, not all at once.

And even when there is a vaccine, what will be the priority list? As the Post article reminds us, it wasn’t until Trump and famous people (athletes) were shown to have easy access to almost daily COVID-19 testing that people began to see how people are prioritized in this country. When the upper crust is prioritized, it would seem that the rest of us start to care less while forgetting that there are more of us who should be demanding change.

No doubt, we need more than just the vaccine to make all of this work. Along with a longer term shut-down to flatten the curve, more testing is needed as well as sped-up results, effective contact tracing (and COVID-19 patients willing to cooperate with tracers to inform those they may have exposed), and the development of accessible and affordable therapeutics and treatment to help those who are infected get beyond the infection. All of this must be buttressed by access to health care and an economic stimulus that keeps people fed and housed, rather than enriching corporations. Without all of these components in place, reopenings deemed safe will only be a farce.

It is getting more difficult to have faith that we will get beyond this with less people affected because political and industry leaders seem to miss the point that much like people were expected to adapt to change (masks and self distancing) of their own volition, politics and industry needed to similarly adapt for the long-term. Because of a thirst for profit and political power, taking on COVID-19 has been a dismal failure for most, but quite profitable for a few. Again, I remind all of how people (and even businesses) are prioritized during these times.

So, stay home as much as possible, and if you need to go somewhere, wear a mask, wash hands, and physically distance from everyone. The rest is up to those we put in charge and how willing they are to risk your life for political power and profit.

 

Jose Rivera Announces for HCDE At-Large Position 7

Local non-profit executive Jose Rivera has announced his candidacy for Harris County Dept of Education Trustee, At-Large 7.  The Democratic nominee must be chosen by the Democratic Party’s precinct chairs later this summer after the current nominee was appointed to another position on the board during the primary season.

Jose offers up years of experience in Democratic campaigns, as well as community advocacy experience through his work in local government and in the office of Congressman Gene Green. Also:

Throughout his career, Jose has found a passion working and for under represented communities. For 8 years, he worked for the nationally recognized non-profit BakerRipley. It was during his time at BakerRipley that Jose learned the importance of engaging communities and collaborating to create programs and initiatives that are reflective of the communities they aim to serve. Jose also helped create and develop intergenerational programs that engaged youth and seniors through mentoring and resiliency connections.

Jose Rivera currently serves as the Executive Director of the Aldine-Greenspoint YMCA and Outreach Initiatives where he oversees programming and resources for the Aldine- Greenspoint Service area along with Outreach programming which includes apartment outreach programs, and services throughout the Greater Houston service area.

Jose holds an Executive Masters in Public Administration from Texas Southern University and has participated as a fellow in the New Leaders Council. He and his wife Tanya Makany-Rivera are members of Unity Church of Christianity and live in Houston with their two boys Anthony and Dominic who attend area public schools.

There are two vacancies on the Democratic side of the November ballot that must be filled by a vote of the Democratic Party’s executive committee, AKA the precinct chairs. One we already know about it that of County Clerk, due to the resignation of Diane Trautman and a called special election to fill the vacancy in November. Each Party must pick their candidate through the precinct chairs.

But, there’s also the position of Trustee of the Harris County Department of Education Board, Position 7–an at-large position. In this case, the Democratic candidate who won the primary was appointed to fill a vacancy on the board, which has left Dems without a candidate for November. So, the precinct chairs will fill this vacancy with a Democrat to take on the Republican in November.

That said, contact your precinct chair and tell them to read up on and support Jose Rivera for HCDE-7. He will serve Harris County well. He has already earned the nod of State Reps. Christina Morales, Armando Walle, and Ana Hernandez, as well as current HCDE Trustee Richard Cantu, and former Congressman Gene Green.

We will be hearing about at least one person running for County Clerk later this week. Stay connected!

Federal Assistance Funds Leave Out Undocumented Families

The effects of the pandemic continue to be exacerbated by racist policies created by Trump and the Republicans. One example is the local rental assistance program approved by Houston City Council.

The City of Houston Rental Assistance Program leaves out tax-paying undocumented families. Since the $15 million infusion into this program is based on funds from federal stimulus money, undocumented families are specifically targeted for disqualification. No doubt, much more is needed as thousands of families will be left homeless without the program. And, no doubt, undocumented families are among those left jobless by employers who take advantage of their status in the first place.

Austin, which usually disappoints in attempting to be an example of a liberal city in Texas, approved city funds for their rental assistance program. Somewhere along the line, city and county governments must stop emulating the federal government and help everyone.

We know the Grand Orange Wizard and his klan are behind this, but one would figure there would have been more of a fight about this in Washington, DC. And I think I just caught myself expecting too much, again.

Local advocacy group, FIEL Houston, responded:

We in Houston are petitioning the City of Houston to show true leadership and begin addressing the needs of the immigrant community during this pandemic. We thoroughly believe that it should not just be left up to the non profits or community organizations to take care of our own.

Another example? Colleges and Universities received a lot of federal stimulus money ($6 Billion) to assist students in need (among other expenses); and, undocumented and DACA students are also specifically left out, yet, are suffering through this pandemic like every other college student. These are tuition-paying students! 

California, being the closest thing to a beacon of hope in this day and age, has committed to assisting thousands of undocumented and DACA students in need using state funding. Arizona State University is seeking private funding to provide assistance to their undocumented students; however, no mention of state funds, but they are an anti-immigrant, republican state. Texas is an anti-immigrant republican state, as well, so, there is no expectation of leadership or action, although, some nonprofit groups are putting in some effort. But it’s not enough. Let’s be honest:  Disqualifying undocumented students has nothing to do with “the budget.” It has everything to do with bigotry and putting more money into the pockets of the wealthy.

And another?  Of course, we’ve already heard of undocumented taxpaying folks being left out of the $1200 stimulus check release. Even Americans who fell in love and married undocumented people are not receiving checks! Again, it has nothing to do with the budget if corporations are making out with millions of dollars even though they are not small businesses and when even dead people are receiving checks.

The bottom line:  Trump’s grand plan is working. He’s leaving out communities, while targeting them with wasteful anti-immigrant boondoggles (like black-colored border walls) and handing out money to military contractors and corporations. In the process, he manages to blow Blue Angel-exhaust up everyone’s hind side in a show of faux patriotism. So, people get to experience that whole “all is well with the world” feeling for 2 seconds.

All of us benefit from undocumented workers and their families, especially in this City. I think people are just asking for a little bit more effort in helping this group of people for no other reason than to be human. Now, wouldn’t that be patriotic?

 

 

 

Early Voting for Houston ISD and HCC Begins Today

That’s right, some of y’all need to vote, again.

First of all, I misblogged the other day when I stated Alief ISD would have a run-off. In reality, the candidate with the most votes wins. So, DC-endorsed Natasha Butler, who won by 11 votes, joins Breaux, Nguyen, and Key on the board. Congrats to all of them. Serve the kids and the rest of us well.

Meanwhile, as many as 78,000+ voters will have the opportunity to elect a new HISD Trustee in District I. Voters will choose between Elizabeth Santos, who earned 45% of the vote in Round 1, and Gretchen Himsl. Another 55,000+ voters in District III will get to pick between Jesse A. Rodriguez and Sergio Lira. Almost 10,000 and over 3500 voted in District I and III, in Round 1, respectively.

As far as nods are concerned, I’ll say most of my friends are supporting Elizabeth Santos in District I, and my friends seem split in District III, but I’ve been rooting for Jesse A. Rodriguez.

In HCCS District IX, Preta VanDible Stalworth is the progressive candidate in the mix. And that’s all I’ll say about that. District IX is in Southern Harris County and stretches from around the Southwest Freeway to beyond 288 to zip code 77048. Around 100,000 voters get to choose in this one, though a little over 10K voted in Round 1.

With just a fraction of local voters eligible to vote in these races, you might ask yourself:  Can I vote in this one? Check and see if you have a ballot here. Then find your early voting location here.

So, get out and vote. It really does count in these low turnout elections.

 

It Was A Great Election Night in Houston, Too

Despite the low 6.7% turnout around Harris County, the results of the 2017 Election still amounted to a great election night for progressive candidates and issues.

There were several big wins in the race for Houston ISD School Board. In at least three districts that were at one point considered too conservative for progressives to even challenge, there was quite the change of direction.

My friend and current District VI trustee, Holly Flynn Vilaseca, was in a race to earn her first full term after being unanimously appointed earlier this year. Taking on two well-funded opponents in what was considered a conservative area, which includes West Houston and Sharpstown, Vilaseca proved that running everywhere is the thing to do nowadays, especially if you run a sleek, well-disciplined campaign responsive to voters. By early this morning when the final tally was announced, she had earned 50.38%, avoiding a run-off. Congrats, Holly.

Current District VII trustee, Anne Sung, who had squeaked by in 2016 to win a partial term, steam-r0lled over the same opponent from 2016 with 61.6%. VII is another district that had been occupied by a conservative, but had been relatively untested by more progressive candidates. Again, running a disciplined campaign, connecting with voters, and truly caring about public schools will earn one the vote. And, in this case, in grand fashion.

In District V, an open race to replace an outgoing trustee, Sue Dimenn Deigaard ran a campaign that attracted support from across the political spectrum in another tough-to-crack district that includes Bellaire. With 51.26%, Deigaard earned herself a full-term, avoiding a run-off, with a campaign focused on serving the kids in the district.

Current HISD Board President Wanda Adams had a couple of challengers, but earning 68% showed that she is well-liked by her constituents.

The excitement is not over, though, as there will be two run-offs for HISD Board. District I has the classic match-up, with a Northside candidate and a Heights candidate. Elizabeth Santos came close to an outright win with 44.78% with an insurgency pushed by organized educators and volunteers. Her opponent, Gretchen Himsl, had the support of outgoing trustee Anna Eastman. In District III, radio personality and community activist Jesse A. Rodriguez earned 39.85%, while educator Sergio Lira made the run-off with 33.75%. So, these neighborhoods can expect more door-knocking, flyers, and mail.

ALIEF ISD

Considering the traffic on my general informational post about Alief ISD candidates and the less than 3800 voters who participated, I may have helped a few voters make some decisions in my neighborhood. No doubt, Alief was about to add several new faces to the board.

Darlene Breaux, John Nguyen, and Jennifer Key won easily. Position 7 will have a run-off, though, between Natasha Butler and Janet Spurlock, each earning 38%. So, let’s hope for more excitement to attract plenty of more voters in this one. [EDITOR’S NOTE:  Natasha Butler was the top vote-getter and the win goes to that person without a run-off. CONGRATULATIONS TO ALIEF ISD’s Board of Trustees who were sworn in on November 28, 2017.]

HCC

My HCC trustee, Robert Glaser, cruised to victory despite a challenge from the far-right. Glaser has done a great job and his commitment to transparency is still greatly needed. Carolyn Evans-Shabazz beat two challengers with 73%. And there will be a run-off in District IX between Pretta VanDible Stallworth and Gene Pack.

City of Houston

Looks like Houstonians were willing to support all of the bonds. Over 70% of the vote was earned by all of them. Good. Houston needed this injection of funds to add some vital infrastructure.

More To Come

Well, school board elections are probably the most important races in which we can participate. Especially in the Houston area where decisions affecting over 200,000-plus students come into play. While many make this a race about credentials, the bottom line is that we need to support those who have the best interests of the kids in mind, whether they work in education or they serve the community in some other way. And whether they’ve lived in the area all of their lives or transplanted here and hit the ground running. Seriously, you won’t attract support from transplants with “born and raised” statements. Theoretical expertise is nothing if you can’t earn buy-in from voters. So, for those voting in run-offs, study the candidates, study what you want out of your school district, study what you’re getting  from your school district (beyond your tax bill), and pick your candidate.

ELECTIONS

And, with the delays coming from the election office, I think we need to start using #HireDianeTrautman instead of the other thing about firing the current occupant.

EVENT on 4/24/17: Future of Public Ed in the Era of DeVos

amunited

Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Greater Houston Chapter

invites you to our Annual Meeting and Panel Discussion 

The Future of Public Education in
the Era of Betsy DeVos

Featuring:  Richard Carranza, Supt., Houston ISD; Zeph Capo, President of HFT,  Dr. John Ogletree, Pastors for Texas Children

Moderated by Juliet Stipeche
Director of Education, Mayor’s Office, City of Houston
 
Monday, April 24, 2017
Reception and Annual Meeting – 6:30 pm
Panel Discussion – 7:15 pm
 
Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston Event Center
3303 Main Street, Houston, Texas 
 
Event is free and open to the public          Free parking available
         RSVP appreciated:  americansunited.houstonchapter@gmail.com

 

 

HISD Board Appoints Flynn Vilaseca to Unexpired District VI Post

hollymariaI was happy and proud to hear that Holly Maria Flynn Vilaseca was appointed by the Houston ISD Board of Trustees to the unexpired District VI post which I discussed this past weekend. Here’s the story from HISD:

Houston ISD Trustees on Monday unanimously agreed to appoint Holly Maria Flynn Vilaseca to serve the unexpired trustee term representing District VI on the district’s west side.

Flynn Vilaseca, who is fluent in English and Spanish, worked as a bilingual teacher at HISD’s Windsor Village Elementary School as a Teach for America corps member from 2004 to 2006. Since then, Ms. Vilaseca has continued working in the education field with Battelle for Kids, K12 Inc., and thinkLaw.

“I am excited to serve the city and students of Houston,” Flynn Vilaseca said.

Flynn Vilaseca holds a master’s degree in social-organizational psychology from Columbia University, and bachelor’s degrees in Latin American and Caribbean studies and in sports management and communications from the University of Michigan.

Flynn Vilaseca, along with newly elected District VII Trustee Anne Sung, are scheduled to take the oath of office on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. Both Flynn Vilaseca and Sung are filling unexpired trustee terms that run through the end of 2017.

I’ve known Holly Maria for about five years now and she’s been nothing short of impressive with her commitment to service and to public education. There is no doubt that she will be a good fit on the Board and for District VI. All one has to do is read her workplace bio:
Holly Maria is passionate about affording equitable access to education to all students and has been involved in the fight towards closing the achievement gap for the past twelve years. The daughter of an immigrant mother and blue-collar laborer growing up in a small town where opportunities were limited, she was the first in her family to go to college…
Congratulations to Holly Maria Flynn Vilaseca!

The HISD Board Vacancy: A Few Thoughts

As Kuff reminded us back in December, there is a vacancy on the Houston ISD Board of Trustees after the resignation of Greg Meyers in District VI, and the Board will be appointing a replacement to complete Meyers’ term. A little bird tells me that the Board is getting closer to naming that appointee, so, it’s time the community have a conversation about this process.

District VI stretches from the Sharpstown area through the Westheimer/Gessner area and on to the far reaches of the west side to Highway 6. Given its meandering through these areas, little doubt is left as to its diversity, and this speaks volumes as to the need for added diversity on the school board. If anything, it also speaks to the need for a responsive, action-oriented individual to serve this trustee district.

That Houston ISD is diverse is nothing new. That 62% of its students are Latinos is also nothing new. Notwithstanding the trustee district’s westerly location, out of 15 elementary schools, eight are majority Latino schools, while two will soon reach majority Latino status. The future is not only diverse, but emergingly Latino at Houston ISD. As such, diversity in political representation is something that must be discussed.

Of course, ethnicity isn’t the only characteristic that is at issue. The recent election in which the vast majority of voters chose to not send local dollars to the State of Texas, instead choosing to call on the State Legislature to fix school finance shows that Houstonians are worried about the city’s educational foundation. The Board of Trustees needs someone who will advocate for Houston’s future–the kids–from Day 1 and beyond the rest of the term for which she/he will be appointed.

Some may argue “voter demographics” as a means of choosing a trustee who better matches up to past election results in the district, but there is such a thing as taxpayer demographics. Whether one is a homeowner or a renter, any ethnicity or color, and whether one lives closer to the west side or to Sharpstown, all are taxpayers and all deserve to be heard. Perhaps in the future the board can venture into a fairer redistricting process, but, until then, it is up to the Board in this instance.

Still, others may argue that District VI merely needs a placeholder to serve until the term is completed, while taxpayers wait for the November election to elect a full-term trustee. With the issues that Houston ISD faces, especially as a Legislative session looms, the Board needs a committed individual who is willing to serve beyond the year that is left in the term. It will not be a surprise if any placeholder decides to run for the full-term.

The Houston ISD Board of Trustees has a unique opportunity to be responsive to the needs of constituencies who often go ignored by government entities in this area of the city. Appointing an individual who has worked in and has an understanding of the current and future diversity of the district and who has an undying commitment to public education, K-12 and beyond, is the only path to achieving fair representation.

 

Donate to UH-CMAS Academic Achievers Program

Thanks to my friend, State Representative Armando Walle, for giving me the heads up on this fundraising video for the University of Houston Center for Mexican American Studies’ Academic Achievers Program. DONATE TODAY!

The Academic Achievers Program at Austin High School was established in 1985 as the Hispanic Family College Project in an effort to increase the high school graduation and college enrollment rates in the East End area of Houston. After a five year lapse, which ended in 1998, it was resumed as the SABE– Students Aspiring to a Better Education– Program. In the summer of 2005, the name was changed to Academic Achievers Program, but the mission and structure of the program remained the same.

Once they graduate from high school and enroll at UH, they become part of the college-level AAP program and become eligible to receive a $12,000 scholarship. And this scholarship is the reason they are raising funds.

Make your donation today here!

I was proud to have spoken to a retreat of AAP Austin students years ago thanks to my friend UH Professor Lorenzo Cano. It continues to be one of my favorite memories because it is such a great program that achieves results. Please give what you can.