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The Invisible Achievement Gap

African American news from Pasadena - Commentary - Invisible Achievement GapAcross the country it's back to school time. I hope it is a year full of promise and not disappointment and added stress for all children, especially those most vulnerable. I also hope this school year begins with a renewed commitment by all teachers and school administrators to help every child succeed.

Every year too many children don't get the respect and extra help they need to reach their full potential. Children of color, poor children, English learners, and children with disabilities are especially likely to be left behind. And there is another group of children – those in foster care – whose special needs too often are ignored. Many school districts do not even know which students are in foster care and are not tracking their performance.

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America Needs a Raise

African American news from Pasadena - Commentary - Who gets the U.S. wealth - minimum wageThe Dow Jones Industrial Average has been floating at or above the 17,000 mark in the past two months – an all time high. There has been a stumble here and a wrinkle there, but even with a weak unemployment report for August, the Dow has remained over 17,000. This compares with a Dow of 13,000 just a year ago (or a 30 percent gain), and is generally seen as a sign of economic progress and of increased wealth.

Who gets the wealth, though? Fifty-two percent of U.S. adults own stock which includes mutual funds, Individual Retirement Accounts, and 401-k accounts down from 65 percent in 2007. The drop in the level of stock holdings can be at least partly attributed to the Great Recession, when high levels of unemployment forced people to go into their savings to survive. Maybe, too, dissolved stock holdings to help them with housing crises and underwater mortgages. For those reasons, and for many others, stock ownership is falling.

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Driving While Black – and Poor

African American news from Pasadena - Commentary - Race and money still matterSt. Louis County has 90 municipalities – ranging in population from 13 to nearly 52,000 – and most of them sustain themselves by targeting, fining and jailing poor Missouri residents, many of them Black, who are unable to pay traffic tickets.

A "white paper" by ArchCity Defenders, a group that defends the poor in the St. Louis area for free, carefully details how Ferguson and other small villages and municipalities in the state have perfected the art of exploiting those who drive while Black – and poor.

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Rebuttal to Editorial on Tyron Hampton

The Pasadena Journal editorial criticizing school board member Tyron Hampton [9/4/14] for requesting a paid assistant omitted some critical facts. Mr. Hampton asked PUSD to hire an assistant because he is dyslexic and requires assistance with reading school board documents and in taking notes during meetings. So, while it is true that the other PUSD board members do not have paid assistants, Mr. Hampton apparently needs one to perform his duties. Characterizing Mr. Hampton's request for an assistant as a "scheme" for "personal gain" is unfair and inaccurate.

Equally unfair is the Journal's accusatory question, "Where is his commitment to hire more local Blacks rather than someone from Sun Valley?" The assistant Mr. Hampton wishes to hire, Zella Knight, is an African-American woman who grew up in Pasadena, graduated from PHS and attended PCC.

Tyron Hampton is a dedicated advocate for African-Americans and all children and families in the PUSD. The "coffee klatches" which the Journal dismisses are important outreach meetings through which Mr. Hampton communicates with parents. I have personally witnessed him sharing words of encouragement and inspiration to students at Muir High School (our mutual alma mater) through the MPYD mentoring program, at Muir's commencement ceremonies and in one-on-one talks with students on campus. He also spearheaded an effort at Muir to improve the quality of food throughout PUSD school cafeterias. Last year, Mr. Hampton personally contacted me seeking to identify African-American Muir students to apply for a scholarship opportunity through the Black (Fire) Chief Officers' Association.

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Empowering Youth

African American news from Pasadena - Editorial - Empowering youthI applaud anyone who is in the business of empowering youth. I have strong feelings about who and what should be in the recipe when it comes to interacting with our youth. One of the first things should be a life that is an example of what you want the youth to achieve. For me, that includes an entrepreneurial spirit that can be shared with them. Prime examples are demonstrated by Homeboys Industries. Others are the Salvation Army and the Amish. These examples each have a component that teaches the youth a moral code and a trade to support themselves and their families. I believe the moral code is based on the Holy Bible. I have watched, read, and observed the development of wealth by some and, sadly, the passing down of a legacy and tradition of poverty.

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