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Community Colleges Launch Campaign To Educate Californians About Career Training Programs

California Community Colleges have kicked off a new campaign to inform underserved populations about the good-paying jobs available through career education.

According to a press release, there is a skill and an information gap in California, as many high-paying jobs go unfilled because employers can't find employees with the right training. This includes jobs in the information technology, healthcare, biotechnology and digital media fields.

Many people are put off by the cost of college education, but advocates say community colleges offer a low-cost alternative to career education programs and are expanding new efforts to ensure people are aware.

"Both adults and high school students hesitate to pursue higher education to gain new skills and refresh existing ones because they worry about student debt," said Van Ton-Quinlivan, vice chancellor of Workforce and Economic Development at the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office. "Career education offers a great pathway to increase earnings and make a living wage without that type of debt burden."

She added that the legislature had allocated money specifically targeted for students interested in training for new careers.

The campaign will target potential students through ads on traditional and digital media, a website and an app. The promotional campaign is part of a $200 million recurring investment made by Gov. Jerry Brown and the California legislature, according to a news release.

Ton-Quinlivan also said community colleges would work with local organizations to spread the message.

"We will get the advice of community leaders on how to get the word out," she said.

Cassandra Jennings, president of the Greater Sacramento Urban League, said working alongside community organizations was an important part of spreading the word in the Black community.

"What's going to be critical to their success is working with non-profit organizations, community-led organizations to really do a targeted outreach to reach certain populations," said Jennings.

The California Community College system has 114 campuses and educates more than 2 million students. It is the largest provider of workforce training in the nation.

African-American students make up 6.5 percent of the students at community colleges. About 5 percent of the more than 6 million students in the K-12 system are Black. Black students make up 6 percent of students enrolled in four-year colleges.

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State Lawmaker Wants to Tax Companies That Profit from Prisons

With the current national focus on law and order, some statewide organizations and lawmakers are working on what they say are solutions that promote investment in young people and reduce California’s privately-owned prison population. Assemblymember Tony Thurmond has sponsored AB 43, a bill that would levy a 10 percent tax on "private prisons and prison-related services."

The bill is aimed at what experts call the Prison Industrial Complex, a process where the correctional system turns inmates and their families into sources of revenue. Inmates and their families have complained about exorbitant fees charged for making calls to and from prison. Also, some privately-owned companies have contracts with states to employ inmates. However, inmates are often paid way below minimum wage, allowing firms to maximize their profits.

Thurmond said the Prison Industrial Complex is a "modern form of slavery." He was motivated to sponsor the legislation after watching Ava Duvernay's documentary "13th."

"We want the state to switch from investing in prisons to investing in schools," said Thurmond, a former social worker who is also running for state superintendent of public instruction.

Thurmond's legislation would raise funds that would go to prison prevention programs and universal preschool. Funds would be deposited in the State Incarceration Prevention Fund.

There have been some policies that have been said to contribute to the rise in prison population. From The War on Drugs to California's "Three Strikes" law policies have all been said to have caused overcrowding situation that led to a Federal judge ordering a decrease in the state's prison population.

According to the bill, California currently spends about $4.5 billion per year on the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Some of that money also trickles down to companies that provide services to inmates. According to an article in the East Bay Times, CoreCivic, a company that owns several private facilities in the state, has received $2 billion from the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

"Companies continue to profit as a result of high state incarceration rates. These for-profit companies provide necessary goods and services to state facilities, often at a markup. In effect, taxpayers are stuck footing the bill, enabling companies to see large profits for goods and services due to California's prison population," says the proposed bill.

AB 43 is supported by the California Teachers Association, Anti-Recidivism Coalition, California Nurses Association, Californians for Justice, and First 5 Association of California. The bill will be voted on later this month.

Thurmond and supporters of the bill say that investing in early education and prison prevention programs are key to stopping the School-to-Prison pipeline.

"Children who start kindergarten behind, are more likely to stay behind – a trend that feeds into the school-to-prison pipeline," said Moira Kenney, executive director of the First 5 Association of California. "Early interventions like quality child care and preschool can break this cycle and put children on a path that leads to success in school and in life."

But not everyone is happy about AB 43.

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB/CA) said the bill would harm small companies who want to do business with the state. NFIB/CA placed AB 43 on it's "The Good, The Bad and Ugly" list. According to NFIB/CA State Communications Director Shawn Lewis, the list tracks bills that could negatively impact small business.

"Imposing a tax on a business that has been awarded a state contract is punitive and counterproductive to the goals of keeping costs down and creating jobs," said Ken DeVore, NFIB legislative director, in a letter to Thurmond. “Such a tax serves no purpose for the state, and will only hurt small business.”

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Kimberly Ellis Says California Democratic Party Needs New Blood

The effort to repeal and replace health care is generating headlines, and the attempt to investigate Trump’s Russia connections is of high importance. The specious claim that President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower, too, has generated interest, largely because it is unprecedented for one president to accuse another of a felony, and because “45” has absolutely no proof that President Obama has done any such thing. While President Obama, with a multi-million dollar book deal tucked into his pocket, is living his life like its golden, “45” has indulged in several public tantrums, with episodic moments of calm. Too many of us have been riveted to the drama, while there is a more quiet revolution happening in Congress, with the approval of the White House.

There has been an attack on education, with legislation being introduced as early as January 23, 2017. That legislation, HR 610, is titled the “Choices in Education Act.” It would repeal the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), and limits the authority of the Department of Education so that it should only award block grants to states. It also sets up a voucher system. If states do not comply with the rules of this legislation, they would be ineligible for block grants.

The legislation would also repeal nutritional standards for the national school breakfast and lunch programs, which were set by the No Hungry Kids Act of 2012. Schools would no longer be required, as First Lady Michelle Obama advocated, to increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods at lunch. Are we going back to the days when officials with the Reagan Administration tried to classify ketchup as a vegetable? Seems like it.

The ESEA was passed as civil rights legislation, providing more opportunities to a broader range of children, including disabled children. It also requires reporting around issues like the achievement gap, bullying, and underperforming schools. All of these provisions would be eliminated, if HR 610 were passed.

Not to be bested by legislation that would limit the reach of the Department of Education, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) has introduced a sentence-long piece of legislation. HR 899 reads, in total, “The Department of Education shall terminate on December 31, 2018.” Of course, Massie hasn’t put the thought into considering how things like Pell grants would be administered, or would he eliminate those, too? HBCUs are part of the education budget. What would that mean for us? The bill has been cosponsored by several of Massie’s colleagues. It speaks to a national antipathy to education, so that even as we hunger for jobs, and elected “45” so that he could “create” them, we are prepared to limit pathways to job preparation. Efforts to eliminate the Department of Education are, at best, shortsighted.

Even though Trump nominated the extremely limited Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, his pre-campaign policy book advocated for the elimination of the Department of Education. Is the hidden agenda to run the department into the ground to the point that elimination is the only option? “One-note Betsy,” with her focus on school choice, must be gratified, especially by HR 610.

The Department of Education is one of the lowest-spending government agencies. Eliminating it could save taxpayers more than $68 billion—enough, perhaps, to “build a wall. Of course “45” is finding lots of other funding sources for the wall, with proposed cuts from the Coast Guard to The State Department.

The good news about this odious proposed legislation is that it has not passed. It has been referred to the House Education and the Workforce Committee. After the committee vets it, the Senate must also approve the bill. But these bills need not even come out of committee, if opponents are vocal. Check out www.edworkforce.house.gov to find out who is on this committee. Call and write them and tell them that you support the 1965 ESEA, as most recently amended, and that the Department of Education should not be eliminated. This is an opportunity to unleash our voices and resist Trumpism.

The big headlines are riveting, but we need to look at the fine print. If you spent an hour reading the Congressional Record and looking at the devilment these Republicans are up to daily, you would be repulsed. Let’s turn repulsion into resistance.

Julianne Malveaux is an economist, author, and Founder of Economic Education. Her podcast, “It’s Personal with Dr. J” is available on iTunes (https://tinyurl.com/withDrJ). Her latest book “Are We Better Off: Race, Obama and public policy is available via amazon.com For more info visit www.juliannemalveaux.com.

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