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The Superintendent and Segregation

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

As a child of parents who grew up in the segregated south in the 1940s and 50s, I got more annoyed than usual when I read Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz blamed school choice and vouchers as a contributing factor for increased segregation in Indiana schools.

In an interview with Chalkbeat Indiana, Ritz said vouchers were to blame for a rise in segregated schools….

Ritz acknowledged the importance of diversity in Marion County, and she, too, brought up school choice and vouchers in particular. She said her effort to pause the expansion of the state’s voucher program could perhaps play a role in decreasing segregated schools, although she didn’t elaborate.  

The problem with Ritz’s claim is that not only is it wrong, but the data tends to show otherwise; that vouchers and choice actually increase integration.

An analysis of voucher use by Chalkbeat showed that while 71 percent of Indiana’s K-12 student population is white, only 60 percent of the vouchers users are white.  And a majority of them qualify for free and reduced lunch.

Secondly, in Indianapolis Public Schools, prior to the voucher program the district’s white population was 20.9 percent, that most recent number was 20.4 percent, virtually unchanged.

And third, and perhaps most telling, Chalkbeat looked at two Indianapolis Catholic high schools that participate in the voucher program.  Both schools had more integrated populations as a result of school vouchers.

Now there is a question as to whether charter schools add to segregation in some areas, however I would argue any segregation as a result of charter schools is more de facto than de jure (purposeful) because charter schools in Indiana tend to pop up in highly urban areas, which is where a majority of their population originates.

So for the Superintendent of Public Instruction to say vouchers and choice are partially to blame for an increase in segregated schools is factually inaccurate. Maybe the next time Ritz wants to talk about segregation, she should have a conversation with my parents.  They could probably teach her a lesson or two, or three, or four.

 

A Few Thoughts on Free Speech

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

The greatest thing about America is that we are free to speak our minds.

I bring this up because of recent controversies regarding athletes who chose to protest unjustified police action shootings of unarmed black men by either kneeling during the national anthem before sporting events or raising the “black power” fist as symbolized in the 1968 Olympics by  Tommie Smith and John Carlos during their medal ceremony.

Some folks call it disrespectful and say they shouldn’t protest.   I call it exercising your rights.

If someone has a problem with something this country is doing, they have every right to peacefully protest.  Remember the Tea Party rallies back in 2010?   And to get mad when someone peacefully protests and exercises their first amendment rights seems a little misguided.  And dare I say, almost anti-American?   They have the right to speak out, just like you have the right to speak out against them.

Now with that said, while I do think these athletes, just like anyone else, have the right to protest, I think they should also be mindful of exactly what they’re protesting.  I have no problem with the protests of what someone thinks is an unjustified police action shooting, but how about we also protest the fact that African-Americans are disproportionately a  majority of the the murder victims in this country.

Have you seen the local news lately?  And my hometown of Chicago has been in a murder free-for-all, and I can assure you the bulk of those murders weren’t done by someone wearing a police officer’s uniform.   I think those types of incidents deserve as much attention from the protesting crowd as unjustified police action shootings.

But at the end of the day, we all have the right to speak out and protest what we think is a societal injustice.  And you yes, have the right to peacefully protest them.  And then someone has the right to protest you.  And someone has the right to protest them.  And so on. And so on.

America is an awesome place.

 

Let Johnson Join the Debate

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

I just spent the last couple days with Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson.  He was in Indiana at Purdue University on Tuesday evening and I moderated a discussion with him at the Detroit Economic Club on Wednesday.    After spending that much time with him one on one, I am fully convinced he should be part of the debates scheduled between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.    Here are my reasons.

  1. Governor Johnson is not a rookie.  As a former two-term Governor of New Mexico, fact he has more Executive governing experience than Clinton and Trump combined.
  2. He is willing to admit when he’s made a mistake, i.e. the “Aleppo” flub, as opposed to try  and avoid responsibility for his actions with legalese or changing his mind altogether without acknowledging his previous position.
  3. He is intellectually consistent, practical and thoughtful when it comes the economy, jobs, trade, the environment, immigration and national security.
  4. He is a really engaging individual who can connect with an audience.
  5. As more Americans refuse to declare themselves as Republicans or Democrats, a third choice on the debate stage is only appropriate.

You don’t have to take my word for this.   You can hear Governor Johnson in his own words.  I recorded our conversation in Detroit and posted it over at Indy Politics.

And here’s a thought for the Debate commission, instead of polling at 15-percent to make the debate, how about no candidate can appear on stage whose disapproval ratings are above 55 percent, seeing how all they will do is remind the American people why they can’t stand the current two-party system?

 

Murder, He Wrote

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Indianapolis is on track for a record breaking year when it comes to murders.

According to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, there have been 97 murders so far this year.*    That’s literally a murder every 2.5 days.  And if things stay at this rate, Indy is looking at 146 murders.

The largest number of murders since the merger of IMPD and the sheriff’s department was 144 in 2015.   And while the number of murders is on the rise there are some trends, old and new, that worry me and should worry you, too.

First,  African-Americans continue to lead the pack when it comes to victims and suspects.  So far this year, blacks who are only 27-percent of the population make up 77-percent of the murder victims as well as the suspects.   And for my detractors, yes, most crime is intra-racial, but there is something fundamentally wrong when a quarter of the population is also three-quarters of the murder victims, and most of it is self-inflicted.

In addition, the average age of the black murder victim was 31 while it was 28 for the suspect, so we are not talking about hothead teenagers pulling the trigger, but as my grandmother would say “grown folks” are killing each other.

Some other disturbing stats include the fact that nearly 30 percent of the murders took place in the last two months.  And if someone was going to be a murder victim the data shows it was most likely to happen indoors, on a Friday at 10 p.m.  And for the icing on the cake, IMPD’s murder clearance rate so far this year is the lowest since 2007.   In all fairness to the men and women of law enforcement, I submit much of that is due to the fact that certain individuals won’t cooperate with law enforcement.

One bit of data I did not have as I was reviewing the stats was the criminal histories of the suspects and victims.  As of July 1, 66 percent of the victims had adult criminal histories while 75 percent of the suspects did.  Those numbers were 80 and 82 percent respectively last year.  With the nature of a number of murders being the result of arguments, I don’t think the number will be that high this year.

Regardless, none of this is good.  I asked Indy Mayor Joe Hogsett last month when I noticed a 20 percent spike in the murder rate if it was time to change course on public safety.  At the time the Mayor told me no, saying it was going to take a while to get Indy on track as a number of the problems concerning crime were systemic and the root causes needed to addressed.  I fundamentally agree with the Mayor that we do need to tackle the root causes of crime, but the way things are going this year we might need to step our efforts and pull up more weeds as well.

*It’s important to remember, that so far this year while there have been 97 murders, there have been 113 homicides.   And while all murders are homicides, not all homicides are murders.  A homicide is an incident where someone is killed.  A murder takes place when someone is killed, but it is an unlawful killing.

 

Spare Me the “Safe Space”

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

I am a firm believer that the movie “Blazing Saddles” should be shown at every college freshman orientation across the country.

Not so that every student can learn the words to “Camptown Lady” or be able to answer the age old question of “where the white women at”, but learn two of life’s most important lessons, learn to have a sense of humor and nobody is safe; and that’s how it should be.

I bring this up due to some recent news out of my hometown at the University of Chicago.  The school sent its incoming freshmen a letter saying it will not sacrifice political and intellectual dialogue to spare students from political discomfort.

The U of C is informing incoming freshmen if they enrolled at the institution expecting to have a “safe space” where they can retreat from ideas that might upset their world point of view then they might want to enroll somewhere else.  The school is also telling freshmen that they can forget about what are known as “trigger warnings” which is basically putting labels on speech warning students the following content might upset their delicate sensibilities.   Safe spaces and trigger warnings have been popping up across college campuses like mushrooms and luckily schools like the U of C, and Purdue for that matter, have said enough is enough.

And they are absolutely correct.   As part of the learning process a college campus should be a place for the free exchange and rigorous debate about the big issues of the day.  It should not be a place where you go to get your worldview reaffirmed.  Creating safe spaces and trigger warnings don’t help students in the long run.  If anything it will have the opposite effect when they go into the real world which does not have a warning label attached to it.

Academia should encourage students to seek out and engage those who have different opinions and beliefs.   Not only will that encourage more dialogue and open discussion, but it will also help in that area known as “critical thinking”.   And as I have told my college students over the past 13 years, if they don’t study and learn other points of view, they are putting themselves at a major disadvantage down the road.

Also by embracing differing points of view, you learn not to take yourself and opinions so seriously that you can never be challenged.  That is just a house of cards that’s waiting to collapse on itself when real life kicks in.

This is why I started this column by saying every college should include students watching “Blazing Saddles”.  If there was ever a film that goes for the jugular when it comes to safe spaces and trigger warnings, while teaching you to laugh at yourself,  that would be it.    And while we’re at it, they may also want to throw in Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” where the moral of the story is no matter how bad things get, always look on the bright side of life.

 

Let’s Talk About Textbooks

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz wants to give all parents in public school a $1,000 tax credit to help public school parents cover the costs of textbooks and other education related expenses.

Election year pandering notwithstanding, I agree with Ritz from this perspective, no parent in a public school who is already paying taxes should have to pay for textbooks which are essential to part of an education.

However, the bigger issue should be why do textbooks cost so much in the first place?

A study by the American Enterprise Institute showed that over the past 20 years while televisions and cell phone have only dropped in price, TV’s (-96%) wireless service (-45%), the costs of textbooks have gone up an average of 207%.  By the way, college tuition was right behind it at 197%.

There are a number of reasons for this price gouging.  They include…

  • With taxpayers footing the bill, there’s no real incentive for publishers to try to sell things on the cheap nor schools to try to buy on the cheap, or at least be fiscally responsible.
  • There’s no money in used books for publishers so they crank out new editions as often as possible.
  • Publishers will include special access codes and CDs which make the books more scarce to find online.

I could go on but you get the point.

At the college level, we have all sorts of tricks to use to beat the publishers at their games of taking us to the cleaners.  High school and elementary school parents in Indiana unfortunately don’t have those options.

But at least this way, parents have a little more information they can use.  And knowing is half the battle.

 

 

Joe’s Budget Blueprint

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett is touting a proposed budget his administration says spends less than the last year’s and cuts the structural deficit in half.

For months, the administration has been saying the city has a $55 million structural deficit.

Hogsett officials say they managed to cut that deficit in half by holding the line on spending and implementing a smart hiring program where the city would only fill necessary vacancies and making adjustments to the pension benefits for new hires.

Despite that, the city still has a structural deficit of about $24 million.

The $1.09 billion plan has increases in public safety and criminal justice.  It also includes spending $50 million annually for the next four years on city roads and streets.    The city will also fund existing commitments for new police, fire and solid waste vehicles.

The Mayor made his  formal budget introduction at tonight’s City-County Council meeting.

You can hear his comments in the Leon-Tailored Audio clip as well as those from Council President Maggie Lewis and Republican Leader Mike McQuillen.

Click Here for a General Overview of the Mayor’s Budget

100 Days and Counting…

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

As of today, we are less than 100 days out until Election Day.  So I figured what better time to sit down and do a little political pontificating and handicap the big political races here in Indiana. Now granted, the caveat in all this is the old adage that a day in politics is a lifetime and anything can happen and it usually does; and that has never been more true than in this election cycle.   So all my predictions I am making today are based on my knowledge and experience as of today.  Ask me these same questions tomorrow (or 30 minutes from now) and you might get a different answer.  So with that said, let’s begin, shall we…

Presidential Race

  • While I think Donald Trump wins Indiana, I think Hillary Clinton wins the White House. I base this on a number of assumptions.  First of all a compilation of polling data and voting trends of all 50 states gives Clinton a 73 percent of winning the White House while Donald Trump is at 23 percent.  Now with that said Trump’s saving graces are the working class, older, white voters who feel left behind in the economy and they may not tell pollsters that the plan to vote for Trump (i.e. The Bradley Effect).  However, if Trump was hoping to appeal to moderates, independents and getting back disenfranchised Republicans, then he might want to reconsider the strategy of attacking Gold Star   And just for the record, between Trump’s personality and Clinton’s trust issues, I would not be shocked to see Libertarian Gary Johnson crack double digits.

U.S. Senate

  • After the Governor’s race, this is a classic example of how crazy this political year has been. I originally categorized the race as solid Republican when the match up was Todd Young and Baron Hill.   Now that Hill is out and Evan Bayh is in, it has gone to toss up status.  A number of my pundit colleagues have labelled it as Leans Democrat, but I base my prediction on two factors, while Bayh does have the name, and more importantly the cash, 2016 is not 2004, the last time he ran.  Indiana is more Republican and voters are more cynical and having spent the last six years in Washington getting rich playing lobbyist may not fly too well with some folks.  However, having $9 million in the bank goes a long way to mitigating those attacks.

Governor’s Race

  • If you’ve tried to follow the Governor’s race, you will probably need to see a chiropractor to deal with the whiplash. First it was the departure of Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann followed by the replacement of Eric Holcomb, followed by Mike Pence being tapped to run for Vice-President, followed by Holcomb (and Susan Brooks and Todd Rokita) filing to replace him and then State Auditor Suzanne Crouch being picked as Holcomb’s running mate.  My neck still hurts.  So with that said, how do we call this race?  Well, we put it in the “leans Republican” category.  In all the earlier polling we always saw a major drop off between Pence and the Republican Presidential nominee.   He was also having major issues with Republicans in the donut counties.  Despite that, he was still 3-5 points ahead of John Gregg.  Take Pence out and put Holcomb in and a lot of that eventually goes away, but it will take time and with less than 100 days to go, the Holcomb-Crouch team doesn’t have a lot of it.  Luckily for them, most people who live in the real world don’t start paying attention to this stuff until next month.  And I don’t worry about the money issue, trust me Holcomb will have access to the Pence’s $7.5 million war chest, it just won’t be a direct cash transaction.  Also, Holcomb is tapping a lot of Mitch Daniels’ 2008 re-election team to run his campaign.

The Other Statewides

  • I put the races for Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) in the “toss up” category and Attorney General in the “leans Republican” category. For the SPI race, Glenda Ritz has her army of teachers and union folks, however she doesn’t have the angry suburban Soccer Moms that helped her in 2012, nor does she have Pence on the ballot in 2016.   She does have an 8-1 advantage in money over Republican Jennifer McCormick, but so did Tony Bennett four years ago.   For the Attorney General’s race, much of that is simply based on the fact Indiana is a Republican leaning state and Republican Curtis Hill is a much better campaigner than Democrat Judge Lorenzo Arrendondo.

Now like I said, these “predictions” are based on today, and we have less than 100 days to go before the election so anything is possible.  However, I feel pretty good about them.  Of course, you can always check in with me tomorrow, or a couple hours from now, and I may have a different answer for you.

 

Rokita v. Gregg

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

In an effort to convince members of the Republican State Central Committee to pick him as their party’s nominee to replace Mike Pence on the ballot for Governor, Indiana Congressman Todd Rokita is releasing a poll showing him beating Democrat John Gregg by double digits.

The poll, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies of 600 likely voters shows Rokita entering the race with a 45-43 lead over Gregg.  However the Rokita campaign says after learning about both their records, the former Secretary of State increases his lead to 54-41.

The poll shows the two are competitive when it comes to name ID in the Indianapolis market, Gregg is at 74 percent, Rokita is at 71 percent.

Rokita also says voters give him high marks for his support of education and redistricting reform.

The Rokita team also says he wins with Independents (49-43), women (52-42) and seniors (58-38).

Rokita is competing with Lt. Governor Eric Holcomb and Congresswoman Susan Brooks.   The state central committee will decide Tuesday who to put on the ballot.

You can view a copy of the poll memo here.

It was conducted this past weekend and has a margin of error of four percent.

Saturday Night, Special

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

For the last eight years it’s been a tradition of mine to work as a bouncer at Nicky Blaine’s on the second Saturday night of Indiana Black Expo’s Summer Celebration.

I did it back I 2006 when the owner, as well as other downtown businesses, would tell me stories of teenagers running the streets and getting out of control .  Things got really bad back in 2010 when Shamus Patton decided to shoot several people.

My, how times have changed.

Thanks to the collective work of IMPD, Indiana Black Expo, the Ten-Point Coalition, parents stepping up and young people getting the message, downtown was the best it had ever been.

The crowds were not only bigger than before, but a lot more diverse as well as a lot more families.

And what made it even better was not only was the police presence a lot smaller, but there were numerous times while talking to officers, random people would come up and thank them for what they were doing and told them to stay safe.   And that says quite a bit in the wake of a lot of what we’ve seen in the news today regarding tensions between law enforcement and certain segments of the community.

The only “issue” I saw was a group called Indy 10, a poor man’s version of the Black Lives Matter Movement was mad at police for having crowd barricades nearby in case they needed to move a lot of people.

But otherwise it went very well.  In fact for the past 2-3 years, that second Saturday night has been clam, peaceful and quite enjoyable.   So if I might make a recommendation, if you get a chance, come on down.  I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Luckily, I wasn’t.