Vol. 5    No. 8
APRIL 22, 2010

The Capital City Hues
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Jonathan Gramling
Publisher & Editor

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Contributing Writers
Rita Adair, Paul Barrows,
Alfonso Zepeda Capistran,
Theola Carter, Fabu, Andrew
Gramling, Lang Kenneth
Haynes, Eileen Cecille Hocker,
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   As the debate over the Madison Metropolitan School District budget continues, I think back to the good old
days of the 1980s. Back then, the academic achievement of African American and other students of color was a
pretty big issue. When the Urban League wrote its report on the achievement gap for African American students
back in the late 1980s, it was a big deal. A whole division was created in the district to find and implement
solutions to close the gap. Annual reports on the racial achievement gap always elicited a lot of media coverage
and commentary. There was a belief back then that we could close the gap. School board meetings would attract
a dozen or more education activists to keep the district’s feet to the first as it related to closing the achievement
gap.
    But things have sure changed. At last Sunday’s public hearing on the MMSD 2010-2011 budget in which they
are seeking to close an $18 million budget shortfall with cuts to many services, about 200 people came out, but
only a handful of African Americans, this despite the fact that on the chopping block are probably the last
remnants of the district’s academic achievement gap reduction programming. Critical after school programming
designed to keep children safe and to assist students achieve academically might be severely cut back. A
disproportionate number of students of color use those services on a daily basis. Yet the response has been
minimal with people seeking their own individual solutions to community wide problems.
    It’s not like there has been a lot of change in the district. For instance, while the number of students expelled
from the district has gone down over the past year, African American students are still being expelled in roughly
the same proportion they always were. In 2005-2006, African Americans made up 52.9 percent of the expulsions
and in 2008-2009, they comprised 56.8 percent of the expulsions.
    And I also wonder about what the impact of the proposed budget cuts are going to have on the overall
Affirmative Action efforts of the Madison Metropolitan School District. While African American students comprise
49 percent of the student population, only 11.4 percent of the district’s staff is African American. So the numbers
are already low.
    Now when I was looking through the $18 million in reductions that were being proposed, it seemed as if a lot
of the cuts were being proposed in the clerical, maintenance and educational assistant areas. Well those areas
have 22.8, 16.1 15.3 percent minority employment respectively. These are the largest — along with food service
— concentrations of minority employees in the district. With the proposed cuts, I can’t help but think that it will be
the employees of color who will end up taking the biggest hit in terms of reductions.
It makes me if anyone has bothered to look and analyze this situation. It makes me wonder if anyone cares.
***
    Sometimes change happens slowly or seems to hardly occur at all and then all of a sudden, it appears to
speed up and make a statement in one’s life. I am starting to feel the change in generations from the baby
boomers to those who come after us. It seemed to become poignant this past week or so when three died, two
nationally and one locally. Dr. Benjamin Hooks, former president of the NAACP passed about a week ago. He
was a giant who took over the NAACP in 1979 and revived it as an advocacy organization. He was a huge figure
in the civil rights movement during the 1980s, fighting a lot of the anti-Affirmative Action efforts that occurred
during the Reagan presidency.
    Then a few days ago, Dorothy Height died. Dorothy Height was a renaissance woman in the civil rights
movement. She was the woman in a room full of men who was an educator, social worker and community
activist. She led the Delta Sigma Theta sorority and the National Council of Negro Women. She is an icon that we
all grew up with.
    And finally, our own Minister Lucille Badger passed away after a courageous bout with cancer. Lucille was a
lovely person who was committed to serving her faith, women and children. The last time I saw her was at S.S.
Morris Church on Good Friday. In spite of her illness, she came from the hospital to preach her turn at the
service. And as her fellow ministers gathered around her to pray for her, Lucille bounded with energy, thinking
of others in her hour of need.
    We will miss Ben, Dorothy and Lucille and we thank them for their contributions to our lives while they
walked this earth.
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling
                       Schools and Transitions