Will Thomas Perez, President Barack Obama’s nominee to be the next Secretary of Labor, face a fair Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday?
In a new report, Republican lawmakers blasted Perez over what they said was a questionable deal he brokered while serving as head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
The 63-page report issued on Sunday is expected to provide fodder for Republicans seeking to challenge Perez at his Senate confirmation hearing. Republican lawmakers accuse him of misusing his power last year to persuade the city of St. Paul, Minn. to withdraw a housing discrimination case before it could be heard by the Supreme Court. The Justice Department agreed in exchange not to intervene in two whistleblower cases against St. Paul that could have won up to $200 million for taxpayers.
Perez said he dropped the case because he feared an adverse ruling from the Supreme Court would jeopardize the government’s use of statistics to win housing discrimination cases. Justice Department officials said Perez got proper clearance and made the best deal in the best interest of the nation.
Democrats on the House Oversight Committee issued their own report on the investigation, which said Perez “acted professionally to advance the interests of civil rights and effectively combat the scourge of housing discrimination.”
“Instead of identifying inappropriate conduct by Mr. Perez, it appears that the accusations against him are part of a broader political campaign to undermine the legal safeguards against discrimination that Mr. Perez was protecting,” said the staff memo issued on Sunday by Rep. Elijah Cummings, top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, and Rep. John Conyers, top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.
In choosing Perez, the 51-year-old son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Obama is nominating his first, second-term Hispanic Cabinet member. Perez, a lawyer with a degree from Harvard Law School, would replace Hilda Solis, a former California Congresswoman and the nation’s first Hispanic labor secretary.
Perez has experience in civil rights and workplace issues. Obama called Perez a consensus-builder whose story “reminds us of this country’s promise.” He was first hired by the Justice Department’s civil rights division as a career attorney under President George H.W. Bush.
“Tom’s made protecting that promise for everybody the cause of his life, “the president said in an appearance with Perez in the White House East Room.
Perez has broad support from labor and the civil rights community. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous were among those who attended the White House nomination ceremony.
But soon after his nomination, Republicans in Congress said they expect to oppose his confirmation, including Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., who called the nomination “unfortunate and needlessly divisive.” Sessions said Perez “has aggressively sought ways to allow the hiring of more illegal workers.”
Republicans are using the new blistering report on Perez to renew their challenge to his nomination. If he is guilty of any wrongdoing he should withdraw his nomination. Meanwhile Democrats and Republicans should ensure that he gets a fair and impartial hearing.
This year’s National Urban League’s State of Black America report takes a look how African Americans have fared since 1963, the height of the Civil Rights Movement.
The report released earlier this week shows that African Americans have made tremendous gains in the past 50 years in education and other areas, but unemployment remains the biggest barrier to progress.
Fifty years ago, only 25 percent of African-American adults had completed high school, compared with 85 percent today. There are now 3.5 times more African Americans ages 19-24 enrolled in college, and five times as many African Americans who hold a college degree.
The number of African Americans living in poverty has decreased by 23 percent.
That’s the good news.
The troubling news is that despite the extraordinary progress that Blacks have been made in the past 50 years, when contrasted to whites the income gap has closed by only 7 percent.
Blacks also remain twice as likely as whites to be unemployed, and they earn less than two-thirds the income of whites. For every dollar that whites earn, African Americans earn 60 cents, the report said.
The latest U.S. Department of Labor jobs report shows that while the national unemployment rate is just over 7 percent, the unemployment rate for African Americans is at an appalling 13.3 percent.
“There has been important progress in the last 50 years: decrease in poverty, increases in high school graduation rates and enrollment rates,” said Urban League President Marc Morial. “But the disparity between Black Americans and white Americans when it comes to jobs, income, health care and wealth remains too large.”
Fortunately the Urban League is doing more than just articulating the problem.
The league has launched a $70 million initiative, Jobs Rebuild America, to help get unemployed African Americans back to work. The initiative includes a public partnership program creating and expanding some of the group’s programs in job training, education, career counseling, finance, entrepreneurship and youth mentoring in about 30 cities. The plan also calls for pushing legislation to promote employment opportunities for at-risk youths and young adults.
The league is also using the State of Black America report to lobby members of Congress.
U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah is sponsoring an “Urban Jobs bill” in the House that is strongly supported by the Urban League.
“It’s without contradiction that African Americans have made extraordinary progress in the State of Black America report,” said Fattah. “But compared to the majority, we still have some room to grow.”
It is important that the Urban League and other civil rights groups lobby President Barack Obama and Congress about the need to implement policies that lead to job creation in urban communities and not to seek to reduce the deficit by cutting education and workforce development training programs.
Recent report of test cheating in Philadelphia and Atlanta are harmful to students and teaches them the wrong lessons about academic success
The state is investigating allegations that Communications Technology High School former principal Barbara McCreery changed student answers on standardized tests known as the PSSA.
State officials are also looking into similar allegations against Lola O’Rourke, former principal of Locke Elementary Schools.
Both O’Rourke and McCreey have surrendered their administrative credentials in lieu of discipline. They have both left the district.
Officials said a statewide investigation of test results from 2009-11 has found that 15 districts of charter schools tampered with the exams. Neither has made public comments on the allegations.
The local cheating scandal came just a few days after 35 Atlanta educators — including the district’s award-winning superintendent — were criminally charged with a broad conspiracy to facilitate cheating on standardized tests.
Atlanta superintendent of public schools Beverly Hall was named the 2009 Superintendent of the Year at the American Association of School Administrators’ National Conference on Education in San Francisco. Now Hall and nearly three dozen other administrators, teachers, principals and other educators have been indicted in one of the nation’s largest cheating scandals.
The scandals are harmful to students and cheat them out of their education. Instead of encouraging real learning, educators were focused on cheating. Cheating also teaches students that honesty and integrity doesn’t matter and that there are shortcuts to success.
While cheating can not be condoned under any circumstances, the cheating scandals also raises questions as to the role of high-stakes tests under No Child Left Behind, which are used to reward or punish districts, principals and teachers. It also raises the question whether schools are really teaching or teaching to the test.
Testing scandals are widespread and not new.
In an article headlined “Schools marred by testing scandals in 2011,” USA Today reported that “by the time it’s over, 2011 may well go down as the Year of the Test Scandal. From Waterbury [in Connecticut] to Atlanta to Asbury park, N.J. public schools came under fire this year from media and public officials after investigations found evidence of test tampering by educators.”
The newspaper also reported then on other allegation of testing scandals in Washington, D.C. Camden, N.J.
The American Federation of Teachers and other teacher groups have said the Atlanta cheating scandal points out “the need to end testing fixation and focus on teaching and learning.”
In a statement condemning both cheating educators and standardized testing, AFT President Randi Weingarten said the cheating scandals point out a need for change.
“We do not condone cheating under any circumstances. Academic achievement can never be separated from academic integrity, which is why the Georgia federation of Teachers was the first whistle-blower to expose Atlanta testing irregularities.
Tragically the Atlanta cheating scandal harms our children and it crystallizes the unintended consequences of our test-crazed policies. Standardized test have a role in accountability, but today they dominate everything else and too often don’t even correlate to what students need to know to succeed.”
Cheating educators must clearly condemn and punish regardless of the pressures they feel they under to improve test scores. It also time to re-examine standardized testing after 2002’s No Child Left Behind and if it is actually leading to improved academic success.
There is no question that Dr. Ben Carson, the renowned neurosurgeon and director of pediatric neurosurgery at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, is an impressive figure in medicine.
His book, “Gifted Hands,” described how through hard work and self-discipline he rose from a poor single parent home in Detroit to the top in his field. In 2008, he was awarded the nation’s highest civilian honors when he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
But after his impassioned and impolite criticism of President Barack Obama’s tax policies and health care reform plan at the National Prayer Breakfast some Republicans are touting the 61-year-old African American Yale-educated conservative as the anti-Obama and as a possible presidential candidate in 2016.
But is he a serious political candidate or the latest ploy by the right to attack Obama and the Democrats with a conservative African American?
How realistic or rather cynical is it to tout the candidacy of a political novice to the highest and most powerful elective office in the world?
Carson recently showed his political naiveté when he appeared to be unprepared for the reaction to recent controversial comments he made about gay marriage during an interview on the Sean Hannity Show.
“Marriage is between a man and a woman. No group, be they gays be they NAMBLA [the North American Man/Boy Love Association], be they people who believe in bestiality, it doesn’t matter what they are. They don’t get to change the definition.”
There are religious and social reasons to oppose gay marriage but falsely equating gay marriage to people wanting to have sex with animals and men who have sex with underage boys are not among them. Carson quickly apologized for his comments.
The recent adulation of Carson by the right is a reminder of similar attention given to African American businessman Herman Cain, who was briefly a Republican presidential hopeful in 2012.
Here are a few facts conservatives should consider when presenting an African American conservative as their Republican answer to President Obama: Obama was a state senator and U.S. Senator before running for president. Another fact to remember is that there are African Americans who are already in public office including a U.S. Senate senator, lieutenant governors and others who would appear to be more qualified to run for the highest office in the land than a politically inexperienced neurosurgeon or businessman.
President Barack Obama traveled Monday to Connecticut where a gunman killed 20 young children and six educators in one of the worst school shootings in U.S. history.
Setting an example of bipartisanship courage and common sense for the nation, Connecticut is also the state where lawmakers last week passed one of the strongest and most comprehensive gun measures in the country.
The new law bans some weapons as well as the sale of purchase of high-capacity magazines like those used in the Dec. 14 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The law also requires background checks for all gun purchases.
Connecticut became the third state to pass such tough measures since the December shooting. New York and Colorado passed gun-control legislation limiting magazine capacity, among other provisions.
Connecticut lawmakers sent an important message to the nation at a crucial time in the gun control debate as the U.S. Congress returns from a two-week recess with gun control legislation high on the agenda.
Senators could start debating Democratic-sponsored gun legislation before week’s end. Unfortunately Democratic leaders have made it clear that they did not have majority support in favor of reinstituting a ban on assault weapons.
Lawmakers advocating gun control have allowed the momentum to shift to the National Rifle Association, the influential gun rights lobby group, which opposed both the assault weapons ban and the expanded background checks
Now passing legislation expanding background checks on firearms to include gun shows and online transactions would be viewed as a victory for gun control advocates.
President Obama’s speech Monday at the University of Hartford was an effort to regain momentum in the gun control debate and put pressure on congress to pass legislation on expanding background checks for firearms.
Polls show up to 90 percent of Americans support legislation requiring background checks. It is time for Congress to listen to the American people.