COMMUNITY VOICES | What happens when the world’s largest retailer builds schools in black communities?

Pop quiz: which of the world’s largest retailers was the first to make enormous philanthropic investments in the cause of building new schools to educate poor black children?It’s a trick question. My bet is that your mind quickly thought of Walmart and the proliferation of charter schools.Right?Well, the Walton family was not the first to commit a significant fortune to building a heat map of independently run schools.Long before contemporary charter schools started lunging out of the reform kettle like academic popcorn it was Sears that provided the big dollars to fund the growth of new schools in poor black communities.Yes. That Sears.First, some context. The early twentieth century was rough on America’s black people. Economically. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Mark Andrew will not be good for the poor or women

In a recent mayoral candidate forum Mark Andrew said he wants to do for education what he did for MFIP, Minnesota’s version of welfare. I was alarmed by this because MFIP as a policy has succeeded in getting thousands of poor woman and families off of public assistance, but little attention has been paid to how it has failed us all.The bottom line: Minnesota now has far more children living in extreme poverty than it ever had, and many woman have been shuttled into dead end jobs in just a few industries that tend to keep them poor (retail, low-end health care, hospitality, and temporary clerical work). In short, MFIP has feminized poverty by failing to prepare woman for poverty-ending work, and, instead, creating a ready crop of woman serfs for a few industries that survive on poverty labor.Has Mark Andrew been paying attention? I’m not so sure.Internationally we have learned a few things about treating woman as assets to society rather than problems. Traditionally we thought investing in men was the answer, but we learned that when you go into poor countries and give aid solely to men they often drink beer and start wars. Woman and children suffer.Conversely, when you invest in woman they nourish and educate their families and form cooperative economies that change nations.This respectful principle of investing in woman was missing from Mark’s white paternalist vision for poor mothers when he prosed a “workfare” program in Hennepin County. Instead of providing education and training that would lift woman and children out of poverty, his “Operation Clean Sweep” required mothers recieving AFDC to pick up trash along with convicted offenders.This wasn’t a response to the needs of poor woman and chilren, it was more imperialist than that. At the time he is quoted as saying: “I try to look at it more as a Park Board issue than as a welfare reform issue, although the two are obviously linked together…I think the (litter) problem has become more serious in the past couple of years.”Another benefit of the Andrew plan for poor woman and other criminals? He said it would “take pressure off the jail, which is experiencing severe overcrowding on weekends.”And, one highlight for his friends in Minneapolis’ golden crescent: the first crew of litter-fighting poverty moms would tend to the trash of Lake Calhoun and Lake of the Isles. Continue Reading