WVON Discusses New CPS Black History Curriculum with Former CPS President Florence Cox Wednesday, March 6th at 5:00 PM

Please tune into WVON’s Cliff Kelley show TODAY, Wednesday, March 6, 2013, at 5:00 P.M. to hear Florence Cox, president of the WE CAN, INC. Committee (and former President of The Chicago Board of Education)  report on last Friday’s meeting with CPS/CEO Dr. Barbara Byrd-Bennett on getting CPS to obey the 1991 state law mandating the teaching of black history in all grade and secondary schools. 

At that meeting, Dr. Byrd-Bennett again, as she did at an October 2012 meeting when WE CAN, INC. brought up the issue, vowed she would be in compliance. She is worried about the validity of the content, but what was presented to the WE CAN, INC. committee two-weeks ago is unacceptable. Dr. Byrd-Bennett is reaching out to the committee to help correct and expand the information.

Dr. Byrd-Bennett also accepted a WE CAN, INC. Committee idea that she would use retired teachers as volunteer assistants to formulate the black history curriculum. She would provide the space and the resources.

WVON is located at 1690 AM on your dial or click on: www.wvon.com then click on “listen live.”

The call-in number is: 773.591.1690.

Also, please click on the following link to hear Mrs. Cox on WBEZ which was conducted yesterday on the same topic. http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-will-teach-more-african-american-studies-fall-105918

Published on WBEZ 91.5 Chicago (http://www.wbez.org)
CPS will teach more African American studies in the fall
March 5, 2013
Chicago Public Schools will teach African-American history classes year-round and system-wide beginning this fall.
The decision comes after months of meetings between local leaders and district officials.
The complaint is that public schools teach Black history only during February or Black History Month.
Florence Cox is a former CPS board president. She is also the president of We Can Inc., the community group heading the dialogue.
She said her group found CPS was not in compliance with a state law mandating districts integrate black history into the curriculum.
“Based upon the law, a unit on black history should be taught from elementary school all the way through high school. That unit should focus on the development of African descent in the United States of America,” Cox said.
According to Cox, her group sent a Freedom of Information Act request to find out whether schools in the city were required to develop educational content on black history and culture all year-round.
“We found that black history was taught sporadically, on an individual basis, and more subjectively than anything else throughout the history of CPS,” Cox said.
Cox said she would like to see all schools develop curriculum that teaches black history from a cultural and a political perspective.
CPS said it will launch its new social science framework in the beginning of the next school year. Meantime, it will work with teachers to adapt content focused on black history in each grade level.
“CPS has been hard at work developing a new social science framework that incorporates African American History,” said Robyn Ziegler, director of media affairs for CPS in a statement.
CPS said the social science framework will also include more education about other cultures and women’s fight for equality.
CPS/CEO vows to comply with 1991 law mandating teaching of black history though it’s an “unfunded mandate”
Reps. Flowers, Davis: ‘No special funds are needed. It’s the law”
By Chinta Strausberg
After meeting with the WE CAN INC. Committee headed by former Board of Education President Florence Cox, CPS/CEO Dr. Barbara Byrd-Bennett said she will do all she can to comply with the 1991 state law that mandates teaching of African American history to all grade and secondary schools even though it is an “unfunded mandate.”
Dr. Byrd-Bennett met with members of the committee that including retired principal/coach J.W. Smith, James H. Handley, former ABC 7 TV cameraman now vice president of Business Development for the World Class Installations of Apopka, and Jomo Cheatham representing Dr. Carol Adams who heads the DuSable Museum of African American History.
It was during the question/answer period of the CPS’ special meeting, held on Wednesday, November 7, 2012, at the Greater Harvest Missionary Baptist Church, 5141 S. State St. where Byrd-Bennett was introduced to faith leaders that a representative from he WE CAN, INC. Committee asked her if she would comply with the 1991 state law.
At that time, Dr. Byrd-Bennett said she was unaware of the law and turned to Renaldo Kyles, Director of CPS’ Office of Faith Based Initiatives, who explained to her about HB-2859. Stories were published about the CEO vowing to comply with the state law and she later appeared several times on WVON’s Cliff Kelley show promising to teach black history in her schools.
At the meeting with the WE CAN, INC. Committee held over the weekend, Dr. Byrd-Bennett made it clear that she cannot order principals to teach African American history even though the law passed it 22-years ago, and she said though the law states clearly that “there would be no fiscal impact resulting from” passage of HB-2859, she would have to find funding to pay for the training of the teachers something she described as a “huge project development” and would be “cost prohibitive.”
“I could strongly suggest,” they teach African American history,” she said, and she could provide them with the resources. Dr. Byrd-Bennett did say the Local School Council’s (LSC’s) could use some of their discretionary funds to pay for the implementation of this unit of history.
When contacted, Rep. Mary E. Flowers (D-31st), one of the sponsors of the bill, said, “The teaching of Black History is a required subject matter just like reading, writing. It is not a set-aside. Wherever Dr. Byrd Bennett finds the funding, she should make sure that African American History is a part of any other required curriculum. Treat Black History as a requirement. That’s the law.”
Another sponsor, Rep. Monique D. Davis (D-27th) said,  “You don’t have to have special funding for reading, math or the teaching of African American history. It is just a matter of including not excluding it in the curriculum. You can start with the DuSable Museum of African American Museum. There is a wealth of information even out there on the Internet.
“That is why we started the Amistad Commission people made excuses about why black history isn’t taught which is why we passed the legislation creating the Commission to will ensure that materials are available to all,” said Davis.
“What happens to a tree that has no roots or a plant where roots are cut off? It dies and that is the same thing that is happening with human beings and that is partly what is happening to our children. They do not know about their roots that make you know how valuable you are, to let you know your potential.”
In the meeting held over the weekend, Dr. Byrd-Bennett was asked if she would be open to have retired teacher’s help in formulating the curriculum. She agreed as long as it would be on a volunteer basis “I can give people the tools and the resources,” she said explaining she does have space they could use to do their work.
Cox wants CPS to use the talents and resources of the DuSable Museum headed by Dr. Adams; however, Dr. Byrd-Bennett explained she could require them to go there for training but only if she could pay them. Again, she said, this is an unfunded mandate that CPS cannot afford.
But cognizant of the law, Dr. Byrd-Bennett said she would do all she can to comply with the law. “This is a work in progress.” She explained that the preliminary curriculum an aide gave to the WE CAN, INC. Committee that was deemed unacceptable was not the final program. She is open to input from the public including the WE CAN, INC. Committee that is comprised of successful black businessmen and women including retired educators.
Dr. Byrd-Bennett said she would reach out to Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) to help “build this scope and sequence” of African American History.
Cox described the meeting with the CEO as “very progressive” and that she seems very supportive of their goal to have the CPS obey the 1991 law.  “We are hoping that the students will be given black history from the cultural perspective and from the political perspective, I hope we go pre-middle passage. Our country did not start in this country with civil rights,” said Cox referring to the preliminary black history curriculum given to her committee.
“If we persist along the course of starting this curriculum with civil rights, there will be generations to come who would think that all of contributions and the developments made in this country by black people came as a result of our being enslaved and that is not true,” said Cox.
“I hope we would see a curtailment of the violence that is going on in our community because WE CAN, INC. believes when people have a better sense of where they came from they will behave much better. They will develop a sense of pride and when that happens they function better.”
“All we can do is to wait and see. She indicated that they plan to move forward on this and have something implemented by September of 2013, and we are looking forward to that.” Cox told Byrd-Bennett that the WE CAN, INC. Committee “does not have the people or the resources to take this project on in terms of actually creating the curriculum but we can provide support and be a resource” to the CPS.
Cox said it is an excellent idea to have retired teachers volunteering to work on this project.  “You have many retired teachers out here who are looking for something to do who would be more than happy to give something back to the children and the people of Chicago. Many of them are more than qualified to do this. It’s a matter of reaching out to them….”
Asked about Byrd-Bennett saying that HB-2859 is an unfunded mandate, Cox said, “That’s the law and it says it is an unfunded mandate but those who pay attention to things like this know that you can’t implement anything without their being some cost to it.
“I am certain there are people in this city and all over the country who would be supportive of the Black History curriculum because there is nothing nationwide or statewide now. There are probably people who would be willing to lend some kind of research support to the implementation of this,” said Cox.
Cheatham, who is a project manager of the DuSable Museum’s and sits on the Amistad Commission, said, “The Amistad Commission has been on the books since 1995” by Public Act 94-285 through an amendment to the Historic Preservation Agency Act (20 ILCS 3405/22).  Cheatham said the task of the Commission is to identify resources “that can support learning about the Transatlantic Slave trade, enslavement in North America and African American achievement.
“The Commission is not required to develop curriculum; however, the DuSable Museum is committed to assisting in the development of the curriculum,” said Cheatham.  “We are equally concerned about developing curriculum and resources,” he said of the museum.
In looking at the Act, the Commission’s task is also to teach about racism in this country “its continuing impact on society and the triumphs and contributions of African Americans in building this country.” It is charged with “designing and promoting education and awareness programs concerned with…the contributions of African Americans.”
By law, they are to provide assistance and advice to schools regarding implementation of educational programs, textbooks and educational materials concerned with slavery and African American history among other duties.
To volunteer in the development of the Black History curriculum, please send an e-mail to Mr. Phillip Hampton, Chief Community & Family Officer, at: prhampton@cps.edu.

Thank you.

Chinta Strausberg

Media Director for
WE CAN, INC. Committee

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