Education: Chicago’s Gangs

My reaction to an article about Chicago and its school closings made me think more about Chicago. The article appeared in the Sun Times. Community people were upset then and they are even more upset now because the violence has escalated. That violence may have spread into communities that were safer back then. In my article this month, I wrote how I reached out to the most powerful people in Chicago as early as 2004. Nobody listened even if they heard me. I watched the mistakes taking place and I actively tried to prevent a school closing in New York (Alfred E. Smith) and direct the attention of people in communities there about helping youth get their G.E.D. They failed and I failed. The numbers of youth who took to the streets kept growing and growing, hurting communities everywhere. I knew the numbers by 2003 or so and things looked bad. I called back then for the March of a Million Hispanics toward the G.E.D that made news in Hispanic newspapers.

Parents and Activists Warned for Years appeared in the Chicago Sun Times, but what did those parents and activists do to help the youth on the streets to earn their high school equivalency? This has happened everywhere including around the world. There was a pandemic then and the vaccine was being cooked in my lab in New York. But nobody listened. And today I write about Idiots and idiots in our government (visit The Force 2020 DDT).

This was published by N.B.C. News in October 2009.

“You have a trail of blood and tears ever since they launched (Renaissance 2010),” said Tio Hardiman, director of the anti-violence organization CeaseFire Illinois. “There’s a history of violence associated with moving kids from one area to another.”

I have met and spoke to Tio Hardiman and he knows my work well. We met when I was told things by Malik Aziz of the National Exhoodus Council. We attended and spoke at the National Black Violence Convention many years ago and one man did listen to me and came to shake my hand for speaking out. He did much better than the National Exhoodus Council members who I was there to support. There may be a video recording of that small talk since the speakers in the auditorium were filmed. The contents of that talk will be forthcoming.

That article documented that people around Mayor Richard Daley (who I met in 1976) including Arne Duncan made the decision to close schools and send students elsewhere. The dangers were documented. That decision was the almost the equivalent of starting charter schools but placing the students together in the same tough school to handle (neighborhood schools get tougher to handle in both situations). By 1999-2000 I was trying to warn about that kind of violence in New York concerning three murders that a student told me about in his school. Could it be that I was ahead of my time? I never learned about the details, but I trusted the student who was not even in my class. I lacked some of the skills then to help, skills that I developed.

Yes there were murders taking place among gang members at school while the vast majority of gang members did not experience death. Did anyone in Chicago schools or neighborhoods find out the real situation and need for diplomas of those people (youth and adults on the street or those warming up their sneakers to be part of the streets? Did they do anything about it? If they did, what did they do?

Looking at the word “march” here, nobody should confuse that usage with the usage in 2021 whereby protestors were going to march to The Capitol (and help those who never obtained a diploma in any country?) and try to take back their country (meaning the Trump government). When I joined the march against violence in San Pedro de Macoris where the co-founder of the Guardian Angels joined us, there was no march to take back the government of the Dominican Republic either. Beware of misinformation by Curtis Sliwa and those “angels” in New York City.

Education, opportunities, and new strategies are needed to contain gangs and the violence.

Let’s begin with a conversation that I had about jobs.  I have been told by the National Exhoodus Council that typically getting lots of people away from gangs will require about $10 an hour (and that was in Philadelphia).  Of course there are other tiers where gang members would need more money to live on that tier would require $17.  Much of this is realistic.

The educational plan is not the plan that is currently being exercised in major cities.  To contain the problem, helping the incarcerated quickly and the youth in middle school or high school are integral parts of the same plan.  Gangs are popping up everywhere in the schools and the schools are fairly dangerous.  Maybe the schools are safer than they were last year and maybe they are not, but the problems exist.  Charter schools have not taken their fair share of gang members so the builds up the problems in the neighborhood schools and in the neighborhood (the zip codes feeding the problem). The public has to be informed of this or else.  It is that important.  For years schools have retained students who are older, but without parent involvement and without the best advice.  This is a practice that has to be looked at and it was developed to show a higher graduation rate and may also have contributed to greater problems in the schools.  At the same time, hardly anyone earns a high school equivalency diploma as students drop out.  I told that gang unit of the Department of Education of New York City that we (all of us) could help students earn a GED or high school equivalency faster through the guidance departments of the schools cooperating with the parents and I was told “that would do it.”   Mayors have left the progress up to the schools that continue to fail, from students failing state tests from the third grade on up to failing through middle school and high school.  Parent involvement has really been a huge failure.  In Far Rockaway where lots of arrests have been made in New York City, the parent leaders communicate with the parents who are absent from the meetings by placing the minutes in the back packs of the children to take home to the parents.  Would you like be updated about important things that are taking place in your political jurisdiction by the minutes placed in a backpack?  If you could not be present at a meeting, would you not wish to be involved through technology?  View a video of the meeting or listen on Skype and participate to promote solutions that you have in mind.  Gangs are popping up all over and as some gang members go to jail others can take their place.  The Nassau County PD just announced weeks ago that about ten percent of gang members have high school diplomas.  This is another way the schools have set gang members up for failure.  That low percentage seems to be about the norm across our nation.  Neglect!  Neglect!  Neglect!  New York State is the worst example where the NY State Legislature started funding the GED for the state (now 2.85 million adults without a diploma) and there has been great losses as the testing has been underfunded and people across the state cannot be mobilized because the state office would receive far too many applications to process in a timely manner.    Ex-Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his staff knew my work, but after closing down the GED programs of New York City under mayoral control and reorganizing the programs, his own report showed an increase in diplomas from one year to another of only 200 diplomas when the general public mobilized itself and had an increase of about 2,000 including a slightly higher passing percentage.  Nobody should be held back and those programs have consistently held people back.  In addition a United Federation of Teachers rep heard Bloomberg touting that they had the best results ever.  That sound bite only indicated the Bloomberg administrations own success at a time when the truth shows that diplomas declined in every decade and there were very weak numbers beginning in 2002 when mayoral control became a reality.  The New York City Housing Authority programs were shut down years before that.  I was the last GED teacher in the Astoria Housing and the South Jamaica Housing and I taught GED only a block from where Lorenzo “Fat Cat” Nichols and Howard “Pappy” Mason ordered the execution of rookie NYPD officer Edward Byrne.

Let us start to look even more deeply about what is going on.  New York City has the largest African-American population by far in our nation due to its over eight million residents.  There are approximately two million two hundred and twenty-five thousand African-Americans in New York City.  African-Americans have lost seats in the elite schools of New York City and hardly any African-Americans attend those schools.  Those elite schools are turning out excellent students that help New York and our nation, but African-Americans are being left behind.  This does not represent White domination because Asians fill huge numbers of seats well out of proportion with their population.  African-Americans are clamoring for many more African-American teachers in our urban settings but they are clamoring in the desert as African-Americans choose other professions and the serious lack of high school graduates and poor results on the high school equivalency prevent more African-Americans from going up the professional ladder.  Obtaining a high school equivalency does not PROHIBIT that person from obtaining a high school diploma and there lots of valid reasons for choosing the alternative path at the age of eligibility including the high teenage pregnancy that often requires the youth involved to obtain a good paying job with the diploma. 

My own failures since 2002 when I started a campaign to help New York City that has since resulted in a few GED reports including one by the Bloomberg administration and the total failure to help people in that city.  I met with influential city councilmen who did nothing, I got the support of a New York State Assemblyman who was the director of the New York City Central Labor Council representing over two million workers in the City of New York and he quickly got arrested for embezzlement.  I wrote a proposal that was submitted to the Justice Department of the United States in time, but my so called cooperating partner in a non-for-profit could not get the door open to his office on the last day to submit the proposal so that it would not be rejected due to eligibility.  That proposal would have mobilized gang members and other at-risk youth and adults from Long Island to New York City and would serve as a model for future programs around the country.  Even though I was called upon to advocate for the New York State Education Department where I made Governor Eliot Spitzer aware that $2.1 million dollars were needed in the state budget to keep the GED test free in New York and he did transfer the money but testing money was soon cut restricting access to the test.  This situation has continued for the last decade.  A wealthy state with over 2.85 million adults without a high school diploma or equivalency turned its back on its own people each year and fewer than 30,000 people earned a diploma and New York State has been at the bottom of the barrel for the success of African-Americans on the GED, ranking it with Alabama and Mississippi at the bottom of the barrel.  I knew what to do to correct that, but I was not given the opportunity to correct that situation.  The gap between African-Americans on the GED in 2013 in Illinois was 22.7 and the national gap was 24 points.  This does not mean that the gap was 22.7 in Chicago where we might expect the results to be poorer than the state and national average.  The poorest performing school districts and neighborhoods that are feeding our penal institutions have needed aggressive help that has not been there.  From the White House down to the community or from the community up to the White House we have had complete failure to help the community in the best way possible and prevent crime and the violence that goes with gang territories.  I recently held conversations with the office of Father Pfleger and his adult education program and I can tell you that the church offers GED.  What you have to know about is I have noticed that the passing rate for African-Americans since 2014 has been particularly and significantly low (under twenty-five percent).  I am connected with the CEO and President of all GED testing in the world and I have given helpful advice to him.  Creating a test that results in fifty percent fewer diplomas for those who take the test and turning off communities by that kind of failure have resulted in less hope and opportunity for people over these last two years and was far worse than anything our nation has experienced in any two comparable years. 

Parents need to protect their children better and that is why the Title 1 Parent Involvement programs have to be radically changed now.  The drug, heroin, and opiate addiction problem is not being addressed by everyone.  Seventy percent of foster parents are on drugs.  People need extra help and parents should look out for other parents.  My Brother’s Keeper is far from hitting a bull’s eye.  There are lots of other mental health issues that have to be addressed to make the city of Chicago much more productive.  Parent involvement can help increase the number of students to pass their state tests, pass their college placement exams, and help families what has been termed “Summer Melt” which was the subject of a webinar by the White House.  Summer Melt refers to the large number of new high school graduates that decide not to attend college by the end of the summer of the year they graduate.

In 2015 I sent information from my book, now called J’Accuse to Arnie Rivera and Forrest Claypool who was in charge of Chicago’s schools. I guess nobody listened after I detailed the failures of Bloomberg-Klein in running the Department of Education and New York City. I may just send a copy now to The White House to see if anyone is listening.

Crime is on the rise including the killing of police. I designated Trump as SPOTUS and that means that mayors become SMAYORS. The S was for Stupid. I have written a huge amount over the years and nobody (few exceptions apply) has listened to me. How about SGOVERNORS as well? Unfortunately even the education reports have not known enough to make a difference anywhere in our nation. It’s time for change. Get the vaccine ready, although I know that there are always people that will resist taking a vaccine (the test).