Take a hard look at contracting and jobs in Orange County and other municipalities. Request a copy of the annual budget reports from city councils, school boards and county commissions. Add the total county and municipal budgets to the total school board budgets to get a good look at the overall budget for Orange County. Then request, through the purchasing departments of each agency, a report on the number of dollars spent with minority and women-owned businesses.
Make sure you receive disaggregated numbers. If that number represents an abysmally low percentage of the public dollars flowing through the community (in many cases it will be less than 1%), then go to work with each agency on ways to make their purchasing processes more inclusive.
Remember: Small businesses that can “get work” and receive contracts are then able to produce jobs for the people in our neighborhoods.
Survey the shops and stores that service the community and ensure that the community is receiving the same levels of service and standards of merchandise as other communities. In many communities, even major grocery chains have a history of moving products that are nearing their expiration dates into poorer neighborhoods to make room on the shelves for fresh fruits, vegetables and merchandise in whiter, more affluent areas.
Look particularly at items like baby food, formula, milk and dairy, and the quality of meat. Also, ensure that standards of cleanliness and product availability are uniform regardless of neighborhood or ZIP code.
Community Reinvestment Act
Become fluent with the language and content of the Community Reinvestment Act, which is designed to eliminate redlining, fight discriminatory lending practices and ensure that low- and moderate-income citizens have access to credit.
People need opportunities to own and not just rent. Lending institutions are scored based on their compliance. Learn the scores of the lending institutions that service your community and push them to improve whenever possible.
Survey the schools in Orange County. Request that Orange County Public Schools provides graduation-rate data for the local high schools. Step one is to make sure it’s disaggregated. Then look at the graduation rates of all student populations. If there are glaring disparities, you could begin by finding out why.
If not, before you look away, compare the graduation-rate data year by year for at least the last four or five years, looking specifically to see if there are any unexplained sudden leaps in reported outcomes (64.3% one year that jumps to 80.5% the following year). When you see those sudden leaps, chances are the district didn’t suddenly discover some new, effective teaching method. It more than likely just changed the formula used to determine the graduation rate and found a way to exclude some subgroup of underperforming kids. If you see that, go back and recalculate the graduation rate using the most inclusive formula and hold their feet to the fire.
School Resource Officers
Check to see if OCPS employs uniformed police officers, sometimes referred to as SROs. If so, find out if fights and altercations that are stopped by SROs result in criminal charges where the students are arrested and taken to the juvenile detention facility. If the answer to the first question is yes, then the answer to the second question is probably yes as well. That is the express lane of the school-to-prison pipeline.
Fight for changes to that policy. It should ensure that if police officers are to work in the schools, the policies have been developed specifically for children and schools, and that they are not using adult statutes in middle schools. If two 13-year-old kids get in a fight, send them to the office, call their parents, maybe even suspend them if it’s warranted – but it should not automatically result in formal assault and/or battery charges and a criminal record.
Position on Charter Schools
In 2016, NAACP National Convention delegates passed, and the National Board affirmed, a resolution calling for a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools. The board subsequently convened a Task Force for Quality Education, which embarked on a national series of hearings to gather data and diverse perspectives on the state of charter schools and their traditional public school counterparts. This is still a challenge today.