On April 4th, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis Tennessee, where he had gone to stand with sanitation workers who were standing up and demanding fair treatment and the right to bargain collectively for a voice at work and a better life.

Today, that same demand is electrifying people across America. It's the demand of all people - Black, White, Latino,  and Asian American: The right to join together to fight for our common dreams.

On Monday, April 4th, Join the Wichita Branch and Kansas NAACP, the Wichita/Hutchison Labor Federation, and the Kansas Chapter of the National Organization for Women as we STAND IN SOLIDARITY WITH LABOR.
What: The "WE ARE ONE" Rally
When: April 4th at 7:00pm
Where: Interfaith Ministries (829 N Market St)
The event is free and open to the public
Former Kansas State Conference President Charles Jean-Baptiste has filed for the Position 5 (Northwest area) seat on the Shawnee Mission school board. He faces off against the incumbent -Patty Mach, and Angela Jeppesen. Voters will choose the winner in the April 5 general election.

The Shawnee Dispatch newspaper sent each candidate a written questionnaire featuring biographical information as well as questions about current issues. Charles Jean-Baptiste’s answers are posted below.

What made you decide to run for office?
I was born and raised in Louisiana on a sharecropper farm. I was the first person in my family to graduate from high school. That allowed me to believe that a college degree was possible. But that possibility could not have come about without the encouragement that I received along the way from people who were not even related to me. I received support and assistance from people who had no reason to have a vested interest in my success, other than they believed in me. Their only goal was to make sure I had the opportunity to succeed. They saw something in me that only need an opportunity and the belief that I did not have to grow up and become a sharecropper. There wouldn’t have been anything wrong with that reality but my education gave me something that my siblings and parents did not have and that was a choice. I choose to finish school and to see were that education would take me. I owe it to this community to return what was given to me. I owe it to this community to care for children and parents that I may never know on a personal level and to have a vested interest in their success for no other reason than I believe in them.

What special qualifications would you bring to this office?
The Shawnee School District is facing challenges that many other school districts are facing. Solutions are going to have to be derived from a collective effort. The solutions will have to be innovative and more importantly implemented in an efficient manner. The position requires someone with success in working with the Kansas legislature, which I have done.

You can see that I have, for years been an active member of in the community. All the candidates will be able to provide the number of organizations we have been and our platitudes. What I want to bring is an emerging voice of leadership, trustworthiness, and reason. The best ideas remain ideas without someone willing to take the lead in moving them forward. I have taken thoughts and ideas turned them into something tangible—for example Kansas Senate Bill 54. The person providing leadership has to be trustworthy. I have gained that trust among all groups of people at all economic and social levels of our community. You need a voice of reason. The quick fixes are easy. There are those that believe the only thing you need to do to make your budget is slash programs or cut salaries. That may ultimately be what has to be done but you have to be reasonable in your approach and foresee the long term impact of these types of decisions.

How do you plan to familiarize yourself with the issues that come before the board?
Not all the nuances of an issue can be captured quantitatively. A qualitative analysis has to be included. I believe in listening and hearing what people have to say on not only the current issues but their feelings on the Board’s past decisions. This is key. I believe that sometimes you will find that people agree with the decision but have a distain for how the decision was made or implemented. We all want to be heard.

I do plan a methodical quantitative approach as well. I am very interested in the results of the Budget Reduction Survey. The superintendent’s annual reports provide an invaluable look at the district. There is the district’s five year plan that also has to be taken into consideration. I can be trusted to always find a way to familiarize myself with the issues that would come before the Board. My basis for information has always come from a variety of sources from—legislation, grass roots efforts, school administrators and employees, teachers, and in this position those that we are here to serve—the parents and the children. And let’s not forget other school districts. What may not work in one district may work in ours. We can also learn from the errors of other districts.

What leadership qualities do you possess?
The leadership qualities that I possess are my ability to work with diverse groups, mediate, and communicate. I am not afraid to speak the truth or make difficult decisions. This period of change that we are in is not going to be easy. I am not going to promise to have all the answers. We may have to endure some pain as a result of our decisions. But what I can promise is that there will be rust and reason in my leadership.

How do you plan to stay in touch with constituents if you are elected?
I plan to stay in touch with constituents through a variety of media— telephonic, electronic mail, webpage, community meetings, newsletters, and knocking on doors. You will always have a way of contacting me and I will always make an effort to keep you informed.

Describe what you see as the main role of a school board member.
I see the main role of a school board member is one that puts in place a venue and serves as a catalyst for the betterment of our children. The school board should be a catalyst for the basic principle of our students learning and reaching their highest potential. As the board does this, it is the role of every board member is to keep the community informed of our collective efforts and to serve as support for the school administrators, teachers, and employees.

What is the best attribute of our school district and why?
The best attribute of our school district are the students. The reason—this district has some of the most active and caring parents. The parents are embracing and they fight for not only their child but also the children that do not have a support system and for children they may never meet. Our students are also our best attribute because of the daily and tireless efforts of our school administrators, teachers, employees, and volunteers.

What are the three most important issues facing the school district and how would you confront them?
Currently the most important issues facing the school district would have to fall under the category of an ever shrinking budget. This includes:

  • Closing neighborhood schools.
  • Teacher to student ratio.
  • Doing more with less while still maintaining a high efficiency rate.

What more can we squeeze from the only large school district in Kansas to be designated as 100% efficient? Our budget constraints cannot really be attributed to waste. We may differ on what programs need to remain or positions to be cut but that is out of necessity versus waste or the program or position not being of value.

My way of confronting the issues is to begin with:

  • Kansas legislation—we have to continue to have our voice heard on the number of pending education related legislation.
  • Despite efficiency there is going to be deficits. This has to get under control while be look for solutions.
  • The 65% of the budget that is spent on the classroom needs to be further explored. I am not advocating for cutting this but I do want to look deeper into these expenditures.

Do you think public schools are adequately funded? Why or why not?
I think the easy answer is to say no. But we all have seen nationwide and in neighboring communities that increasing spending per student is not the formula for producing successful students or school districts. Pouring money on a problem only creates a money pit. It is harder to say, we are adequately funded—and that is my response to this question—right now. Continued budget cuts will take us below “adequate”. However, do we want to settle for “adequate”? Are we willing to define the children of the Shawnee School District as “adequate”? I don’t want to but we may temporarily have to accept adequate (as we are now) until we can generate funds to put us above adequate. In the interim, I think the question that should be asked: Is the funding being adequately spent?

We can philosophically and perhaps legislatively advocate for less spending on incarceration versus the educating of a child for 12 years. We can make an argument that this diverting of funds can result in preventing criminal behavior and thus making the state of Kansas proactive versus reactive.

What areas of the budget would you target for spending cuts if necessary?
Any areas of the budget target for spending cuts would have to be based on the entire school budget. I think it’s reckless to declare, without consideration of input, what needs to be cut. This is not an attempt to avoid the question but to demonstrate that this needs to be approached with reason. The voters need to know that I do not have a preconceived agenda. When it comes to cutting you have to cut appropriately and gain consensus of other board members and constituents. As stated previously, I do believe there are areas of the budget to look at, if only to gain a better understanding. The 65% spent on classrooms may be the key to our above average rating in the state. You cannot just look at what appears to be a large part of the budget and presume that it’s fat that can be trimmed. I also want to hear what the community has to say in the budget survey. Being on the school board is not about someone that has all the answers but is willing to lead and facilitate community input. The district belongs to all of us.

Are the district’s teachers being compensated fairly? Why or why not?
I do believe that under the present budget circumstances teachers are being compensated fairly. Are there likely those that are doing more than others—yes. Are there those that are deserving of a raise—yes. My response is not to negate that there are those that are doing more for less and are deserving of an increase in pay. I think that has always been the case of those that do public work.

Under what circumstances would you favor increasing property taxes?
As a member of the school board I would favor any increase that was approved by the voters by ballot. As member of the school board I would also support the decision of the voter’s should they not approve an increase. From a personal stand point, I would favor an increase property taxes to maintain the quality of education in the classroom, maintain the quality of administrators, teachers and to make sure that our students are getting an education that is compatible to global society. However, ultimately I believe tax increases should be ballot initiatives.
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On Saturday, March 19th, at 12:00pm, the Kansas NAACP, the Topeka Center for Peace and Social Justice, Kansas Equality Coalition, the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri, Kansas National Organization for Women, and the Kansas League of Women Voters will stand together in an historic alliance to oppose the systematic dismantling of civil and equal rights protections in Kansas.

These organizations, their members, allies, and supporters, will meet at Monroe Elementary School in Topeka (the Brown Vs Board Historic site), and we will march to the Capitol Building. Put on your walking shoes and meet us at the Capitol!!!

Reverend Ben Scott, President, Topeka NAACP
785-266-5688 / naacptopeka1@att.net

Jim McCullough, Director, Topeka Center for Peace and Social Justice
785-232-4388 / topekacpj@aol.com

Thomas Witt, Chair, Kansas Equality Coalition
316-683-1706 / chair@kansasequalitycoalition.org

Holly Weatherford, Program Director, ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri
816-756-3113 x 234 / hweatherford@aclukswmo.org

Kari Ann Rinker, State Coordinate, Kansas NOW
620-245-4904 / coordinator@ksnow.org

Ernestine Krehbiel, President, Kansas League of Women Voters
316-652-9229 / ekrehbiel@cox.net

The federal definition of a "Highly Qualified" teacher has been one who is: fully certified and/or licensed by the state; holds at least a bachelor's degree from a four-year institution; and demonstrates competence in each core academic subject area in which the teacher teaches.

That is important to note because the NCLB Act required that all teachers of core academic subjects working in Title I schools or programs hired after the first day of the 2002-03 school year be "Highly Qualified" by the end of the 2005/2006 school year.

The goal was to move us away from the all too common phenomena where the children with the greatest academic needs were taught by those with the least experience and conversely those with the greatest academic advantages were taught by the most senior and most seasoned teachers. It was supposed to end the era of concentrating new and inexperienced teachers in high minority and low SES schools.

But an obscure bit of language was inserted into last weeks Omnibus Spending bill... You know the one that extended unemployment and tax cuts that everyone heralded as some great compromise...

This language, not germane to the spending bill itself and seriously under-reported... This language changes the definition of a Highly Qualified Teacher to now include INTERNS!!!

excerpted from HR3082

“Sec. 163. (a) A ‘highly qualified teacher’ includes a teacher who meets the requirements in 34 CFR 200.56(a)(2)(ii), as published in the Federal Register on December 2, 2002.

“(b) This provision is effective on the date of enactment of this provision through the end of the 2012–2013 academic year.

Forgive me for going out into the weeds, but you need to understand what just happened...

 CFR 200.56 defines the term "Highly Qualified Teacher" as used in Federal Legislation. It reads:

200.56 - Definition of “highly qualified teacher.”
To be a highly qualified teacher, a teacher covered under 200.55 must meet the requirements in paragraph (a) and either paragraph (b) or (c) of this section.

(a) In general. (1) Except as provided in paragraph (a)(3) of this section, a teacher covered under 200.55 must (i) Have obtained full State certification as a teacher, which may include certification obtained through alternative routes to certification; or (ii)(A) Have passed the State teacher licensing examination; and (B) Hold a license to teach in the State.

(2) A teacher meets the requirement in paragraph (a)(1) of this section if the teacher (i) Has fulfilled the State's certification and licensure requirements applicable to the years of experience the teacher possesses; or (ii) Is participating in an alternative route to certification program under which (A) The teacher (1) Receives high-quality professional development that is sustained, intensive, and classroom-focused in order to have a positive and lasting impact on classroom instruction, before and while teaching; (2) Participates in a program of intensive supervision that consists of structured guidance and regular ongoing support for teachers or a teacher mentoring program; (3) Assumes functions as a teacher only for a specified period of time not to exceed three years; and (4) Demonstrates satisfactory progress toward full certification as prescribed by the State; and (B) The State ensures, through its certification and licensure process, that the provisions in paragraph (a)(2)(ii) of this section are met.

(3) A teacher teaching in a public charter school in a State must meet the certification and licensure requirements, if any, contained in the State's charter school law.

(4) If a teacher has had certification or licensure requirements waived on an emergency, temporary, or provisional basis, the teacher is not highly qualified.

(b) Teachers new to the profession. A teacher covered under 200.55 who is new to the profession also must (1) Hold at least a bachelor's degree; and (2) At the public elementary school level, demonstrate, by passing a rigorous State test (which may consist of passing a State certification or licensing test), subject knowledge and teaching skills in reading/language arts, writing, mathematics, and other areas of the basic elementary school curriculum; or (3) At the public middle and high school levels, demonstrate a high level of competency by (i) Passing a rigorous State test in each academic subject in which the teacher teaches (which may consist of passing a State certification or licensing test in each of these subjects); or (ii) Successfully completing in each academic subject in which the teacher teaches (A) An undergraduate major; (B) A graduate degree; (C) Coursework equivalent to an undergraduate major; or (D) Advanced certification or credentialing.

(c) Teachers not new to the profession. A teacher covered under 200.55 who is not new to the profession also must (1) Hold at least a bachelor's degree; and (2)(i) Meet the applicable requirements in paragraph (b)(2) or (3) of this section; or (ii) Based on a high, objective, uniform State standard of evaluation in accordance with section 9101(23)(C)(ii) of the ESEA, demonstrate competency in each academic subject in which the teacher teaches.

For simplicity, the full 2002 Federal definition is presented in red. The Highlighted area is the small subparagraph that NOW constitutes a "Highly Qualified Teacher". So when you read through the text, take note of the fact that the RED text contains the requirements that can now be waived when determining who is "Highly Qualified".

WHAT THIS MEANS is that the same inexperienced and under-qualified teachers that have been concentrated in high minority and low SES schools around the country, CAN NOW STAY in those schools, because rather than actually placing highly qualified teachers in there to help those children most in need, the Government has simply changed the definition of "Highly Qualified" to now include folks who are still IN TRAINING.

This is SHAMEFUL and APPALLING, and every activist and organization that is serious about Education should say so.
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There have been 6 times more BIGFOOT sightings then reports of Voter Fraud in Kansas

The Voter Coalition will hold a Press Conference to voice our opposition and provide information concerning the proposed Voter ID bill.

The Kansas Voter Coalition is made up of the Kansas State NAACP, the Kansas State League of Women Voters, the Kansas Chapter of the National Organization for Women, the Kansas Equality Coalition, the Kansas chapter of the ACLU, the Wichita chapter of Church Women United, the Sedgwick County Council of Elders, the Peace and Social Justice Center, and YOU...

The Kansas Voter Coalition has come together in opposition to the proposed Voter ID Legislation being offered by Secretary of State Kobach. We oppose this legislation on several grounds.

First, of the nearly 10,000,000 votes cast in the last six years throughout the State of Kansas, there have been only six reported cases of Voter Fraud and only 1 was successfully prosecuted. You statistically have a better chance of being stricken twice by lightning than of encountering an genuine act of Voter Fraud in Kansas. What does that mean? It means our system IS WORKING and there is NO concrete evidence to suggest otherwise.

Second, The Indiana Supreme Court has ruled, and Secretary Kobach has suggested, that the only way a Voter ID bill can pass muster, is if the State is willing to provide the ID's free of charge to those who can not afford one. This would require the creation of a new bureaucracy to manage the distribution of Voter ID cards to combat a problem that can not empirically be shown to even exist. As a State we have a $450,000,000 shortfall, so why in the world would we create a new bureaucracy with new salaries and FTE's to monitor and distribute ID cards that the State will foot the bill for, in perpetuity?

Third, there is a hidden government mandate. Each year, hundreds of Seniors reach a point in their lives where they may elect to stop driving. This bill states that even if a Senior decides to stop driving and no longer needs to maintain a current ID, they will be mandated to purchase one if they intend to exercise their Constitutionally guaranteed rights. The only exception would be if they could prove to the new bureaucracy that it would pose a financial hardship; in which case the State would foot the bill.

and lastly but perhaps most profoundly, this bill; a solution to problem whose existence can NOT be demonstrated empirically, would have the likely impact of reducing voter turnout among legal registered voters. In fact recent studies by Brown University and the Brennan center have clearly provided the type of empirical data that this bills proponents lack. In States that have Voter ID Bills on the books, there is a demonstrable reduction in Voter turnout, and that reduction is most profound in the African American community and among Seniors.

Join us as we call on our elected officials to just say NO. We just don't need Secretary Kobach using tax dollars to radically experiment with our electoral system, in an effort to solve a problem that can not be shown to exist.

If you would like to become a part of this effort, you can begin by joining with us on January 19th at the State Capitol Building!

What: The Kansas Voter Coalition hosts a Press Conference to discuss our opposition to the proposed Voter ID Bill
When: January 19th 11:30am - 1:00pm
Where: Room 144 South in the State Capitol Building
Who: This event is open to the public.
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The Kansas State Conference of the NAACP has sent a formal request that an investigation be conducted into the hiring and employment practices of the City council and Mayor of Nickerson Kansas. The complaint stems from a case filed with the Hutchison Branch of the NAACP by April Addis, the former Police Chief of Nickerson Kansas.

Through our investigation we have discovered what we believe to be a clear pattern and practice of racial discrimination. We affirm Chief Addis' assertion that she was directed to fire a newly hired and qualified Officer (Officer Bembry) because of his race. Further, we believe that the firing of Officer Bembry solely on the basis of his race was a clear violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights act.

We attempted to address this case through the Mayor's office, who referred us to the City's Attorney. We met with the City Attorney and again relayed our concerns, and he stated he would have to go back and talk to the Mayor. We waited a reasonable amount of time to allow the City to effectively address the issue, but no direct action was taken.

The case has now been filed with the EEOC.
In its friend-of-the-court brief, the NAACP LDF stresses the significant adverse implications of class-action bans for civil rights litigation. Thanks to notable class-action suits, such as Brown v. Board of Education and Griggs v. Duke Power Company, our nation has made significant progress toward the Constitutional aspiration of a “more perfect Union.” But class actions remain an indispensable tool for promoting equal opportunity. Class-action bans could prove extremely detrimental in many spheres where class actions have been successful over the past two decades in redressing civil rights violations. The NAACP LDF’s brief illustrates this fact by surveying recent cases challenging discrimination by large employers, mortgage lenders, insurers, and vehicle financing companies.

Recognizing the important public interests served by class actions, courts have held that class-action bans are unenforceable under the generally applicable laws of California and at least nineteenth other states. Contrary to the claims of AT&T Mobility, neither the Federal Arbitration Act nor any other federal law prevents courts from invalidating class-action bans under ordinary state contract law principles. To the contrary, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, federal antidiscrimination statutes, and even the Supreme Court have all recognized the importance of class actions, especially in the civil rights context.

Click HERE for the Brief

    NAACP President and CEO Jealous testifies before the Texas Department of Education