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Lawmakers, Civil Rights Leaders Challenge DeVos on Student Loan Enforcement

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By Charlene Crowell (Communications Director, Center for Responsible Lending)

Civil rights leaders and Capitol Hill lawmakers are standing up and speaking out against a recent Department of Education (DOE) decision to sever its working relationship with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). In separate and independent actions, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and staff are being challenged and corrected as to its understanding of a sole office having complete authority and enforcement regarding the nation’s student loans.

As readers may recall, an earlier column reported on an August 31 advisory by the Department of Education’s decision to formally end two Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) that guided Education’s working relationship with CFPB. The first MOU detailed how DOE would share information with CFPB. The second detailed how the two agencies would cooperate on supervisory oversight, the process that has led to multiple million dollar settlements for fraud and other legal violations. For CFPB, the correspondence was an unexpected 30-day cancellation notice.

It was also one that affects more than 40 million consumers, who together owe $1.4 trillion in a combination of federal and private student loan debt. Among Black students who used student loans to finance a bachelor’s degree, the burden of debt is disproportionate. Four years following graduation, they owe almost double the amount of their white classmates, according to research by the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL).

Since then, reactions have ranged from questioning the advisability as to why DOE would cut its ties to CFPB, to outright challenges to the agency’s knowledge and interpretation of applicable federal laws.

For example, 10 members of the Congressional Black Caucus joined with other Capitol Hill lawmakers in a bicameral effort that represented 18 states to challenge in a September 15 letter to Secretary DeVos that advised the department’s “assertions are false.” Led by Senators Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Patty Murray of Washington, the correspondence was a direct challenge.

“While the Department does have the authority to administer the federal student loan programs,” wrote the lawmakers, “that authority is not exclusive and has been intentionally constrained by law due to the Department’s historical negligence in carrying out many of its oversight responsibilities over federal student loan servicers.”

“Congress also established a Student Loan Ombudsman at the CFPB whose responsibilities include working with the Department to ‘resolve complaints related to [borrowers] private education or federal student loans’ and is specifically instructed to enter into a MOU with the Department to do so,” the letter continued.

The lawmakers also advised in their letter that the authority to monitor and enforcement laws affecting student loan servicers beyond those held by CFPB additionally includes duties for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) at the federal level and in the states by attorneys general and other state agencies.

“We are pleased to see Senators Brown and Murray are joined by more lawmakers in leading the way to assert CFPB’s authority and that of other federal agencies that together share oversight and regulation of student loans and student loan servicers”, commented Whitney Barkley-Denney, a CRL policy counsel and student loan specialist. “The claims made by the Department of Education made in signal a disturbing intent to withhold key information that should be shared.”

“These lawmakers are standing up for borrowers and taxpayers against a Department of Education that seems more interested in protecting the interests of big money corporations than struggling families. On behalf of the more than 40 million consumers burdened with student debt and our allies in this struggle, we are also most grateful,” Barkley-Denney concluded

If lawmaker chidings weren’t enough, days later on September 20, another communique continued what the lawmakers began. Led by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (LCCHR), a coalition of diverse national organizations pledged to promote and protect civil and human rights of all people, sent its collective concerns to Secretary DeVos, citing federal laws like Titles VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“All of these laws require regulations and guidance, and oversight and enforcement, in order to provide their intended benefits to students,” stated the coalition.

More than 40 national organizations joined in noting DOE’s apparent failure to embrace its duties in civil rights when it comes to higher education. Among the signatories were a broad range of concerns from the NAACP, National Urban League, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, to the National Council of Jewish Women, UnidosUS (formerly the National Council of La Raza), American Association of University Women, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

“Students deserve, and the law requires, a Department of Education that is working to protect all students from discrimination and to provide for equal educational opportunity,” the coalition concluded.

Charlene Crowell is the communications deputy director with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.

#NNPA BlackPress

LeMoyne-Owen College looking for new president as college board ousts Dr. Andrea Miller

NNPA NEWSWIRE — The first woman appointed president of the then 153-year-old college, the city’s only historically black college/university (HBCU), Dr. Andrea Lewis Miller, a graduate of the college, learned in mid-June that the LeMoyne-Owen College Board of Trustees would not pick up her contract this September.

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Dr. Andrea Miller is out at LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis.
Dr. Andrea Miller is out at LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis.

By Dr. Sybil C. Mitchell, Special to the New Tri-State Defender

Dr. Andrea Lewis Miller, who was once deemed the right candidate at the right moment “for such a time as this” at LeMoyne-Owen College, will not get a second term as president.

The first woman appointed president of the then 153-year-old college, the city’s only historically black college/university (HBCU), Miller, a graduate of the college, learned in mid-June that the LeMoyne-Owen College Board of Trustees would not pick up her contract this September.

Amid considerable optimism, Miller became the 12th president on Sept. 1, 2015. She brought with her 20 years of experience in higher learning, exiting Baton Rouge Community College for the return to Memphis. She was the second LOC graduate to serve as president.

A statement released on Tuesday confirmed the rumblings that Dr. Miller was out. “(The) Board of Trustees is grateful for Dr. Miller’s service and commitment to LeMoyne-Owen for the past four years.”

Neither Miller nor Board of Trustee’s Chair Dr. Christopher Davis had returned calls by TSD press time. Davis did indicate that an interim would be named; no timetable was given.

Miller set an ambitious agenda for LeMoyne-Owen College. Initially established as a “teachers’ college” like many other HBCUs, the liberal arts institution was put on an overhaul course that included the goal of offering students more relevant courses of study.

Steps in the new direction garnered both supporters and adversaries of her proposed changes. During LOC’s 2016 commencement exercises, shipping giant FedEx gave the college $1 million for technology upgrades – and another $100,000 as a scholarship endowment.

Meanwhile, enrollment did not change significantly for the better. And in 2017, a vote of “no confidence by some faculty members added to Miller’s challenges.

Along the way came charges of nepotism and ineffective leadership by some student government leaders, who sought Miller’s removal.

In response, Miller assessed the charges by students as “a few, just a few who do not want to see me succeed.”

Alumni, who met with student leaders, joined the call to remove Miller. Several meetings over the past few months indicated that members of the Board of Trustees were split on whether to move forward with her.

The Faculty Senate at LeMoyne-Owen College issued a second vote of no confidence after accusing Miller of plagiarizing world-renowned pastor Joel Osteen’s sermon – entitled “I’m Still Standing – during her Oct. 2018 convocation address to incoming freshmen.

At the time, Michael Robinson, a professor and president of the college’s faculty organization, told reporters, “The president is the highest academic and administrative officer…and sets the standard for ethical and moral conduct at the college as well…These are some serious allegations, because it impacts the credibility of the college because the president is the face of the organization…and that’s a serious infraction.”

In a written statement released after the plagiarism assertion, Miller defended her use of Osteen’s remarks, also implying that it was an “oversight” not to credit him. The matter, she said, did not “constitute a serious breach of academic standards that would rise to a level of review for faculty or students.”

Miller also has defended her tenure as president, saying that LeMoyne-Owen must evolve its curriculum to properly serve students in a changing world and job market. She has said criticism of her leadership stems mostly from resistance to what she believes is necessary change.

“It is no secret that organizational changes, the pace of change and our new direction at LeMoyne-Owen College has caused consternation among some faculty members,” Miller said in a prepared statement issued after the plagiarism assertion.

“Still, I am committed to ensuring this 156-year-old institution achieves new heights in outcomes for the students and families we serve.”

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Afro

Baltimore Black Engineers Celebrate 30 Years

THE AFRO — The chapter had a black tie gala fundraiser to support for their work to support collegiate and pre-collegiate students, as well as professionals in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The event included an awards ceremony, which honored individuals and organizations recognizing outstanding achievement in various areas in support of the NSBE-BMAC mission.

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(L to R: Mrs. Steffanie B. Easter, Director, Navy Staff, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations; Mrs. Earnestine Baker, Executive Director – Emerita Meyerhoff Scholars Program, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Legacy Achievement Award Honoree; Dr. Eugene M. DeLoatch, Dean Emeritus Morgan State University School of Engineering, Legacy Achievement Award Honoree; Dr. James E. West, Inventor, Professor, Johns Hopkins University, Legacy Achievement Award Honoree; Mr. William S. Redmond, III, President, NSBEBMAC) (Courtesy Photo)
By AFRO Staff

On June 22, nearly 200 people gathered at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African American History and Culture, in downtown Baltimore to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the National Society of Black Engineers Baltimore Metropolitan Area Chapter (NSBE-BMAC).

The chapter had a black tie gala fundraiser to support for their work to support collegiate and pre-collegiate students, as well as professionals in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

The event included an awards ceremony, which honored individuals and organizations recognizing outstanding achievement in various areas in support of the NSBE-BMAC mission.

Steffanie B. Easter, director of Navy Staff for the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, was the keynote speaker.

This article originally appeared in The Afro.

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Afro

Howard Leads HBCU Awards

THE AFRO — Howard University is leading with 12 finalist nominations in the 2019 HBCU Awards.  Presented by HBCU Digest, the HBCU Awards are the first and only national awards ceremony honoring individual and institutional achievements at history Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

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Howard University led with 12 finalist nominations for the 2019 HBCU Awards presented by the {HBCU Digest}, including President Wayne A.I. Frederick, pictured in the suit, who was nominated for Best Male President. (Courtesy Photo)

By Micha Green, AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor, [email protected]

Howard University is leading with 12 finalist nominations in the 2019 HBCU Awards.  Presented by HBCU Digest, the HBCU Awards are the first and only national awards ceremony honoring individual and institutional achievements at history Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

Known as “The Mecca,” or “Black Ivy” some of Howar’s nominations include College of the Year, Male President of the Year, Best Student Government Association (SGA) and Best Board of Trustees.

“It is fitting for Howard University to lead this year’s sterling panel of nominees,” said HBCU Digest Founding Editor Jarrett Carter according to a press release.  “They had an extraordinary academic year highlighted with several individual and collective accomplishments that represented the best of America’s flagship historically black institution, and the spirit of the HBCU mission at large. The Howard community and the District of Columbia should take great pride in HU’s work this year.”

All winners are selected by a panel of previous winners, journalists, HBCU executives, students and alumni.

President Wayne A.I. Frederick, who is nominated for Best Male President of the Year, weighed in on the accomplishments.

“It is an honor to receive 12 nominations in the 2019 HBCU Awards,” he said.  “HBCUs produce many of the best and brightest scholars and these nominations reflect the hard work of our students, faculty, staff and alumni to embody Howard University’s mission of Truth and Service.”

Howard’s full nominations include:

Best Research Center– Howard University Data Science and Cybersecurity Center

Best Business Program – Howard University School of Business

Best Social Work Program – Howard University School of Social Work

Best Student Newspaper – The Hilltop

Best SGA– Howard University Student Association

Female Student of the Year – Jaylin Paschal, immediate past editor of The Hilltop

Female Faculty of the Year – Keneshia Grant, Ph.D., assistant professor of political science

Alumna of the Year – Ezinne Kwubiri, H&M head of Inclusion and Diversity, North America

Alumnus of the Year – Charles D. King, MACRO founder and CEO

Male President of the Year – Wayne A. I. Frederick, M.D., MBA

Board of Trustees of the Year – Howard University Board of Trustees

HBCU of the Year – Howard University

The actual awards ceremony will be held on Friday, August 2 at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in downtown Baltimore.

This article originally appeared in The Afro

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Education

Midwest Bible College Graduation 2019

MILWAUKEE TIMES WEEKLY — Midwest Bible College (MBC) celebrated another wonderful school year at its 16th graduation on Friday, June 7, 2019. Forty-five students received their Associates, Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral degrees in Biblical Studies. Three of these students completed their studies online. Six additional students will receive their degrees at a special ceremony in Uganda, Africa at the end of June. With the addition of this year’s graduates, a total of 578 students have earned a degree or certificate from Midwest Bible College since 2003.

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Midwest Bible College 2019 Grads (Courtesy of Photos Limited)

By The Milwaukee Times Weekly

Midwest Bible College (MBC) celebrated another wonderful school year at its 16th graduation on Friday, June 7, 2019. Forty-five students received their Associates, Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral degrees in Biblical Studies. Three of these students completed their studies online. Six additional students will receive their degrees at a special ceremony in Uganda, Africa at the end of June. With the addition of this year’s graduates, a total of 578 students have earned a degree or certificate from Midwest Bible College since 2003.

The curriculum taught at MBC is Bible based and developed by the college. Students find it to be a unique, challenging and an intense study of the Bible. Despite the hard work, graduates highly value their time as students. They describe their year at MBC as “encouraging”, “amazing”, “transformative” and “insightful”. Through their studies at MBC, each student not only gains a deeper understanding of the Bible, but is also equipped with the ability to apply it to their daily lives.

Midwest Bible College seeks to build the Kingdom of God by supporting local pastors and their ministries. Forty-two churches from across southeastern Wisconsin were represented in this year’s student body and many pastors joined in celebrating with their graduates. Professor Nicole Bowen, M.A., addressed the pastors in attendance and stated that “Midwest Bible College is here to help you achieve the vision and the goal that God has set before you in your ministry. Our vision is to train students to go back to their churches and to be more effective and to help and to assist you and support you and to be an armor bearer for the Kingdom of God.”

Dr. Dorothy Huston, founder and CEO of Technology Management Training Group, from Huntsville, AL, was the keynote speaker. Dr. Huston reminded the students that success is a “do-it-yourself ” project and challenged them to find a way to use what they have learned to change the world. She encouraged them not to be stopped by any roadblock they may face but to follow the path God has given them. Dr. Huston reminded her audience to do their best even when no one is looking and to depend on God. “Trusting in Him is a win-win partnership,” she stated.

Every born again believer is called by God to make a difference and to be a minister and representative of Jesus. MBC prepares students to engage in ministry whether full time as pastors and leaders in their communities, or part time as lay leaders in their church or individual representations of Jesus in their workplaces. MBC offers a flexible schedule of classes. Students have the choice to enroll in either weekly, morning or night classes. Those unable to attend weekly classes may enroll in online classes and work at their own pace.

Midwest Bible College invites you to take the next step in your understanding of the Bible. For more information, contact Midwest Bible College at 414-546- 1248 or visit www.midwestbiblecollege.org. Midwest Bible College is fully accredited through the Association of Independent Christian Colleges and Seminaries and offers Associates, Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral degrees in Biblical Studies. Come and learn how you can make a difference in Milwaukee and the rest of the world.

This article originally appeared in the Milwaukee Times Weekly.

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Defender News Network

With conflicting budget estimates, will Texas teachers get the pay raises they anticipated?

DEFENDER NEWS NETWORK — When state lawmakers passed their landmark $11.6 billion school finance law in late May, school employees were eager to see how mandatory raises would affect their paychecks. A month later, they’re scratching their heads, struggling to decipher complicated changes and conflicting financial estimates that might not net teachers as much money as they expected.

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Photo by: Nappy | Pexels.com

By Defender News Service

When state lawmakers passed their landmark $11.6 billion school finance law in late May, school employees were eager to see how mandatory raises would affect their paychecks.

A month later, they’re scratching their heads, struggling to decipher complicated changes and conflicting financial estimates that might not net teachers as much money as they expected.

Before lawmakers voted nearly unanimously to approve House Bill 3, which drastically overhauled Texas’ outdated school funding system, they received estimates from the state on how much additional money each of their school districts would likely receive over the next two years. But the estimates came with a warning: They could change significantly once the calculations were performed using local data.

Ahead of the upcoming school year, districts are now redoing those calculations themselves — and some are coming up short. That could pose a problem for teachers, nurses, counselors and librarians, since under HB 3, school districts are supposed to use a portion of the new money on those employees’ raises and benefits. (School boards must approve their budgets by either a June 30 or an Aug. 31 deadline.)

Georgetown ISD, for example, is projecting $5.9 million in new money in the upcoming school year, much less than the $10.3 million state estimate. And it will shell out about $9 million in recapture payments, which the state takes from wealthier districts to subsidize poorer ones — not the $3.5 million the state estimated in May.

Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, a large suburban district in the Houston area, should’ve expected $30 million more in the upcoming school year, according to the state estimates. But school board members approved a budget in late June that projected just $14 million more, according to Karen Smith, the district’s chief financial officer.

To remain competitive as employers, both districts are going beyond the state’s requirement to use 30% of the new money to increase salaries and benefits. Georgetown ISD is including $3,000 raises for teachers, counselors, librarians and nurses with more than five years of experience. Cypress-Fairbanks ISD approved a budget millions of dollars in the red that includes $25.4 million in raises for classroom teachers, librarians, counselors and nurses and $10.8 million in raises for all other employees.

Teacher pay raises quickly became a bipartisan rallying cry during the 2019 legislative session that finished up in May. But instead of the statewide $5,000 raise many teachers advocated for from the get-go, lawmakers approved a set of guidelines for salary bumps that would end up leaving the dollar amounts largely up to district leaders.

There is not yet an official statewide summary on what compensation packages look like across school districts, but eventually districts will be required to report that information to the Legislature. Meanwhile, the state has been providing guidance on how to interpret the new law through videos and PowerPoint presentations.

Without an across-the-board pay raise mandate from the state, teachers and other school employees have been looking left and right at neighboring school districts to judge how they’re going to fare. Some report having heard nothing from their school districts so far this summer, as they anxiously monitor the news from across the state.

Sunnyvale ISD Superintendent Doug Williams found that the state’s calculation for how much more his tiny school district would receive was pretty accurate: just under $600,000. But school districts in the vicinity, which include large, urban Dallas ISD, are getting millions more, meaning they’ll be required to offer bigger raises.

To stay competitive, Sunnyvale ISD’s school board approved larger pay raises than required by law, ranging from $1,800 for beginning teachers to $2,700 for the most experienced. “We have been blessed to be able to attract and retain great teachers,” Williams said. “We just want to make sure we are able to continue.”

In some school districts, local teachers’ unions and associations are butting heads with administrators as they advocate for higher raises and larger employer contributions to health insurance. After adopting a budget with 5% raises, Laredo ISD’s officials told frustrated teachers they are waiting for more guidance from the state before they consider raising salaries further.

In Houston ISD, the teachers union successfully threatened a no-confidence vote against the superintendent if trustees didn’t pass a budget with pay raises by later this month, arguing the delay would make them less competitive for hiring. After a contentious meeting, the board ultimately approved a deficit budget containing raises of 3.5% to 8%, depending on school employees’ experience levels. The budget also increased the minimum wage for school employees by $2 an hour.

For third grade writing teacher Huyenchau Vu, who watched the Legislature’s initial proposal for $5,000 raises dissolve, a 3.5% raise means a boost of less than $2,000 a year and less than $100 per paycheck. “It goes back into paying for everything, not necessarily into a savings account,” said Vu, who just finished teaching summer school at Houston ISD and will start her third year teaching in August.

She and her colleagues have been taking notes about the higher starting salaries and raises for Houston-area districts such as Aldine ISD and Alief ISD, but not necessarily because they’re trying to jump ship. While Vu would appreciate more money, she is also worried about the sustainability of the Legislature’s funding increase and is glad Houston ISD appears to be more “realistic” in its budgeting decisions than its neighbors.

“They’re paying their teachers a lot more knowing it’s just over the next two years that we’re receiving money from the state of Texas to put into these teacher salaries,” she said. “After that, no one’s sure what’s going to happen.”

This article originally appeared in the Defender News Network

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Crime

LA School Board Votes to End Random Searches

LOS ANGELES SENTINEL — The nation’s second-largest school moved Tuesday to end random metal-detector searches of students at secondary schools, a daily procedure that critics called ineffective, intrusive and offensive. The board of the Los Angeles Unified School District directed Superintendent Austin Beutner to develop an alternative plan for school safety that eliminates the use of random searches by July 2020.

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By The Los Angeles Sentinel

The nation’s second-largest school moved Tuesday to end random metal-detector searches of students at secondary schools, a daily procedure that critics called ineffective, intrusive and offensive.

The board of the Los Angeles Unified School District directed Superintendent Austin Beutner to develop an alternative plan for school safety that eliminates the use of random searches by July 2020.

“Administrative random searches are incredibly invasive, dehumanizing and communicate to students that they are viewed not as promising minds but as criminals,” board member Tyler Okeke said.

The daily searches were instituted in 1993 in the wake of several mass shootings at schools around the country and a perceived increase in violence involving firearms and other weapons on campuses.

They involved random students being checked with hand-held metal detector wands.

Critics, however, said the searches weren’t really random but disproportionately targeted blacks and other minorities. Dozens of speakers opposed the searches at the board meeting.

“You don’t have to people feel like criminals in order to keep our schools safe,” said David Turner of the Brothers, Sons, Selves Coalition. “Our young people need love, our young people need protection, they do not need to be treated as if they are the problem.”

Some board members dissented.

“A fair, nondiscriminatory, and respectful wanding program provides increased safety for students and staff,” Scott M. Schmerelson said. “It may not be the perfect tool, but until a reasonable and effective alternative is proposed, I sincerely believe that random wanding serves as a deterrent for students who may consider bringing a weapon to school.”

A coalition called Students Not Suspects issued a report last year that concluded the random searches didn’t turn up any guns and only a tiny fraction of them produced any weapons at all. The report said the searches also pulled students out of class and cost the district more than $1 million a year.

The school district has more than 730,000 students and more than 1,000 schools.

This article originally appeared in the Los Angeles Sentinel

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