Certainly many Nebraskans have heard about the $130,000 in Federal “Stimulus” dollars which were used to purchase “diversity manuals” by Omaha Public Schools for all 8,000 of its employees (including the custodians). For those who didn’t catch the story in local media, ample opportunities abounded via many media outlets nationally, both online and off.
If this is the first time you’ve heard of this, perhaps it would be advisable to take a break, get a drink of water and take two ibuprofen. Just in case. Even if you’ve heard something about this story already, you, too may want to take that advice. There’s oh, so much more to the story than has been reported to date.
What the story about diversity manuals actually reveals…
Multiculturalism and “cultural competence”
- There’s a whole lot more going on in Nebraska’s schools regarding the imposition of such an ideological agenda
- Such problems are long-standing, institutional, and systemic
- Has been embraced by the State Board of Education, the State Legislature, and several Governors
February 2009 “Stimulus” package…
- Hundreds of millions of dollars were spent in education through this program in Nebraska alone
- Stimulus funds were spent on highly questionable programming
- Expenditures have occurred with what appears to be very little oversight, spotty to non-existent reporting regarding details and little follow-up on what the expenditures have accomplished
- Why didn’t the Omaha World-Herald dig deeper on this story?
- WHAT HAPPENED to investigative journalism?
An examination of the information revealed raises many troubling questions…
Considering how the Stimulus money has been spent in education in Nebraska…
- HOW does this spending “stimulate the economy”?
- WERE the dollars accepted by Nebraska officials even “necessary”?
- WHO applied for the Stimulus funds?
- Again WHERE is the press?
Broader questions this information provokes…
- What else is going on in Nebraska’s schools?
- What should the objectives of education be?
- Are parents and taxpayers being vigilant about how education dollars are being spent and how schools are being managed?
- WHAT does this say about a State Legislature that is super-majority Republican and a Governor, who is Republican?
I can’t possibly cover all of these topics in one article. I will deal with some of the broader questions within the coming days. Laying out the full truth and facts about the “Stimulus” is not only important for its impact on education and the huge amount of money that has been wasted, it is highly relevant considering that there has been talk of more Stimulus.
Turning specifically to the subject of the Omaha World-Herald article about the diversity manuals, I know I had a hard time making myself read it in any detail the first couple of times I visited the page online. I was having a hard time getting past the title of the book…
The Cultural Proficiency Journey: Moving Beyond Ethical Barriers Toward Profound School Change
The title alone is headache inducing. Just WHEN should we EVER “move beyond ethical barriers”?
It seems that the OPS Board members, administrators, et al, are so busy reading, buying, and passing out diversity manuals that they’ve forgotten a couple of other important books, one of which is a DICTIONARY[2. The other book, yes, is the Bible.].
ethical: 1. of or relating to ethics
ethics 1. plural but sing or plural in constr : the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation
2. a : a set of moral principles : a theory or system of moral values <the present-day materialistic ethic> <an old-fashioned work ethic> —often used in plural but singular or plural in construction <an elaborate ethics> <Christian ethics>
b: plural but sing or plural in constr : the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group <professional ethics>
c : a guiding philosophy
d : a consciousness of moral importance <forge a conservation ethic>,
3. plural : a set of moral issues or aspects (as rightness) <debated the ethics of human cloning>
By all means, let’s discard ethics. We wouldn’t want any moral guidance or principles getting in the way of change.
For those who have not yet heard about the $130,000 purchase of the diversity manuals or perhaps did not get much in the way of detail on the subject, I have included a summary of the Omaha-World Herald article at the bottom of this article.
As has been widely reported, the $130k came from the Federal “Stimulus” program.
Important “Stimulus” facts and history:
- Passed by Congress in February 2009
- Officially titled “The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009” (ARRA)
- Sold as absolutely vital federal expenditures that would stimulate the economy, repair the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, provide funding for “shovel-ready” projects, create jobs, “invest” in innovation, technology, and education
- Cost was $787 billion
- Has failed to create jobs
- Was really a bailout for ALL states through infusions of funds to Medicaid, education, and drowning state employee retirement programs (with Texas refusing some portion)
- Was also in part, a payout to teachers’ unions
- Rolled back much of the 90’s era welfare reform
- Included Trojan horse medical records provision, a setup for implementing a government-controlled health care system
- For Nebraskans who understand the principle of state sovereignty – Acceptance of Stimulus funds by the states was **VOLUNTARY**
As the title of this article notes, the $130,000 is the tip of the iceberg. The manuals purchase was part of “Stimulus” / ARRA funding that went to Omaha Public Schools via the Nebraska Governor’s office and Unicameral through one of three “Stimulus” grants. Again, there will be much more reported about this going forward.
Three grant program amounts:
- State Fiscal Stabilization Act – for the 2009 – 2010 school year : $19,652,753.00
- Title 1 (2009 – 2011 school years): $21,072,485.00
- IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) (2009 – 2011): $14,030,464.00
The overview page for OPS’ ARRA plan can be viewed by clicking HERE. The page explains how the funds were to be allocated and includes a diagram of the programs that were a part of each of the three separate grants.
The page includes a link to a “ARRA Reports“.
The diversity manuals were possibly purchased through the “Poverty Instructional Programming”, perhaps the one entitled “Multiple Pathways”, which notes “Dropout Prevention” as a goal.
Multiple Pathways originally budgeted amount: $1,969,542.00
However, despite the fact that State Fiscal Stabilization Funding was all to be spent in the 2009 – 2010 school year, there is no link to a budget report on the Multiple Pathways page so it is not possible to determine if that is, indeed, the program associated with the manuals. The lack of a budget report, curiously, has occurred despite not only the requirements of the ARRA itself and several pledges noted by OPS regarding “transparency” on its website.
There are actually a number of possible programs and projects through which the manuals could have been purchased. Another possible project:
Differentiation of Instruction originally budgeted amount: $187,000
This project is admittedly generally hard to understand, due to the language used in the information that is posted about it. However, the “Performance Indicators” provides some insight:
Documentation of professional development and its impact on learning
- Working with diverse student populations
- Using assessment data to support curricular decisions
- Develop differentiated units of study that are rigorous, relevant, and culturally responsive“
It is possible, however, that the Differentiation of Instruction project was merely a precursor to the project or program that involves the 8,000 manuals. So much for transparency – the whole subject is as clear as mud.
Considering that the three grants received totaled nearly $56 million, I do not have time here to examine the 104 programs listed on the OPS website.
A brief, random examination of a few of the listed projects revealed the following…
- Another program for which the SFSF funding paid through “Poverty Instructional Programming”, was “Black Men United“. $10,000 of ARRA funds (although there is no budget report attached for this program, either) were used for the program as described on the OPS website:
“This program provides a coordinator to recruit volunteers and implement the “Real Men Read” and “Greeters” Programs at OPS Elementary School.”
- Some funds were used to keep one time programs going from previous years which have no secured funding in future, such as a Pre-K program at four schools in the district for which the State Dept. of Education had provided a one time grant for ’08 – ’09. The ARRA funding totaled over $700,000. The school would have to procure other funding to continue the program (a potential violation of ARRA provisions?).
- A number of educators received free degree upgrades with ARRA funds; just one such program paid over $400,000 for tuition in a Master Degree program. Note that if the OPS teachers’ contract reads anything like the agreement for LPS, this means that each of the teachers who obtained the Masters Degrees would receive automatic pay increases. And the program’s actual value to children is highly debatable.
- One of the projects I reviewed that did have a budget report attached concluded at 128% of the originally allocated amount. This particular reporting page was overall “better” than others I examined in that it had complete information and it was well written; further, at least the funding was targeted at providing additional staff for the purpose of working one on one with students.
Lots of questions about the OPS ARRA site: The quality of information varies widely from one project or program to another, but mostly they are poor. The language to describe the projects is often dubious. Most of the programs and projects listed did not have attached budget reports. Most of the projects listed demand further scrutiny; just one example is the program that listed a nearly $3 million allocation for vaguely stated purposes associated with standardized test distribution and results tabulation and reporting. The general purpose, objectives, and results for the use of $3 million are, to use a generous description, at best murky.
Anyone motivated to spend time looking further into the OPS ARRA information who wishes to share with others what they discover are encouraged to post comments at the bottom of this article. PLEASE provide links to the OPS report page for the specific program.
Also requiring further investigation: the OPS School Board created a Diversity Task Force around the same time the Stimulus funds were allocated. It’s charter can be found here.
LINCOLN PUBLIC SCHOOLS EVEN LESS TRANSPARENT THAN OPS:
At present, it’s impossible to sort out, without a lot more investigation, just how LPS has chosen to spend its Stimulus money. In fact, just how much LPS received is hard to determine, since the LPS website’s page regarding Stimulus funds has no updates more recent than May of 2009.
Since the ARRA requires transparency and accountability, LPS seems in violation of the law. EVEN IF there is another location where the information is posted, the pages on the LPS site should include a link.
CULTURAL PROFICIENCY / MULTICULTURALISM:
A SYSTEMIC PROBLEM
The trend towards embedding the “diversity and cultural proficiency” ideological agenda into Nebraska’s education system has an extensive history; it is institutional. The manuals purchase simply signals a desire by those in positions of authority in Nebraska’s education system to take previous policy steps further. (Note: For a refresher of the concepts included in the diversity manuals purchased by OPS, see the summary of the Omaha World-Herald story at the bottom of this article.)
Multiculturalism has been obliterating the traditional idea of a melting pot which embraced the unique American ideals of rights coming from God, Judeo-Christian values without state sanction of one religion, self-reliance, accomplishment through hard work, pursuit of opportunity, and assimilation of immigrants. Multiculturalism is balkanizing society along racial and other lines, further widening divisions in an already divided nation. The move towards “cultural proficiency / competency” takes these trends much further by embracing the villification of one racial group (“whites”) and imposes “acceptance” of conduct that is in diametric opposition to the deeply held religious and moral beliefs of many people.
In 1992, the Nebraska Department of Education drafted rules which required the development of multicultural programming and in 2003, the Nebraska Unicameral passed LB922 and LB28, which ultimately became part of Rule 10, which is the reference number for the Department of Education’s accreditation process.
- ANY school in Nebraska, whether government run or private, IF accredited by the State, must have a multicultural program and it must be evaluated for its “effectiveness”.
- The only schools (unless I have no understanding of NE law) which are not required to have a multicultural program are “Rule 12 and Rule 13” schools, which are mainly homeschooling families.
What does the future hold, based on this information?
Since the State Board of Education formed the 41 member committee, which drafted proposed standards, the institutionalization of the general ideological agenda articulated in the diversity manuals will be further embedded in Nebraska’s schools.
Although the OWH reported that new standards under current discussion are supposedly going to adopted through decision making at the local level, if “cultural competency” standards follow the same track as the multiculturalism program, the standards are likely to be eventually made mandatory to receive accreditation from the Education Department.
Cultural Proficiency in Lincoln?
To underline the idea that the push for “cultural competence” is systemic state wide, or at least in the larger schools, Lincolnites might be interested to know that the LPS emphasizes its Multicultural Policy; LPS has devoted a section of its website for the purpose of declaring its stated goals and to inform of Multicultural events. The page can be viewed HERE.
The most recent event listed on the LPS Multicultural page, indicates an embrace of the push for “cultural competency” (note phrase “culturally and linguistically responsive”. The title of the June event:
“17th Annual Multicultural Leadership Institute: Building Knowledge: What Does It Mean To Be Culturally and Linguistically Responsive? A Shift In Mindset and A Shift In Instruction.”
State of Nebraska and Stimulus
Perhaps some missing information about OPS and all of the information about LPS can be found on the State of Nebraska ARRA website, which informs on the landing page, of one fact that should startle a lot of Nebraskans; the State reports it has been “awarded” a staggering $1.7 billion in Stimulus funds.
Considering that the annual budget is approximately $3.5 billion, it’s hard to understand how the Governor and others can be crowing about their stunning accomplishments of “balancing the budget without raising taxes”.
Final Thoughts (for now):
While the $130,000 for diversity manuals is indeed the tip of a very large iceberg, it’s important to point out that whether or not it is part of the “Poverty Instructional Program” funds spent or it is from yet another segment of funding from ARRA, the fact that a school district in America would allocate millions of dollars to a “Poverty Instructional” project is very troubling.
Very likely, these funds are aimed at reducing the very real problem of high drop out rates in OPS schools. See the “Multiple Pathways” project page (link above) for the dropout percentages self-reported by OPS.
In addition to the many troubling issues noted above, the question is, how DO schools reduce drop out rates? Throw more money at the problem and continue to highlight differences (diversity)?
It seems to me these trends which seek to reinforce in children that they are poor, they are different, and that they should be permanently labeled as victims are proven failures.
How about raising our expectations and having a belief that children will and can rise to meet them, regardless of the color of their skin, despite their personal challenges, and despite their lack of money, because their school sends a message that there is a belief that they CAN?
Many people speak about “empowerment”. How about “empowering” disadvantaged children through encouraging them to overcome and to accomplishment through hard work, and perseverance?
Above all, the push for “cultural competency” not only embeds discrimination against “whites”, it is a back-handed bigotry directed at the very people who advocates say they hope to serve. It is the definition of:
“The soft bigotry of low expectations”[2. From all of the information available, this phrase appears to have originated with George W. Bush in the September 2, 1999, speech “Education: No Child Left Behind”. For the record, I believe that the phrase rings true, but the No Child Left Behind program falls totally flat.]
It is not at all compassionate to label people, consign them to the pigeon hole of victim, and create a generational trap. History repeats itself, only every time we go around the circle, it’s a bigger mess.
A memorable and relevant quote:
“My friends, some years ago, the federal government declared war on poverty, and poverty won.”
Ronald Reagan made this statement in reference to LBJ’s “Great Society”. It was a proven failure, a multi-generational welfare trap, so much so, that by the 1990’s, a Democratic President and a Republican Congress implemented massive welfare reforms.
The “Stimulus” bill, in addition to obliterating many of those reforms through a resurgence in social welfare programs, is working to worsen the problem through it’s soft and direct bigotry.
And THIS is our tax (debt and print) dollars at work to educate children?
A summary of what the Omaha World Herald reported about it’s contents, the authors’ stated intent, OPS’ intended uses, and overall impact of the push for “cultural proficiency”:
- American institutions ‘channel wealth and power to white people’
- ‘Color-blindness will not end racism’
- “Educators should ‘take action for social justice'”
- “Teachers should acknowledge historical systemic oppression in schools”, which includes ‘racism, sexism, homophobia’ and discrimination against people with disabilities
- “Teachers must raise their cultural awareness”
- Teaching proficiency can only be reached by acknowledging ‘white privilege’
- Teachers must overcome ‘irrational fear of homosexuality’
Authors stated intentions…
“Prepare educators to unshackle themselves from tradition and become facilitators of historical injustices”
OPS’ intended uses:
- Employees will be asked to read the book and meet quarterly for discussions using an OPS created study guide
- Teachers will pursue study of the book as part of their “development”
- School board officially stated, “The book is intended to open a dialogue”
- Same official said “the district will not use the book to evaluate or judge employees”
The push for “cultural proficiency” or “cultural competency” is a growing trend with varying definitions and goals. In some areas, task forces have been formed which have made recommendations regarding policy changes, including such issues as teacher licensing and curriculum standards.
Other schools in Nebraska:
- Lincoln Public Schools bought copies of a different cultural proficiency book for administrators last year
- Nebraska Board of Education is considering changing standards to include “cultural competency”
- The Board created a 41 member committee to draft standards
- “Proposed standards call upon teachers to…connect with a student’s traditions”…”use culturally appropriate strategies and make sure tests are valid and address the diversity of students”
- Reportedly does not include “social justice” goals found in the manual
- The Board will convene public forums this summer and fall to discuss standards
- Standards would be voluntary for local schools
[jbox color=”white” shadow=”3″ width=”490″ content_css=”font-size: 28px; color:#575757; font-variant: small-caps; letter-spacing: 3px;” icon=”http://grassrootsne.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/book.ico”]Credits and Footnotes[/jbox]
Iceberg image: Iceberg west of Ilulissat inlet, Greenland, Uta Wolf, Rodebay