Category Archives: News

New Data Reveals Stark Gaps in Graduation Rates Between Poor and Wealthy Students

from October 02, 2015 at 05:00AM

For the first time ever, the public can see the graduation rates for Pell Grant recipients at over 1,000 schools.

A new report released last week provides a detailed look at the graduation rates of low-income college students. At many colleges, low-income students graduate at much lower rates than their high-income peers.

At the University of Missouri-Kansas City, only 35 percent of Pell Grant recipients graduate college, a rate that is more than 20 percentage points lower than that of their wealthier peers. And at St. Andrews, a liberal arts college in Laurinburg, North Carolina, only 13 percent of Pell Grant recipients graduate, more than 50 percentage points less than students who don’t receive the grants.

The study found 51 percent of Pell students graduate nationwide, compared to 65 percent of non-Pell students. The average gap between wealthy and poor students at the same schools is much smaller: an average of 5.7 percentage points. That’s because many Pell students attend schools with low graduation rates. (You can now look up whether poor students are graduating at the same rate as their classmates in our newly updated interactive database, Debt by Degrees.)

Ben Miller, the senior director for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress, said that schools with large graduation gaps deserve greater scrutiny.

“Colleges have responsibility to ensure that the students they enroll are well served,” said Miller. “If you’re going to enroll someone, you should do the absolute best you can to graduate them, or else don’t take their money.”

The new report comes on the heels of recently released federal education data that has brought new focus on how low-income students fare at college, including how much federal debt they take on and how much they earn after graduation. The graduation rates of low-income students were not included in that data.

The group behind the new report, the Education Trust, collected the graduation rates of Pell Grant recipients — typically students whose families make less than $30,000 a year — for a selection of more than 1,000 colleges across the country.

A spokesman for University of Missouri-Kansas City said many of their students are low-income and that the school is working to do better. “We are not satisfied with that gap,” said John Martellaro. “We are investing more resources in our student success programs in an effort to narrow that gap.” (Read their full statement.)

St. Andrews did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

At more than a third of the colleges studied, schools were able to serve their Pell students almost as well as non-Pell students, with a gap of less than 3 percentage points.

Other schools have managed to graduate Pell students at an even higher rate than their non-Pell peers. According to the new data, nearly 90 percent of Pell recipients are able to graduate Smith College, compared with an 85 percent graduation rate of non-Pell students. And at Western Oregon University, Pell recipients have a graduation rate of 50 percent — nearly 10 percentage points better than their peers.

Both schools worked hard to ensure high graduation rates, including improving admissions policies and bolstering financial aid, as well as increasing advising and support services for students at school, says the new report.

The Pell Grant program is the nation’s largest need-based student grant program, giving out billions of dollars annually. Yet for years, the data on Pell recipient graduation rates was mostly hidden from the public eye.

Although colleges are required to give the government graduation-rate data that’s broken down by gender and race, the data is not required to be reported by income or Pell Grant status. Since 2008, schools are required to disclose Pell graduation rate data if it’s requested by prospective students.

“It’s kind of astounding when you think about how much money is spent on the Pell Grant program,” said Andrew Kelly, the director of the Center on Higher Education Reform at the American Enterprise Institute. “We don’t have any idea about how much of that money goes to producing degrees. We don’t know what happens to Pell recipients after they enroll.”

In order to collect Pell graduation rates, the Education Trust filed requests for data through state higher education systems as well as with the schools themselves. Some of the data was purchased from U.S. News and World Report. However, only around 1,150 schools were included in the report, out of the more than 7,000 institutions in the country. The survey also did not include data from for-profit colleges, where many Pell-recipients attend school.

Sisi Wei contributed to this report.

Read more at: Alternet

Pentagon Chief: A Full Investigation Will Be Conducted To See If US Struck Hospital

via TPM news

MADRID (AP) — U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Sunday promised a full and transparent investigation into whether a U.S. aircraft providing support for American and Afghan commandos was responsible for the explosions that destroyed a hospital in northern Afghanistan, killing 22 people.

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Most Domestic Violence Victims Say Police Don’t Believe Them or Make Things Worse

from October 03, 2015 at 01:25PM

Victims of domestic violence are often reluctant to call police for help, and a new survey indicates why: most are afraid police won’t believe them or that calling them will make things worse.

The survey (pdf), involving more than 600 respondents and published by the National Domestic Violence Hotline, found more than half agreed with a statement that reaching out to law enforcement “would make things worse.” Two-thirds said they were afraid law enforcement would not believe them, or do nothing.

Twenty-five percent of respondents said they would not call police for assistance, while about half said they had called police to report a problem. Of those, half said they were unsure if they would call in the future. A third of those surveyed said they felt less safe after calling police.

Forty-three percent said they believed police discriminated against them due to their gender, socioeconomic status or race/ethnicity, among other factors.

The report recommended that law enforcement officers receive more training on how to deal with victims of domestic violence, establish domestic violence units, provide interpreters when necessary and remove firearms when someone has been threatened with them.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

One in 4 Domestic Violence Victims ‘Will Not Call’ Police (Crime Report)

Who Will Help Me? Domestic Violence Survivors Speak Out About Law Enforcement Responses (by TK Logan, Ph.D. and Roberta Valente, National Domestic Violence Hotline) (pdf)

Some Police Escort Domestic Violence Victims Retrieving Belongings, But It Can Be a Hard Call (by Brandie Kessler, York Daily Record)

Domestic Violence Program Funding Cuts Leave Thousands at Risk (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Domestic Violence Victims Evicted for being “Nuisances” (by Danny Biederman and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Read more at: News – AllGov

Sheriff Whose Deputy Killed Unarmed Black Man Resigns After Own Indictment

via TPMNews

The Oklahoma sheriff whose office was accused of falsifying training records and giving preferential treatment to a white reserve deputy who fatally shot an unarmed black man announced his resignation Wednesday.

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City Intentionally Endangered School Kids with Illegal Traffic Signs so Cops Could Write More Tickets

from September 26, 2015 at 03:02PM

This was a bad idea from the beginning.

 An investigation by 10 News found that city officials in St. Petersburg intentionally used non-compliant road signage in school zones, putting children’s safety at risk, so they could write more tickets and collect revenue.

No bureaucrats will get in trouble for this affront, and no citizen will be refunded their tickets issued through unlawfulness and deception.

“Despite years of warnings and official requests, it took questions from 10 Investigates to get St. Petersburg city employees to correct dangerous lapses in street signage designed to warn drivers they are approaching school crossings. Meanwhile, the city’s police department has aggressively enforced the reduced-speed zones like no other city in Tampa Bay, likely writing thousands of improper tickets.

10 Investigates found evidence the city knew its school zones were not in compliance with FDOT regulations as far back as 2006.”

The unscrupulous officials are now busy replacing signs as quickly as they can, bringing them to Florida Dept. of Transportation standards.

It took public embarrassment for St. Petersburg officials to act. They ignored repeated recommendations by the School Transportation Safety Committee to improve signage, as well as questioning from policemen and residents.

When a citizen brought the matter to court, the city’s school zone traffic manager suggested that signs had “sunken in,” among other deceptions.

Carrying out their scheme to fill city coffers, by way of endangering children, proved quite profitable.

“The St. Pete Police Department (SPPD) issued more tickets in school zones last year — 1,864 — than the rest of Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Polk counties combined. And from 2011 to 2013, the agency wrote no fewer than 1,710 school zone tickets per year.”

They issued the pricey school zone tickets nearly a mile from the nearest school in many cases. A prime tactic was to pull people over for going 25 mph in a 40 mph zone, when the 15 mph school zone sign was hardly visible.

“I have a daughter; I know the importance of a school zone; if I saw it, I would have slowed down,” said Michael Francis, a driver ticketed last year going south on Martin Luther King Jr. St. at 62nd Avenue North. “The police were stacked up on the side of the road, just waiting to pull people over.”

Francis was driving 25 mph in a 40 mph zone. Yet he shelled out $306 for a fine he never should have received. MLK St. at 62nd Avenue North had no pavement markings and a sign that was both too close to the intersection and too low to the ground.”

The St. Pete public works director claimed that they were already in the process of fixing the school crossings months before the investigation, but could not provide a single supporting document.

“Our kids’ safety (is) very important and we’re going to go through and refresh those markings and refresh those signs,” said Tom Gibson to 10 News.

The actions of his department over the past years render this moral display meaningless. The ugly truth shows how public officials and their foot soldiers in blue can go to extraordinary levels in the quest for revenue collection.

Read more at: Alternet

US Border Patrol Agent Indicted for Murder After Using a Mexican Child for Target Practice

from September 28, 2015 at 07:42AM

Lonnie Swartz may become the first US Border Patrol agent to be convicted of murder in a cross-border shooting.

Tucson, AZ — Lonnie Swartz may become the first US Border Patrol agent to be convicted of murder in a cross-border shooting.

A federal grand jury indicted Mr. Swartz for second-degree murder on Wednesday in the 2012 death of 16-year-old Mexican citizen Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez.

The teenager was standing in Mexican territory, unarmed when the predatory agent shot him 10 times through the border fence. Rodriguez’s family said he was simply walking home from a basketball game.

The Border Patrol claims that their agent’s life was in danger, and Rodriguez was part of a group throwing rocks. Even if the teen picked up a rock, it is known that agents will open fire instead of simply moving out of the way, according to a report published in June.

Sean Chapman, Mr. Swartz’s attorney, said his client will plead not guilty at an Oct. 9 arraignment. He tried unsuccessfully to get the lawsuit thrown out based on the claim that the Mexican teenager has no Constitutional rights. A court has agreed with this stance in previous cases with similar circumstances.

Predictably, the Border Patrol Union criticized the indictment, suggesting their agents are the victims of “a world of political agendas and armchair quarterbacking.”

Arizona seems to have a penchant for Border Patrol agents murdering immigrants. Two other agents have been charged before, but one was acquitted and the other resulted in hung juries.

The Border Patrol has killed 10 people since 2010 in 40 cases of use of deadly force against alleged rock throwers.

Swartz’s indictment comes at a time of increased awareness of the Border Patrol’s excessive use of force. Even a Homeland Security Advisory Council report found that the agency has little care for life and is swamped with corruption.

“Lethargic investigations of internal abuses and a vulnerability to systematic corruption by drug smugglers and other criminals are the basis for the Council’s recommendation that U.S. Customs and Border Protection add approximately 350 criminal investigators to its current staff of 200 — a 175% increase — in order to help mitigate internal corruption and the use of unnecessary force against migrants.

The 29-page report, composed by the independent Council that reports to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, attacks the agency’s propensity to shoot unarmed or non-threatening individuals. It suggests that officials review their policies and prioritize the preservation of human life as hundreds of shootings by Border Patrol agents remain unaccounted for.”

The fact that Swartz shot Rodriguez 10 times, through a fence, does not lend credibility to the argument that he was trying to save his own life. It instead suggests that he used the Mexican teen for target practice in an act of inhumanity.

Swartz also faces a civil lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union by Elena Rodriguez, the boy’s mother. The outcome of the cases will tell us whether the government will take Border Patrol’s problem of corruption and excessive force seriously, or let it continue to spiral out of hand.

Read more at: Alternet

Video Sparks Public Outcry After a Cop Tasers Man in the Back as He was Complying

from September 28, 2015 at 07:21AM

A use of force review is underway by the Police Department.

Fairfax, VA — A use of force review is underway by the Fairfax County Police Department after a video surfaced on Facebook showing one of their officers tasering a submissive man.

In the brief video, a man is seen complying with the officer’s commands. However, as he turns around and places his hands on the cruiser, the officer deploys the taser into his back, sending the man collapsing into the pavement.

“He did not try to run or nothing.  That was wrong. How the police, unless he was wanted. But if he was wanted, the guy didn’t have to Taser him like he did,” said a witness.

“A a gentleman just happened to be walking down the sidewalk, and the cop pulls up in front of him and tells him to turn over. And as soon as he has his back turned toward him, he Tasers him. He didn’t see it coming,” the man who shot the video on his cell phone told FOX 5. “He told him to turn around. He turned around he complied. And boom he popped out his Taser and he shot at him.”

The man who shot the video wishes to remain anonymous, for obvious reasons.

Multiple witnesses claim that the officer’s actions were unnecessary, and the video supports them. One witness said that it is incidents like this one that makes people distrust police.

“As soon as the Chief was alerted that this video was out there in existence he ordered internal affairs to conduct an inquiry,” said Lt. Brooke Wright, with the Fairfax County Police Department.

Wright says that the officer was investigating reports of theft and that the man in the video was later arrested but does this warrant immediate punishment by a police officer?

After viewing the video, Wright said, “On that short snippet, it does appear concerning.  And that’s why we’re looking into it.  The community has a right to be concerned.  We’re concerned anytime something on its face in that way looks like it’s an unjustified use of force and that’s to be determined.  If the officer is wrong he’ll be held accountable.”

Read more at: Alternet

NAACP Call For Special Prosecutor In Police Killing Of Man In Wheelchair

via TPM News

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — The fatal shooting of a man in a wheelchair by Wilmington police is being investigated by a new unit within the Delaware attorney general’s office that was established to help instill public trust in government, but the state NAACP is calling for an independent investigation by a special prosecutor.

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Egyptian President Pardons 2 Al-Jazeera English Journalists

via TPM News

CAIRO (AP) — The Egyptian president on Wednesday pardoned two journalists for Al-Jazeera English, state media and the lawyer of one of the reporters said, a dramatic development in a case that was widely condemned by human rights groups and international organizations.

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Police Fatally Shoot Florida Man Holding A Stapler After Standoff

via TPM News

AUBURNDALE, Fla. (AP) — A central Florida deputy shot a man to death during a standoff after authorities say the man pointed a stapler at the deputy.

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