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October 21, 2013

Controversy brews surrounding small Texas church

Controversy brews surrounding small Texas church

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Monday, October 21, 2013

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The Church of Wells, based in the small town of Wells, Texas has been at the center of significant media activity in recent days. Wikinews spoke with a Tyler, Texas minister who had an encounter with Church of Wells members recently.

In the media, reports have surfaced surrounding Catherine Grove, a 26 year-old Arkansas woman who recently joined the Church of Wells. Grove’s parents and other family say they’ve hardly communicated with her since July. Grove’s parents have been in Wells since July, hoping to have a chance to speak with her directly.

A Latin Cross, a comon symbol of Christianity.
Image: Tinette.

Tyler, Texas is a city located about 70 miles north of Wells. The Tyler minister explained to Wikinews, he and several of his church members were distributing food and water to homeless citizens in downtown Tyler when they were accosted by members of the group. He described the individuals as appearing “[…] very robotic, kind of disengaged and had very big eyes.” The Church of Wells’ group’s leader became “very agitated” and yelled at the minister and his parishioners. The minister said he recognized the Church of Wells members from recent news coverage. Elaborating on the encounter, he recalled, “At one time, I happened to call him ‘brother’. He replied, “Don’t call me brother. I don’t think you and I serve the same Christ.” He reported the Church of Wells leader also insulted one of the other church’s volunteers, stating, “Look at you. You look just like the world.”

The minister reported the Church of Wells members even followed his group on foot for about two city blocks, and began yelling and hurling insults at them when they arrived at the city’s square plaza. When asked if he believes the Church of Wells to be a cult, the minister replied, “The way they were yelling and the leader seemingly believed that our church member absolutely had to share his testimony aloud with him, specifically him, that’s why I can say with comfort that this group is a cult. A cult is controlling and exclusive. All the women dressed the same. He resorted to name calling. He called me a blasphemer, he called me a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Often, when someone begins to feel as if they’re losing traction on an argument, they’ll often shift over into name calling.” The minister continued, “As we were about to leave, [the Church of Wells group leader] said, ‘Prophets of God are not to be mocked.’ I said, ‘Brother, there are no more prophets. It ended with Jesus. Yes, there are preachers and ministers, but the prophets have ended.’ I believe the man thinks he is a prophet.”



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March 5, 2012

UNICEF: An increasing number of children are living in slums

UNICEF: An increasing number of children are living in slums

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Monday, March 5, 2012

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UNICEF published a new report titled, “THE STATE OF THE WORLD’S CHILDREN 2012 — Children in an Urban World”. According to the report, every third city child today lives in a slum and has no access to adequate food, drinking water, education and medical care.

About one billion children and adolescents, and thus half of all children and adolescents, are living in cities. The continuing urbanization makes the cities of the world grow annually by about 60 million people. The needs and rights of children and adolescents are, according to UNICEF, often disregarded and play no significant role in urban planning. In order to give children a voice in urban decision-making processes, UNICEF has worked on the Child-Friendly Cities Initiative.

The report describes the effects of poverty with regard to malnutrition, poor hygiene, educational inequality and vulnerability; social inequality also leads to crime and violence. The infant mortality in poor slums is higher than in some rural areas.

Often between 50 and 80 percent of the income of a family are required for nutrition and access to existing health services; in the cities this is not possible, so diseases such as measles, tuberculosis and other diseases avoidable by vaccination are becoming dangerously prevalent again.

On February 28, 18 countries signed an additional protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that gives children the right to appeal to the United Nations if their human rights have been violated and domestic remedies have been exhausted.



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February 15, 2012

Opposition calls for mass protests in Bahrain

Opposition calls for mass protests in Bahrain

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

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In Bahrain, tension is building between the opposition protesters who want to revive last year’s marches, and government authorities who are trying to maintain control over protest activities. A planned march by the February 14 Youth Coalition to Manama’s former Pearl Roundabout, to mark the beginning of last year’s protests, was overwhelmed by the security surrounding the site on the eve of the anniversary as well as the day itself.

Since the Bahraini uprising in 2011, the roundabout became a touchstone of opposition. Authorities responded by clearing the site and renaming it al-Farouq Junction. Whilst initially blocked to traffic to prevent any more protests, Bahrain’s police now occupy the area and are demonstrably equipped to repel opposition.

Over 10,000 Bahrainis attended last week’s “sit in” protests for reforms.
Image: Bahraini Activist.

Clashes around the site between security forces and Bahraini youth took place Monday as one of the largest crowds yet moved close to the symbol of last year’s protest movement. Again, on Tuesday, crowds were repelled from Pearl Roundabout with police using tear-gas and arresting protesters throughout the city. Security forces also detained six U.S. citizens who took part in the protests; the activists, who entered the country on tourist visas, agreed to leave the country without charges being pressed.

With activists and political parties called for mass protests a few days prior to the one-year anniversary, the government now says it may bring charges against organizers for encouraging the disorder.

Nabeel Rajab, a prominent human rights activist in Bahrain, announced his intention to take part in marches to the Pearl Roundabout. He led several hundred pro-democracy activists in Manama’s old market area before suddenly marching towards the Pearl Roundabout. The protest ended a few hundred meters away from the roundabout with police firing tear gas and stun grenades after using megaphones to warn protesters the march was unauthorised and they should disperse. Two women from US-based rights group Witness Bahrain taking part in Sunday’s march were arrested and deported.

Cquote1.svg We will return. We will return. Cquote2.svg

—Ayat al-Qormozi

Five opposition political groups headed by Al Wefaq, Bahrain’s largest political opposition party, organized an authorized sit-in in a yard, dubbed ‘Freedom Square’, in Al Muqsha village outside of Manama. This is the same location as the opposition’s week-long ‘sit-in’ for political reforms. At that sit-in last week, Ayat al-Qormozi, a Bahraini female poet and visible leader in the opposition movement, called for the crowd in Al Muqsha to march to the symbolic roundabout and chanted, “We will return. We will return.”

Most clashes between police and protesters occurred in the Shia neighborhoods. About 70 percent of Bahrainis are Shia and they form the base of the youth activists and Al-Wefaq protesters.

The Sunnis have organized counter-demonstrations in support of the ruling Al Khalifa family. They control the government’s cabinet, and are also Sunni. The formation of the cabinet is one of the key debates between the opposition Al Wefaq and the Sunni minority in country. Al Wefaq wants elected politicians to name the cabinet, whilst the Sunnis prefer the royal family to retain that power.

In an interview with Der Spiegel, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa denied that there was an opposition in his country similar to those in Western nations but accepted that there are “people with different views.”



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May 13, 2011

Lockdown at Missouri university lifted as police apprehend suspected gunman

Lockdown at Missouri university lifted as police apprehend suspected gunman

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Friday, May 13, 2011

Crime and law
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A photo of the suspect, Cody Nathaniel Willcoxon, who has been taken into police custody.
Image: Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

A suspected gunman has been taken into custody today after a university in Missouri, U.S. was locked down when he entered the campus with an AK-47 assault rifle. Cody Nathaniel Willcoxon reportedly arrived at Missouri University of Science and Technology around 9:00 a.m. CDT (14:00 UTC) Thursday morning after shooting at officers in a police chase.

Officials say no one has been injured after Willcoxon—described as a Caucasian male with sandy blonde hair—entered McNutt Hall, a building on the campus. He had earlier escaped from police custody at Fort Leonard Wood while being questioned by military police when trying to enter the property and was then pursued by authorities along Interstate 44. The gunman began shooting at police while driving, exiting the interstate at Rolla, Missouri. Willcoxon reportedly stopped near a university building and fled on foot, before stealing a Ford Taurus from a residence near the school.

No shots were fired on campus, say authorities, and no one was injured. The school sent emergency alerts to its students and faculty as a result of the incident. Law enforcement officials told students to stay inside their buildings until the lockdown was lifted and were not allowing anyone to enter the campus. Police were seen retrieving several items, including weapons, from a vehicle on the school campus.

Willcoxon was apprehended by authorities around 1:00 p.m. CDT and the lockdown was subsequently lifted.



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May 10, 2011

Wikinews interviews evicted London Metropolitan University occupier

Wikinews interviews evicted London Metropolitan University occupier

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Orion Building, hosting London Metropolitan University’s Graduate Centre.
Image: Alan Stanton.

A group of students at London Metropolitan University (LMU) who had been occupying the graduate centre at their university since the afternoon of Wednesday May 4 were evicted just before midnight on Monday by police, university security and private bailiffs.

Wikinews, in contact with the occupiers, obtained a first-hand interview with one of the occupiers less than two hours after the occupation ended. The students staged the occupation in protest against cutbacks to courses at the university which, if enacted, would close 70% of the courses the university offers.

John Hughes, 35, a mature student born in the North London borough of Hackney and living in Brixton, was one of over twenty students who were sleeping overnight in the university building. A second-year student in sociology and international development, one of the courses at risk, Hughes described the police intervention at around 11:40pm:

As I came in the area we were occupying they came straight in the door…There was no warning. […] We were served the injunction on the spot by two county court sheriffs, four police officers, ten bailiffs and one member of London Met security. We said, ‘we need time to read this’. We were given ten minutes to read it and take our stuff.

London Met logo.

The occupiers have not had access to legal advice, although they have had “a bit of advice from some people who are not actually lawyers”. The occupiers complain they were given no notice of the injunction and that it is inaccurate, naming at least one person “who hadn’t committed trespass at all”.

The eviction also pre-empts an agreement, negotiated by London Metropolitan University Students’ Union president Claire Locke, for LMU vice-chancellor Malcolm Gillies to meet with the occupation on Tuesday morning. The occupiers feel certain now that Gillies’ office made this agreement with the Students’ Union and occupiers in bad faith, knowing that an injunction evicting the occupation would be served before then.

The injunction follows a night after the occupation was itself invaded by members of a private security firm hired by the university management. In the early hours of Monday morning, occupiers say security staff kicked open the doors and entered an area where people were sleeping. Security personnel say an alarm was going off in the area; occupiers say there was no such alarm. Private security have also been sexually harassing and verbally intimidating the occupiers, Hughes alleges. “One of the members of the security team said through the doors to a young lady, ‘you should put up a picture of yourself, something that’s more sexy’ and ‘I’m quite a big bloke, and if I wanted to come into the occupation I would. Two young ladies are not going to stop me.'” Occupiers have also heard some racist comments from private security; the occupiers themselves are “a very mixed group” of all ages and ethnicities, “some from London, some from outside London, working class and some middle class.”

If the occupation had not been evicted, Hughes says they could have held out. “We had water, food and drinks for a while. I’m not sure for how long.” Students at Aberystwyth University in Wales occupied two rooms at their university for over a month earlier this year.



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April 24, 2011

Massachusetts study finds links between bullying and family violence

Massachusetts study finds links between bullying and family violence

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

School bullying
Image: Diego Grez.

Both bullies and their victims are linked with an increased incidence of violence in the home, according to a report on Massachusetts middle and high school students released on Thursday.

In a survey of 5,807 students in 138 schools covering incidents in the past year, about 25 percent of middle school students and 16 percent of high school students reported being bullied at school.

Between 13 to 15 percent of victims of bullying said they had seen violence in their families or been physically injured by a family member during the same time frame.

Students who were identified as being both bullied and victimized by a bully (called “bully-victims” in the study) were the most likely to report they had been physically injured by a family member, compared to those who said they were neither a victim nor a bully. They also reported a higher frequency of suicidal ideation or attempted suicide than victims or bullies who were not bully-victims.

“Sometimes, people who we have thought of as perpetrators are actually very vulnerable themselves,” said John Auerbach, Commissioner of Massachusetts Department of Public Health whose agency collected survey data on 5,807 middle and high school students for the study.

Cquote1.svg A comprehensive approach that encompasses school officials, students and their families is needed to prevent bullying among middle school and high school students. Cquote2.svg

—CDC

The results, analyzed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, also confirmed prior findings that bulling is associated with an increased incidence of suicidal ideation and attempted suicide, poor grades and drug abuse. The CDC said the report is the first detailed, state-level analysis of the risk factors for school bullying.

Last year a 15-year-old Massachusetts student Phoebe Prince of South Hadley committed suicide, focusing the state on the issue of bullying. In May 2010 Massachusetts passed legislation outlawing bullying in school and online, outlining procedures for the investigation and reporting of bullying, and establishing school programs to prevent retaliation. This study was completed a year later.

The finding that there is a link between bullying and family violence shows the importance of involving families in programs and strategies addressing bullying.

“A comprehensive approach that encompasses school officials, students and their families is needed to prevent bullying among middle school and high school students,” said CDC researchers.



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April 11, 2011

Shiites protest against discrimination in Bahrain

Shiites protest against discrimination in Bahrain

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Bahrain
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The flag of the Kingdom of Bahrain.
Image: SKopp.
Image: Zscout370.

This week state run newspapers in Bahrain officially declared that the nation was ‘back on track’ after weeks of political and sectarian unrest in the nation. However these headlines have been disputed by Shiite protestors in Bahrain. Sunni security forces have been raiding Shiite protestors’ homes, knocking their doors down, spraying graffiti on walls and arresting them in an effort to keep Shiite activists off the street.

Bahrain’s government has been accused by the United States of human rights abuses including arbitrary detention and discrimination against Shiites in the country; Shiites make up between 60% and 70% of the population of Bahrain. One activist told The Associated Press that he was brutally beaten by security forces, threatened with rape, and told to return to Iran — a major Shiite power in the region.

“We cannot stop,” said another Shiite protestor, Ali Mohammed, “we might go quite for a bit to mourn the dead and treat the injured and see those in jail, but then we will rise up again.” He lost his teaching job because of his involvement in the protests.

It was also revealed by a US State department report that the Bahrain government had requested from various media outlets and journalists that they no longer report on sectarianism, national security or stories that degraded the Royal Saudi family. The report also claimed that “according to some members of the media, government officials contacted editors directly and asked them to stop writing about certain subjects or asked them not to publish a press release or a story.”

Shiites have voiced their opinions about continuous discrimination in the country, with the Muslim opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman requesting that the Saudi military leave the region and stop intervening with protesters.

The official body count states that at least 20 people have been killed since the political protests began in early February 2011.


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December 5, 2010

UK Parliament to vote on tuition fee rise on Thursday

UK Parliament to vote on tuition fee rise on Thursday

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Students protesting outside the UK parliament in November.
Image: BillyH.

The controversial plan to raise university tuition fees in England and Wales will be voted on in the House of Commons on Thursday, December 9. The policy has been the cause of protests across the United Kingdom by students, some of which have turned violent. It has also been a source of considerable criticism and political difficulties for the Liberal Democrats and has raised questions as to the long-term viability of the Coalition government.

The new policy on tuition fees will allow universities to double the current tuition fees from £3,290 per year to around £6,000 per year, as well as allowing some universities to get special approval from the Office For Fair Access (OFFA) to raise their fees to £9,000 per year. If passed, the new fee structure will apply starting in the academic year of 2012/2013. The vote on Thursday will only be on the fee rise, with other matters being voted on in the new year following publication of a new higher education white paper.

Vince Cable and Nick Clegg will likely vote for the changes, but how many Lib Dems will join them?
Image: Nick Clegg.

In addition to increasing fees, the policy will increase the payment threshold at which payment is made. It is currently set at £15,000 and will rise to £21,000, but the interest rate will also rise. It is currently 1.5% but will now vary from between 0% and 3% plus inflation (using the Retail Price Index).

The fee increase follows the publication of an independent review by Lord Browne, former chief executive of BP, a process started by Peter Mandelson, the former Business Secretary. Before the election, two main options were mooted for funding reform in higher education: either an increase in tuition fees or a graduate tax. The Browne Review endorsed the former and the findings of the Review form the basis of the government’s policy. The graduate tax was supported by the Liberal Democrats before the election, and in the Labour leadership elections it was supported by Ed Balls and the winner of the leadership election, Ed Milliband.

Conservative members of the Coalition intend to vote for the reform, and the Labour opposition have been vociferous critics of the rise in fees, despite the previous government’s introduction of top-up fees. The Liberal Democratic members of the Coalition have been left in a politically difficult position regarding the fee hike and have been target of much criticism from protesters. Liberal Democrats have opposed the rise in tuition fees: their party manifesto included a commitment to ending tuition fees within six years, and many signed a pledge organised by the National Union of Students to not vote for any increase in tuition fees.

The Coalition agreement allows Liberal Democrats to opt to abstain on votes for a number of policies including tuition fees. Many Liberal Democrats are expected to abstain, and a few MPs have stated that they will vote against it including former party leader Sir Menzies Campbell, and the recently elected party president Tim Farron, as well as a number of Liberal Democrat back-benchers. Liberal Democrat party leaders have said that they will act collectively, but the BBC have said senior Liberal Democrats have admitted in private that government whips will not be able to force all Liberal Democrats to vote for the policy.

On Tuesday, the Liberal Democrats parliamentary party will meet in the Commons to decide on their collective position. If all ministers decide to vote for the policy, it will probably pass, but if only cabinet ministers (and maybe parliamentary private secretaries) vote for the policy, there is considerable risk of it not passing. If the Coalition does not manage to get the policy through Parliament, it will fuel doubts about the continued effectiveness and viability of the government.

How deputy prime minister Nick Clegg and business secretary Vince Cable vote has been of considerable controversy. Although under the Coalition agreement, they are allowed to abstain, suggestions of doing so have prompted criticism. It was suggested last week that Cable may abstain even though as business secretary he is directly responsible for higher education policy, and has been heavily involved in designing the proposals. Cable has said that Liberal Democrat support of the tuition fee changes has allowed them to push it in a more “progressive” direction.

Cable has now decided that he will vote for the policy, and argues that the policy has “a lot of protection for students from low income backgrounds and graduates who have a low income or take time out for family”. He also believes “there’s common consensus that the system we’ve devised is a progressive one”.

“Dr Cable has performed so many U-turns over the issue of university funding that he is spinning on his heels,” said National Union of Students president Aaron Porter. “That may stand him in good stead with the Strictly Come Dancing judges but the electorate will see it differently.”

Former deputy PM John Prescott has joked about Vince Cable’s u-turns on Twitter.
Image: Steve Punter.

Former deputy prime minister John Prescott joked on Twitter that “On tuition fees we’ve noticed Vince Cable’s remarkable transformation in the last few weeks from stalling to Mr In Between”—a reference to a previous attack Prescott made on Gordon Brown as having transformed from “Stalin to Mr Bean“.

On Question Time this week, Liberal Democrat treasury secretary Danny Alexander also confirmed he is prepared to vote for the policy but delegated the question to the meeting of Liberal Democrats on Tuesday.

The politics of the tuition fee debate may also affect the by-election taking place in Oldham East and Saddleworth following the removal of Phil Woolas, where Liberal Democrat and Conservative candidates will both be standing for the first by-election following the formation of the Coalition government.

Opposition to the policy has become the focus for a large number of protests across the country by both current university students, many school pupils and political allies of the student movement.

On the Nov. 10 demonstration, protestors occupied Millbank tower.
Image: Charlie Owen.

On November 10, between 30,000 and 52,000 protesters from across Britain marched through central London in a demonstration organised by the National Union of Students and the University and College Union, which represents teachers and lecturers in further and higher education. At the November 10 protest, a number of people occupied Millbank Tower, an office block which houses the Conservative Party. Fifty people were arrested and fourteen were injured. NUS president Aaron Porter condemned the attack and said it was caused by “those who are here to cause trouble”, and that the actions of a “minority of idiots” shouldn’t “undermine 50,000 who came to make a peaceful protest”.

Following the November 10 march, other protests have taken place across the country including an occupation at the University of Manchester, a sit-in at the John Owens Building in Manchester, and a demonstration at the University of Cambridge. A protest was also run outside the offices of The Guardian where Nick Clegg—who was giving a lecture inside the building—was executed in effigy while students protested “Nick Clegg, shame on you, shame on you for turning blue” (blue is the colour of the Conservative Party).

A graffitied police van in Trafalgar Square at the November 24 demonstration.
Image: yllA.

On November 24, a large number of protests took place across the country including a mass walk-out from universities and schools organised on Facebook, numerous university occupations, and demonstrations in Manchester, Cambridge, Birmingham, Leeds, Brighton and Cardiff, and a well-publicised occupation of University College London.

In London, a protest was planned to march down Whitehall to Parliament, but police held protesters in Trafalgar Square until they eventually broke free and ran around in a game of “cat and mouse” along the side streets around Charing Cross Road, Covent Garden and Picadilly Circus.

Simon Hardy from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts described the police response including the controversial ‘kettling’ of protesters as “absolutely outrageous”. Green MP Caroline Lucas raised the police response including the use of kettling in the House of Commons and stated that it was “neither proportionate, nor, indeed, effective”.

On November 30, protests continued in London culminating in 146 arrests of protesters in Trafalgar Square, and protests in Cardiff, Cambridge, Newcastle, Bath, Leeds, Sheffield, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Belfast, Brighton, Manchester and Bristol. Protesters in Sheffield attempted to invade and occupy Nick Clegg’s constituency office. Occupations of university buildings started or continued at University College London, Newcastle University, Cambridge University and Nottingham University, as well as council buildings in Oxford and Birmingham.

A “day of action” is being planned on December 8, the day before the Commons vote, by the National Union of Students.



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October 15, 2010

District of Columbia Public Schools chancellor Michelle Rhee announces resignation

District of Columbia Public Schools chancellor Michelle Rhee announces resignation

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Friday, October 15, 2010

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Michelle Rhee in 2008

Michelle Rhee, the controversial chancellor of Washington, D.C.’s public school system, announced her resignation on Wednesday. Rhee, who has held the position for over three years, will be replaced by Deputy Chancellor Kaya Henderson at the end of this month.

Rhee, aged 40, chose to step down after current Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty failed to be reelected in a primary election last month. Fenty, who had long backed Rhee’s educational policies, lost to D.C. City Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray. In a Wednesday morning press conference, Rhee said that she and Gray decided together that she should resign. “This was not a decision that we made lightly,” she said, “but it is one that I believe is absolutely essential to allow Chairman Gray to pursue our shared goal of unifying the city behind the school reform efforts that are making such a large difference in the lives of the children across the city. In short we have agreed together that the best way to keep the reforms going is for this reformer to step aside.”

Rhee said she “completely enjoyed every minute of” her tenure as chancellor, and that leaving is “the right thing for the school system and the right thing most importantly for the children of D.C.” She was charged by Fenty in 2007 to improve the city’s failing public school district, but her no-nonsense tactics caused much controversy among other educators and the D.C. community, despite managing to raise test scores and lowering dropout rates.

In July, Rhee took drastic measures to reform the city’s educational system by firing 241 teachers and putting 737 more on notice to improve in one year or lose their jobs as well. She pushed for performance-based evaluations, following recommendations in U.S. President Barack Obama’s “Race to the Top” initiative. Teacher unions and other educators, along with city residents, criticized Rhee’s actions. Chester Finn, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute for education research, says that many people find mass layoffs and school closings troubling, even in the name of reform.

Fenty, who made Rhee head of D.C. schools in June 2007, lost his reelection bid in part due to his support of Rhee’s methods. Fenty said at the press conference that she “exceeded all of [his] expectations.” It wasn’t just the results, he said, it was Rhee’s “tough decision-making, what residents believe is a breath of fresh air, and a willingness to do what is right even if it has political consequences.”

Gray, who is now running for mayor unopposed, agreed to a deal in which Henderson would become interim chancellor after Rhee leaves at the end of the month. The current educational leadership team will remain unchanged until the end of the school year to avoid any possible disruption of classes. Even though she is leaving, Rhee said, “All of the reforms can continue as planned.” Those reforms include the new evaluation system, changes to special education, and expansion of standardized testing. However, former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch says that Rhee’s departure shows that her tactics will be unsuccessful in the long run. “Rhee is out because her patron lost the election, and that loss should have taught the leaders of this movement that they are headed in the wrong direction. Public schools cannot be reformed without public support,” wrote Ravitch.

During the press conference, Gray said that “school reform will move forward under the Gray administration. Our schools must continue to operate under the leadership of a strong, empowered chancellor who will move school reform forward, take it to the next level and work with the community so that all our stakeholders are invested in the process.” When asked why Rhee would not be retained as chancellor, Gray said that it was a “mutual decision” for her to step down.

Rhee was featured in the recent documentary Waiting for Superman, which highlights issues with the country’s school systems. She became “a pivotal leader in the school reform movement,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Fenty praised Rhee’s accomplishments, saying, “All across the country now because of Chancellor Rhee and her team, from the White House to documentaries, people are touting D.C. as a model for how to attack bureaucracy and get results in an urban school system.”

Although she has not publicly disclosed her next steps, Rhee said that her “goal is to continue to serve the children of this nation.” She plans to “take a little time off and figure out what’s next,” but will be going to California to marry her fiancé, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. Rhee, born to South Korean immigrant parents, graduated from Cornell University and earned a master’s degree at Harvard University.



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June 5, 2006

Australian charities slam new welfare rules

Australian charities slam new welfare rules

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Monday, June 5, 2006

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Australia’s biggest charity organisations are refusing to cooperate with the Howard government’s welfare reform rules. The federal government expects about 18,000 people a year will lose their payments for eight weeks when the new welfare-to-work regime comes into force on July 1.

Only 23 organisations have signed up to a government registry to “financially case manage” the most vulnerable unemployed, who will be left without income under tougher rules. The Brotherhood of St Laurence has told Fairfax newspapers it will not participate because it believes the welfare shake-up is unjust.

About 18,000 people a year, according to the Government, are expected to lose their benefit for infringements of job search rules. Those with dependants, and those deemed “exceptionally vulnerable,” will be eligible for case management by a charity on the government register.

But the Brotherhood of St Laurence and the St Vincent de Paul Society have refused to register. The moral dilemma of whether to become an agent for a policy some believe is “unjust” may be contemplated by the Salvation Army, and others.

Charities will be paid $650 to manage each eligible unemployed person it assigns them, the Government has said. It wants charities to assess a person’s “essential” expenses and notify Centrelink, which would then decide whether or not to pay the bills.

Director of UnitingCare Australia Lin Hatfield Dodds said she did not expect many of the 400 agencies in her network to sign up to be case managers. Mission Australia has also not registered. Sue Leppert, executive director of Anglicare Australia, said many of her member agencies would definitely not register and others were grappling with the issue.

Many Australian charities strongly oppose the policy of stripping all income from unemployed people for infringements. There is much concern that sole parents and many disabled people will be diverted from specific pensions to the Newstart Allowance. They will then be subject to stringent job search rules, potential infringements and harsh penalties.

Charities also have been alarmed that under the new policy, people can immediately lose their payment for eight weeks if they refuse a job offer, are dismissed for misconduct, or are voluntarily unemployed.

The executive director of the Brotherhood of St Laurence Tony Nicholson said the policy was unjust. “First they suffer an eight-week suspension of payment, and to add insult to injury they have to justify to some case manager their expenditure on their meagre income.”

Sole parents whose youngest child has turned six, and disabled people who are assessed as capable of working 15 hours per week, will no longer be granted a pension under the Welfare to Work plan.

At the launch of a nation-wide advertising campaign for the government reform, Minister for Human Services Joe Hockey said: “the advertising campaign is part of an education process designed to encourage more people on income support to move into work.” “The Howard Government is investing $3.7 billion to deliver greater employment services and other assistance, including rehabilitation, to those people required to look for work,” said Minister Hockey.

A spokesman for the Minister said the Government was trying to ensure “rents will be paid and kids won’t get tossed out of home” if parents failed to meet their job search obligations.

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