Inside an 800-square-foot shop, D.C.-based social entrepreneur Ahmad Ashkar is using his Mom's falafel recipe to raise money for refugees.
We talk about the stories making headlines this week. The Supreme Court considers two cases on same-sex marriage. Virginia requires voters to bring a photo ID to the polls. And a Maryland county executive wants control of his struggling school system. It’s your turn to weigh in and shape the conversation.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. It's Your Turn. Your Turn means that you can start calling right now to discuss any issue you would like to discuss, 800-433-8850. You can also send email to email@example.com. Send us a Tweet at kojoshow or go to our website kojoshow.org to make your comment. You drive the agenda on this occasion, so start calling now, 800-433-8850, whether you want to discuss issues currently in the news, recent editions of this broadcast, anything else on your mind.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIWhile you're making that call, I have a number of suggestions of topics about which you might want to speak. So if you want to shut me up call now 800-433-8850. The sidewalk outside the Supreme Court was a campground earlier this week with supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage, waiting for days to get inside on the docket, oral arguments and two definition-of-marriage cases.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIOn Tuesday, the court considered California's voter-approved Proposition 8 which says only heterosexual couples can get married. On Wednesday justices weighed the Federal Defensive Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman thus denying federal tax and survivor credits to same-sex married couples. Public opinion polls show a surprisingly swift acceptance of gay marriage since the first state okayed it nine years ago. Justice is still reluctant to make a far-reaching decision on one of the most volatile issues in American politics.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIHow do you think the Supreme Court should handle these two cases? Should the court issue a ruling that creates a new law of the land? Should the court rule narrowly on the California law in a way that doesn't affect other states? Then there's that D.C. truancy measure I mentioned earlier. In an effort to reduce truancy in the schools, the District of Columbia is considering tightening its rules about when parents are notified and held responsible.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIThere was a controversial proposal that would have required prosecution of parents when their kids are chronically absent. But that was removed from a bill that the -- from the bill before the D.C. council. Instead the measure would continue to allow prosecution at the discretion of the D.C. Attorney General. The D.C. council itself is likely to take up the bill next month. What do you think about prosecuting parents when their kids skip school, 800-433-8850? What do you feel is the best way to cut down on truancy?
MR. KOJO NNAMDIIf that's not enough for you how about the fact that Virginia's voter ID law has been signed. Voters in Virginia will have to show a photo ID to cast a new ballot if a new law signed by the governor this week passes muster at the Justice Department. Observers say that the decision to sign that bill represents a change of heart for Governor Robert McDonnell. He initially seems satisfied with a bill that was passed last year that allowed non-photo ID at the polls.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIThat question of strengthening voter identification requirements breaks down largely along party lines. Republicans tend to say it prevents fraud. Democrats tend to say it disenfranchises older people, students, minorities who all tend to vote Democratic. If the Justice Department says the new law does not violate the voting rights act -- and they do have the last word -- this law could take effect in time for the 2014 election. What impact do you think it will have? It's Your Turn. Give us a call, 800-433--8850.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIAnd of course the Prince Georges' County public schools, being Maryland's second largest school system, it's been plagued for years by a revolving door of superintendents, unremarkable student performance. So County Executive Rushern Baker proposed that he take control of the schools, not unlike what former Mayor Adrian Fenty did here in Washington. Lawmakers in the Senate backed him up, introducing a bill on Monday that would allow Baker to choose a superintendent and oversee school operations. But it would let a (word?) school board keep control over the system's budget. What do you think? It's Your Turn.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIShould the Prince Georges' County executive control the public schools? Will it work to split power between him and the elected school board? 800-433-8850 is the number to call. We will start our conversation with Fred in Falls Church, Va. Fred, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
FREDHello, Kojo. I've been trying to get through to programs that discuss education. And I have two degrees in education. I work for the Department of Education. And no one discusses what I think is the number one thing to improve education, and that is subject matter teachers in elementary school.
NNAMDIWhy do you think that is the best solution to improve education? You are a triple threat, two education degrees and you work for the Department of Education. So we'd like to hear what you have to say.
FREDWell, the thing is, is I feel that when teachers have to teach all subject that they aren't as good in some subjects as others. And for one thing, like in the -- in Virginia you have four parts, 25 points each in four subject matters each, which includes math, science, something like -- I don't know what the other two are exactly called now. And you only have to have 70 percent out of the 100 total. You're not -- you don't have to have a certain amount in each subject.
FREDAnd the thing is now this is the way, you know, it's been. I don't know anyone that has this now but when I went to school in Western Pennsylvania in the late '40s I had subject matter teachers in elementary school.
NNAMDIWell, you therefore are in a position to tell us how that would affect the number of elementary school teachers in a specific school. And therefore, how it is likely to affect the school board's budget planning.
FREDWell, it could be more expensive in the sense that you have to have a teacher for each subject. Now you could start out say with math and then science. And there they have separate ones for music and art. And I would say...
NNAMDIBut were there say twice as many teachers in the elementary school that you went to as what -- compared to an elementary school where you now live in Virginia today?
FREDWell, when I went -- the interesting thing was when I went there was -- the homeroom teacher was -- say, had one grade and she would have one subject. And we would get in line and go to -- you know, between periods go to another teacher. And there was just enough teachers for the homerooms. We just had one grade for homeroom...
NNAMDII know, but -- and I could see how that system worked for you. My question however is given that school boards are operating with budgets in difficult economic times, how realistic do you think it would be for a school board to consider your proposal given its limited budget options at this time, Fred?
FREDWell, the thing is, I would say if we're talking about improving our education and how we do that -- otherwise if we weren't ranked like around 25th or 27th in math and so forth -- that, you know, it's a matter for the people to decide. Do we want, you know, education which is better or don't we? And...
FRED...that's the battle.
NNAMDI...thank you very much for sharing that suggestion with us, Fred. You too can share your suggestions on education or any other topic you want to talk about, 800-433-8850. If the lines are busy, shoot us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. It's Your Turn, James in Bethesda, Md. You're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JAMESYes, hi. I wanted to call because I had a question about the paving of the roads in Bethesda where they just repaved, for instance, Bradley Boulevard between Wilson Lane and Goldsboro Road less than two years ago. And now over the past six months or so they've ripped up almost one whole lane of it and put down -- I don't know what they were doing. It was a company called Metra. But now when they left there, they've left the road almost undriveable. It's very bumpy and, you know, cars -- you know, you can just hear your car rattling apart as you're going over it.
JAMESAnd I'm just wondering as to why it was repaved and then less than six or seven months later it gets ripped up. And maybe somebody out there may know why they didn't coordinate it properly, but it just seems to be a waste of taxpayer revenue.
NNAMDII do hope somebody out there knows, James, because I do not have a clue as to why that was done. But maybe some other interested listener or some other alert listener will be able to tell us why because, after all, it's Your Turn. So thanks for raising that issue, James. Allow me to go to Andrew in Northwest Washington. Andrew, your turn. Andrew. Andrew, are you there? Okay, Andrew. I think Andrew might be listening to the radio rather on the phone. So I will go to Christina in Washington, D.C. Christina, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CHRISTINAHi, Kojo. Thanks for taking the call. I was just calling about them making parents accountable for their children's truancy.
CHRISTINAAnd it just seems to me it's about time. We have the schools having to take more and more responsibility for raising our children and yet they have less and less rights to do so, you know, in the way that they're allowed to conduct themselves and what they're allowed to impose on the kids. And then the parents aren't being held accountable. And I promise, you know, you hold some parents accountable and they will make their children respond. We all have to work. We all have, you know, lots of responsibilities. Life has changed a lot but the bottom line is, we have to keep our focus on making sure our children become productive citizens.
NNAMDIWell, you know, a couple of things about that, Christina, truancy is one of the major problems, especially at the high school level in the District of Columbia where the truancy rate is very high. And I remember some years ago Milwaukee schools trying to make it punishable by the criminal justice system for the parents of kids who were truant. And for some reason -- maybe one of our callers can remind me -- it did not work out. The way this legislation was originally drafted in the D.C. council, it would have forced the Attorney General to prosecute parents whose children were absent more than I guess 15 days in one semester.
NNAMDINow it gives him greater discretion. Now he will be able to send a letter to those parents. And presumably that letter will tell them that there is a possibility of prosecution. Which do you believe would have worked better, simply prosecuting them or telling them that they could be prosecuted?
CHRISTINANo. I think telling them they would be prosecuted because I think parents who are -- I'm sorry I'm going to use the word -- but neglectful, who just don't think it's their responsibility or don't feel they have control over their children. That isn't going to change anything. But I think there's a lot of parents who simply lose focus. They don't realize how much work the teenagers still need put into them. How they still need to invest in them.
CHRISTINAI have friends, you know, with younger children who think, oh I can't wait until they get older. And I have a span range of four children that range from 20 to 6. And I can guarantee you they still need your time. They just need it differently. And I think that there'll be some parents who that threat might make them just go, wait a second, I need to pay a little bit closer attention. I need to have a look at their homework even though they're 16. I need to...
NNAMDIWhat would you recommend, Christina, for those parents who, as you said earlier, their children are out of control so to speak? What would say -- think those parents should do?
CHRISTINAWith some friends you have children who are there. I do think they reach a point where I don't think just the parents can do it. And unfortunately, if you haven't made the effort prior to that, you really have -- it's not an easy call then in this situation. You have some kids who you can reach. You have some kids who have made mistakes that are going to affect them the rest of their lives, who have, you know, acquired a criminal record or, you know, early teenage pregnancy. Things that aren't going to be easy to recover from as far as making, you know, good scholastic decisions and acquiring a successful, you know, lifestyle.
CHRISTINABut that doesn't mean we don't try and we don't try and reach the ones prior to those things that make life a little more difficult.
NNAMDIOkay. The amended bill in the city council calls for older children to be referred to court social services after 15 unexcused absences. That's when the Attorney General would send parents a letter at that point. So that would bring the city involved in it. And, Christina, thank you very much for your call. Got to take a short break. If you have called already, stay on the line but remember it is Your Turn.
NNAMDIThe governor of North Dakota tightened that state's abortion laws this week, signing a bill that bans abortion as early as six weeks into a pregnancy or once a heartbeat is detected. That law tests the boundaries of the 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade which allows abortion until a fetus is viable, usually at around 28 weeks. Do you think the North Dakota -- and there was another law in Arkansas banning abortion after 12 weeks -- do you think they'll stand up to legal challenges? Why do you think these states are testing the limits of Roe v. Wade now? It's Your Turn, 800-433-8850. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. It's Your Turn where you drive the conversation with your calls, emails, Tweets or visits to our website. You can call us at 800-433-8850 or send us a Tweet a kojoshow. Email to email@example.com or go to our website kojoshow.org and make your comment there. We will move to Yvonne in Prince Georges County. Yvonne, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
YVONNEYes, thank you, Kojo. I am a public school teacher in Prince Georges County and I've been teaching here for 27 years. And both of my children graduated from PG county schools. And I was very pleased with their progress. Our county executive, when he first came in, he set up a taskforce in order to get new ideas about how to help the public schools. And they have been meeting for almost two years now. And they have come up with zero ideas. So if the county executive had some magic bullets in how to fix our school system, he has not told anyone. He has been keeping it a secret.
YVONNEAnd two weeks ago, virtually within the last couple of weeks of our legislative session in Annapolis, he has put in a bill which will give him almost complete power over the public school system. He will have the power to hire the superintendent and fire him. And the superintendent will be entirely answerable to the county executive and now answerable to the board of education.
NNAMDIWell, I got the impression, Yvonne, that the county executive thought that the board, if not dysfunctional, was not functioning efficiently and that streamlining the process with him in charge might work better. Apparently the general assembly felt a little differently in the Senate and decided to split the power so that even though he appoints the superintendent, who is answerable to him and he oversees the process, the school board still controls the budget. How do you think that split kind of authority will work?
YVONNEThat will -- that's the Senate side. The House bill is completely different. And by the way, the changes are happening almost minute by minute. The other thing that will happen is that he said he was going to set salaries for school employees. So he's going to get rid of our collective bargaining process. And we might become county employees without our contract. So our contract now that we have will be null and void. Let's see, the NAACP, all of the PTAs, all of the unions that work for the school system have come out against this plan.
NNAMDIWell, allow me to seek a clarification here because if he is in -- if the school board is in charge of the budget, how does the county executive be the one who can determine school salaries?
YVONNE...in charge of the budget. That's not -- that is not what is happening in this bill. As a matter of fact...
NNAMDIWell, you think ultimately that provision that the Senate approved giving the school board authority over the budget will be wiped out in the House?
YVONNEYes, because the House side does not agree with that. So he will also have the power to...
NNAMDIWell, allow me to ask you this, Yvonne. Having taught in the system for 23 years and put kids through the system, what's right with the way the system currently operates? You seem to be suggesting that everything's fine.
YVONNENo, I didn't say that.
NNAMDII said you seem to be suggesting.
YVONNEI would never say that. What has been happening in Prince Georges is that we have been making steady progress. I agree that it is not fast enough for some people but we have been steadily closing the gap between different groups of students. And we have been progressing forward. As a matter of fact, you know that for the last five years Maryland has been chosen the best school system in the country. And the real reason why that has happened is because of Prince Georges County. Because we have made progress and we have made -- moved the state forward.
NNAMDII got to tell you, Yvonne, that's not the narrative that has been making the news here. The narrative is that it's Montgomery County that's driving it and that Prince Georges County is still struggling. That you've recently lost a superintendent to another jurisdiction and that there are things that are wrong with the system. You seem to be suggesting that the system is moving in the right direction. And as I said earlier, you seem to be suggesting that if the county executive would simply leave it alone it will kind of right itself.
YVONNEWe -- let me put it this way. We are moving in the right direction. The county executive doesn't have any ideas about educational policy, okay. He wants to have control of the money. I don't know whether you know but the makeup -- if you compare our county to the makeup of other counties -- similar counties, we are doing -- we are actually moving the needle forward on academic achievement. And those other counties are looking to us for advice on how to do this.
NNAMDIOkay. Yvonne, I do have to move on because we have a lot of people waiting, but I'd love to hear other people weigh in on this about Prince Georges' County executive trying to take over the school system. You've heard from Yvonne. She thinks it's not a good idea. She thinks the system has been doing well. If the phone lines are busy, shoot us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or send us a Tweet at kojoshow. We move on now to Kathleen in northwest Washington. Kathleen, your turn.
KATHLEENYes. I have a question, Kojo. Last night was the last -- was the first shooting of a deer in Rock Creek Park. And I'm wondering two things. First of all, is there going to be any accountability to the public about how these evening shootings are occurring? How many deer have been killed? How many people and hunters in particular were involved? That's the first question.
NNAMDIWell, allow me to ask you a question about that, Kathleen, because I guess what the park service -- and we have discussed this on the show before -- would respond is that these cullings that started last night are in response to the public that has been complaining. The public who lives anywhere in the vicinity of Rock Creek Park about the overpopulation of deer destroying not only the new seedlings in the park itself, but destroying property and destroying gardens all around.
KATHLEENYeah, I live in that area. I live in the Hawthorne neighborhood, which is a block off of Oregon Avenue in Rock Creek Park. And the public is divided. And a way you can verify that would be through the ongoing discussion on the Chevy Chase list serve where equal numbers of people who have been against this have been going head to head with people who want this. It's very much like the sidewalk and the cutting-down-a-tree issues in Hawthorne. The community is divided. So those of us who oppose this killing would like to know about accountability.
KATHLEENMy second question has to do with the District of Columbia's role in this. Could there -- might there have been any, since this portion of Rock Creek Park, near Hawthorne at least, is part of the District of Columbia, although it's a federal jurisdiction.
NNAMDIWell, that second question I cannot answer but thank you for putting it out there and thank you for making the point that there seem to be as many people opposed to this as there are people for it. What everybody seems to agree on is that the population of dear needs to be reduced. How would you suggest that be done in a manner that does it quickly and efficiently, Kathleen?
KATHLEENWell, there was a lawsuit brought -- and a lot of this came out in a Washington Post article about two weeks ago. But basically the suggestion was that forms of birth control be used -- birth control measures be used as opposed to killing. A second suggestion was that there be a transportation of some amount of the population to other less populace areas. So there were a number of solutions that were proposed.
KATHLEENBut immediately after the defeat of the lawsuits and the Rock Creek -- the park service stepped up the killings. And they weren't even expected to happen as quickly as this. But there were several solutions that were proposed, but none of them were selected.
NNAMDIWell, I've gotten a story about this and I have not seen any part of that story that indicates how the national park service is going to report on how the operation has been proceeding. So that's a question I think that still is hanging in the air for the National Park Service, as to whether or not there will be some accountability about exactly what happens in the park each of the nights that this is taking place. But Kathleen, thank you very much for your call and thank you for raising the issue.
NNAMDIWe move on now to Robert in Baltimore, Md. as we remind you it's Your Turn. Call us about any topic you wish, 800-433-8850. If you'd like to weigh in on the Supreme Court consideration of same-sex marriage now is the time to do it, 800-433-8850. Here is Robert in Baltimore, Md. Robert, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ROBERTThank you. I'm a teacher of Baltimore City and I wanted to comment on the gentleman who spoke earlier about having the different subject teachers in elementary school.
ROBERTWe asked them about if it would cause more teachers not to be at the school. It actually wouldn't. At my school -- I teach at an elementary school and for a couple of grade levels there are subject area teachers. So you will have like a math and science teacher for fifth grade. And then that same teacher at another portion of the day will teach math and science to fourth grade. And another teacher who teaches reading and social studies would do the same thing.
ROBERTAnd if you have it in that case where maybe you will have four teachers that teach one subject for three grade levels or four grade levels or what have you then everyone will be able to, you know, still get their content areas taught, but you wouldn't have to have extra teachers in the building. You understand what I'm saying?
NNAMDII do understand what you're saying. What kind of results has that been showing for your school?
ROBERTWell, it helps in our school because the students are getting good content. Those teachers only have to worry about preparing lessons for those subjects. And they also can prepare those students for the next year because they know exactly what they're going to be teaching for the next year. They're doing their own pacing and they don't have to wonder what the teacher who taught them in fourth grade has taught them because they were doing the teaching for those students. So they know exactly where to pick up and where to continue the education for the following year.
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for sharing that with us, Robert. Jennifer in Gaithersburg, Md. would like to weigh in on the same issue. Jennifer, it is now your turn.
JENNIFERHi, Kojo. I wanted to call so about the same subject and I appreciated the comment that this gentleman just gave as well from Baltimore. Uh, my school -- I teach in Laurel, Md. and at our school we also have a similar program for certain classes in place where there are teachers who are dedicated to just one content area, especially in math. We've seen really good results in that area where we have teachers who are specifically certified to teach mathematics at the elementary level who have been working with certain classes.
JENNIFERAnd it also is able to reduce the class size because they can work with multiple grades. And also they're specialized in one subject. And we've seen very good results with that.
NNAMDIWell, why do you think that doesn't happen at most schools? Why is there, within the same school system, it would appear, so many different models of teaching in elementary school?
JENNIFERThat's a very good question. I'm not sure why more schools haven't been open to adopting this. It might seem initially that it would required more teachers but I agree with the teacher from Baltimore who said that it actually would not. And at our school that's proven to be the case.
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for informing us about that, Jennifer. It's Your Turn. You too can call us at 800-433-8850 if you'd like to inform us about anything else or simply give your opinion on Virginia's voter ID law, on the North Dakota abortion law, on the Arkansas abortion law, on same-sex marriage before the Supreme Court or anything else. It is indeed your turn, Nagesh in Washington, D.C. You're on the air.
NAGESHI'm a longtime listener, first time caller. I was to comment about same-sex marriage.
NAGESHI believe -- I see this thing as an important question because if have a Coca-Cola you call it Coca-Cola. And you can't call any other dark soft drink Coca-Cola.
NAGESHSo people who want to get married, they can get married, but they can't call it marriage because marriage ordained as a big name by God between Eve and Adam. So I believe that should save for male and woman, not for the same sex.
NNAMDIBut there are several states and the District of Columbia, Nagesh, that have passed laws that say that people of the same sex can be married. So they do call it marriage. What would you have them do about that?
NAGESHYeah, I don't argue with that. I mean, they can get married but I don't see the point why they use the same title.
NNAMDIWell, they use the same title, it is argued, because they are following the same law and they desire the same rights as heterosexual couples who get married.
NAGESHYes, they have the right, but my point is, look, you call Coca-Cola Coca-Cola, Pepsi Pepsi, right?
NNAMDIYeah, but we call them both soft drinks.
NAGESHYeah, but traditionally we know that marriage is between...
NNAMDIWell, I guess what I'm saying is that marriage, unlike Coca-Cola, is not a brand. It is a general institution, so that soft drinks can have different brands and -- because they're all soft drinks. And marriage, I guess, can have different brands, one is heterosexual, another is same sex. But they are both marriage. What do you say?
NAGESHThat's what I don't like because that may confuse the people.
NNAMDIWell, I would like to hear other people's view on whether or not that will confuse anyone, 800-433-8850. We have heard Nagesh's view. We'd certainly be interested in hearing yours. We got an email from William who says, "I feel the new voter ID law in Virginia shows the desperation that Republicans feel in regards to their political future. It demonstrates a desire to limit the vote of minorities and it shows that Republican's have learned very little from the last election.
NNAMDIWilliam presumably making that point because the opponents of voter ID say there has been no significant indication of voter fraud, so this is a remedy for a problem that does not exist. And is intended to, I guess, have an adverse effect on minorities and elderly people who traditionally vote Democratic. I'd like to hear anybody else from either side of that issue. We got an email from Joe who said, "I love the idea of the D.C. truancy law but what tools are we giving these parents to help them enforce kids going to school? How about a special school just for these children? Travel to and from school could be subsidized by a parental fine.
NNAMDIWell, I think one of the ideas is that you don't necessarily want to separate kids who don't go to school a lot because if they have all similar problems then you'll be creating the sweat hogs again, if you remember the television show from long ago that featured a class with all students who had been doing badly in other classes. But you're entitled to your point of view. I'd like to hear from others about that. The email address is email@example.com. As we go back to the phones here now is Laura, in Severna Park, Md. Laura, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
LAURAHi, Kojo. Thank you for taking my call. I just wanted to make a comment on the issue -- some callers have raised the issue that children raised in a same sex parent situation don't have the same kind of growing up experience. They don't get the well-rounded, 1 through 18 age experience, and throughout my high school time I actually babysat for a number of same-sex couples parents' children. And the kids were fine -- like, the kids were very well behaved. They -- I could not tell any difference between those kids and other kids I babysat for different sex parents.
LAURABut I think it's more an issue of that you need two loving parents, like, and it doesn't matter if it's male-male, male-female, female-female, it's two parents. Like my own situation, where my father seems to be the disciplinary, can be different from other families where the mother is the more strict one. I think it just matters that you have two parents who have your best interest in mind. It doesn't matter the gender. That will not affect the development of the child.
NNAMDIYou're right about that, because in my family my mother was the disciplinarian. We used to beg for our father to be the disciplinarian because he would go much easier on us. My mother was the much more strict disciplinarian. Laura, thank you very much for your call. We do have to take a short break. If you have called stay on the line. It is Your Turn, so whether you want to talk about same-sex marriage, the D.C. Truancy Measure, Virginia's Voter ID Law, or Prince George's County public schools, you can still call. 800-433-8850, or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to Your Turn. You're setting the agenda here with your telephone calls, emails and tweets or visits to our website. We got a tweet that said that -- about deer, "Shooting is a better idea than the sterilization. Sterilization costs more and isn't permanent or safe for deer." And a tweet on PG School says "Prince George's County Public School have to change. How comes schools and ground level employees continue to tighten belts which the school administration gets fatter."
NNAMDIBack to the telephones now, we go to Donald in Silver Spring, Md. Donald, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DONALDHello, Kojo. This is - thank you for another timely program. A little background about me. I am a Prince George's County Public School teacher.
DONALDAnd I wanted to comment about this situation with Mr. Baker's proposal to take over the school district, and also related to that, Councilman Catania's proposed ordinance about student truancy in the District.
DONALDI think that it's been my experience, and I'm an educator of over 30 years, that especially recently there has been a great deal of onus placed upon teachers and administrators as though we are the only ones who are responsible for the success or failure of our students. In various locations teachers' salaries, or salary increases, are tied to the progress that...
NNAMDIYes. We've been seeing that around -- we've been seeing that in various locations around the country, and there are people such are yourself who believe that there is definitely too much emphasis being placed on the teachers. Others would argue that there has been evidence that regardless of the circumstances, teachers have been able to affect kids in a way that allows them to at the very least pass tests. But go ahead.
DONALDWell, the thing that I have noticed, especially during this current school year, is there -- the parents and the caregivers of the children in schools, in many cases are the missing part of the equation here, and I think there needs to be some sort of legislation or whatever would be appropriate to make parents and guardians have accountability...
NNAMDIMore accountable. So what do you think about councilmember Catania's proposal here in the District about that?
DONALDTo be perfectly honest, I don't know all the details about his proposed ordinance, but my inclination is that it heading towards the right direction. Just to give you an example...
NNAMDIWell, let me tell you exactly what it says. The proposed bill says all D.C. school, public, charter, and private, would have to notify police after a child is absent ten times without an excuse. Police would then notify parents that they could be subject to legal action. Older children could be referred to court social services after 15 unexcused absences, rather than the current 25. What do you say to that?
DONALDI think that very well could be a very effective way for parents to come to the understanding that they need to be actively involved in the education of their children. I think it would also be very effective, at least with a number of the students that I teach, that when students who are not necessarily truant, but are continual sources of disruption within the classroom need to have...
NNAMDIAnd you can't track their parents down, right?
DONALDThat's exactly right. I've had a number of students where I have been given a list of two or three phone numbers. I call each one of those phone numbers, they're either disconnected, out of service, or go to someone who has no knowledge of this particular child.
NNAMDIAnd you feel as if it's left to you to track those parents down, and in the bill suggested by Councilmember Catania, that would put it under the supervision of court services, which presumably has the time, but the Gray administration here has argued that the Child and Family Services Agency was not equipped to handle the volume and nature of those cases. So I guess they are going to be referred to court social services, which hopefully has the number of resources to be able to allow it to do that. So Donald, you think that's headed in the right direction?
DONALDI think so, and I think perhaps there also needs to be another component regarding students who are continually disruptive in the classroom, and make it difficult for instruction to be delivered, not only...
NNAMDIBelieve you me, if I know anything about Councilmember David Catania, he's a very detail oriented individual, oh I am pretty sure that that issue also will come under his scrutiny, but Donald I say that because I do have to move on. Thank you very much for your call, and good luck to you in your ongoing teaching profession. I'm going to move onto Benjamin in Washington D.C. Benjamin you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
BENJAMINThank you. Thanks for taking my call. So basically, I was going to piggyback on the gentleman's comment about same sex marriage, and the idea of calling it marriage. And I guess my point, and I'm still somewhat divided on the conversation is that it seems like the people who are -- I say pro DOMA, Defense of Marriage Act, they don't want the term -- they don't want individuals who are same sex unionized -- let's say unionized to be called married because traditionally the term marriage was by man and woman.
BENJAMINAnd so you're asking people who traditionally use that term to redefine their own term. I guess they don't really care so much about -- and I guess speaking in general, but -- or for myself rather, I don't really see the difference between -- or I don't really have a problem with them being married, but I have a problem with it being called marriage. It's almost like when you graduate high school you've completed the necessary courses to obtain a certificate of higher learning -- from an institution of higher learning. They call it a diploma. If you obtain a certificate outside of that institution, they call it a GED. So it's almost, I don't know, I'm still debating in my own head.
NNAMDIWell, allow me to provide a response, Benjamin. I'm going to put you on hold so you can hear how Natalie in Reston, Va. feels about this. Natalie, you are now on the air. Go ahead, please.
NATALIEHi, Kojo. Thank for taking my call. This semantics argument that keeps happening, makes me insane. A marriage is a marriage and in the eyes of the federal government is what we're talking about here, right? Nobody's talking about your church. So I'm married to my husband, right?
NATALIEAnd we were married in the church, and we also signed government documents.
NATALIESo in the eyes of the government, a marriage is a marriage is marriage the end. And no citizen should be denied a marriage in the eyes of the government. I just find it crazy this idea that we would need a separate term for something that's the same type of union.
NNAMDIWell, I can imagine how you will respond to this email we got from Erin in Alexandria, Va. Well, I can't so let me just read it and you respond, Natalie.
NNAMDIErin writes, "It seemed the earlier caller was caught up in the language surrounding particularly the word marriage. May I suggest we use the word matrimony to refer to marriages that take place in the church between heterosexual couples."
NATALIEIs that the end of the email?
NNAMDIYes. Yes, ma'am.
NATALIEOkay. Well, you know, I think that religious institutions can call their unions whatever they want to call them, and that the government needs to make a decision about whether we're all going to have marriages or whether we're all going to have civil unions, because the -- having a separate phrase for a different couple is not the same thing. It makes them second-class citizens. And I, you know, you can say that it's just a name, but it's not. It's not just a name, right? If it was just a name, would we even be having this discussion?
NNAMDIWell, I'll read one more email to you, Natalie, from Alex in D.C. who says, "Did the earlier caller just compare gay marriage to Coca Cola? His religion...
NNAMDI"His religion is for him and should not impact my rights as a citizen. Marriage at his church is different from marriage at my church. Church and state as we know should not mix." I guess we get a here here from you on that, Natalie.
NATALIETotally a here here.
NATALIESeparation of church and state, please, and, you know, if we all need to have government civil unions for people to be happy, I'm totally find with that.
NATALIEIf we're all going to be in civil unions, but I really don't think that's what the issue is. I think that the semantics argument is an excuse for bigotry, personally.
NNAMDINatalie, thank you very much for your call. We move onto Suzanne in Fredericksburg, Va. Suzanne, your turn.
SUZANNEHi, Kojo. Thanks for taking my call. My question relates to the truancy issue.
SUZANNEAnd I have a bigger question, and I hope someone out there can answer I for me. Who is the person, or who is the organization who decided that 15 unexcused absences from school is still okay? And the reason I say that is because by the time a teenager gets away with cutting school 15 times, that person is already so far off their growth trajectory, that they're untouchable at that point, and the reason I'm saying this is because I raised a teenager who was a very, very difficult, challenging teenager.
SUZANNEShe was prosecuted when she was 19, and the reason she was prosecuted because her boss found out that she committed a crime, and all he did was fire her. Her father found out that she committed a crime. He turned a blind eye. When I found out she committed the crime, I called the police and I said, I know who did this, and this is where she lives, and she's my daughter. It was the hardest thing I ever did, but I knew that unless she hit her bottom as soon as possible, she had no hope of crawling out, and she didn't talk to me for a year.
SUZANNEShe lived a mile down the street, had nothing to do with me, but that was 10 years ago. She just got married, she built her life up, she got her GED, she's halfway through college. She and her husband are starting a business. And I'm not saying that this a happy ending for everybody involved, but if you don't step in as soon as you see a problem, then the longer that you delay addressing the problem, the bigger the problem is going to get.
NNAMDIThank you for sharing that very personal story with us, Suzanne. According to today's Washington Post, currently children aged 5 to 13 are referred to the city's Child and Family Services Agency after 10 unexcused absences. Children age 14 to 17 are not referred to court services until they reach 25 absences. That is currently the amended bill calls for all the children to be referred to court social services after 15 unexcused absences. So even though, as you point out, Suzanne, 15 is a pretty high number to start at, they were really starting at 25 before that.
SUZANNEI still think 15 is too much. I think 10 is too much. I think five is too much.
NNAMDIOkay. Well, thank you very much for your call, and I am pretty sure that there are others who feel exactly the same way. Here we go now to Moon Dancer in Forest Glen, Md. You're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MOON DANCERHi Kojo. I understand there are some states that have civil unions that are told to have all the benefits of marriage except for the name. And if that's the case, is anybody thinking that that should be something the IRS should include in their definition of a marriage.
NNAMDII'm not sure I understand you. If the IRS says that you are entitled to the same benefits in a civil union, that is you can file as a couple -- couple with children, why not call it a marriage?
DANCERBecause that state they don't -- they couldn't get that through, but they could get a civil union, and some states, I believe...
NNAMDIOh, I see what you're saying, that they should be entitled to the same federal benefits.
DANCERYeah. If the civil union in that state says that they're entitled to everything that a married person can do, then the federal government should too.
NNAMDIOh, I see what you're saying, and that's one of the things that the Supreme Court will ultimately have to decide or decided not to decide.
DANCERHas anybody mentioned anything like this?
NNAMDII am sure they have, but I was not a party to listening to all of the arguments that were made in all of the cases, so if somebody did mention that, I may have missed it. And given the limited time we have left in this broadcast I doubt whether there is anyone who can inform us about that, but Moon Dancer, thank you very much for raising the issue. And we go finally to Gary in Washington D.C. Gary, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
GARY...Kojo. I have a quick question regarding the deer kill, and the question us will there any use made of the meat, or will it go to waste? I'll take my answer off the air, and thank you.
NNAMDII suspect there will be use made of the meat, because this has been long in the planning, and there have been people who have the question about what is going to be done with the meat because they desire to have the ability to make use of it. So I suspect that that is an issue that has been dealt with, but Gary, I cannot say for sure, but that you very much for your call, and thanks to all of you who participated in this edition of Your Turn. We'll be back with you again soon.
NNAMDIWe'll tell you when we're coming back and when it is your turn again. "The Kojo Nnamdi Show" is produced by Michael Martinez, Ingalisa Schrobsdorff, Tayla Burney, Kathy Goldgeier, Elizabeth Weinstein, and Stephannie Stokes with help from Camellia Assefi. Brendan Sweeney is the managing producer. The engineer is Tobey Schreiner. Natalie Yuravlivker is on the phones. Podcasts of all shows, audio archives, CDs and free transcripts are available at our website, kojoshow.org.
NNAMDITo share questions or comments with us, email email@example.com, join us on Facebook, or send a tweet to @kojoshow. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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