I spent about 2.5 hours watching the Planned Parenthood hearing. Its purpose was to examine the use of federal funding in their national office and affiliates. I will refrain from sharing my stance on this issue because it is irrelevant to the purpose of this post. Instead I will focus on what happened during the hearing. My disappointment is equally distributed amongst everyone involved and my intent is bring light to why this hearing was in my opinion ineffective.
Behavior of the Members of Congress– It is unknown to me why the congressmen and congresswomen were allowed to speak to Ms. Richards, CEO of Planned Parenthood, the way they did. They ranted at her and often times did not allow her adequate time to answer their questions. They fired facts at her that she had no chance to dispute or confirm. They asked questions in “yes or no” form that often required a more detailed response yet they did not allow for such a reply. Overall, I found their aggressive nature to be ill-mannered and disturbing. It seems like our elected officials should engage with a witness in a way that shows respect and does not badger or intimidate them out of answering a question effectively. I will not make the argument that she was treated this way because she was a woman as some members of congress did. I will however, express my extreme disappointment that any person who is there to testify to congress could be treated with such a lack of respect. I was genuinely taken aback by their often harsh tones and their lack of basic manners. I expect more from our elected officials.
CEO: Ms. Richards- I am certain that Ms. Richards and her team are highly intelligent people. However, I was deeply disappointed in many of her answers to the questions she was asked. She often replied with “I can’t confirm”, “ I am not sure”, or “I do not have that information in front of me”. This is unacceptable. An organization who is so often critiqued and questioned should be diligent and thorough in their preparation for a hearing like this one. They should have fully prepared for any form of question and prepared Ms. Richards to respond to the rapidly fired inquiries concisely and quickly to convey her point clearly. She is the sole person representing the organization in front of many members of congress and it is of the utmost importance to planned parenthood supporters and patients that she be well equipped to defend the organization. Nonprofit CEO’s should be well-informed about every nook and cranny of their organization to be able to defend any penny spent or raised and activities conducted in the organizations name. This may be a slightly unrealistic request but often times the people demand this type of knowledge and when a hearing is called to examine what you have, how you spend it and what you do, it seems like something you would want to know.
Lack of Objectivity-A congressional hearing does not seem like the pLace to divulge personal information about previous health care experiences with Planned Parenthood or how much you value your daughters and mothers. Nor should it be the place where you advocate for your anti-abortion agenda. This hearing is not for the members of congress to express their own opinions of this organization in the mere 5 minutes they have to speak and ask questions. The purpose of this hearing is to address facts regarding the funding they receive from the federal government. I find it unprofessional and inappropriate to bring personal experiences and private emotions into a conversation that should be operating on a facts only. If Planned Parenthood is or has broken the law then they should be dealt with accordingly. If they have not, then they should continue on. This hearing was far too emotional for a government setting.
I admit that I am no expert on congressional hearings or the intricacies of federal funding. But as an American, I was disappointed in how we treated a voluntary witness. As a former nonprofit employee, I was bothered by her seemingly unpreparedness on key issues. And as a person, I resented the lack of objectivity they showed in their choice of statements and questions.
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Recently, President Obama announced that he will be pushing forward with a new way to impact the criminal justice system. America is no stranger to incarceration as we have the highest incarceration rate in the world. Georgia has the fifth highest prison population in the nation. Unfortunately, we do not have many strong, effective systems in place to reintroduce these offenders back into society. A pilot program that would give some prisoners’ access to federal Pell Grants has been suggested. Prisoners previously had access to these grants but in 1994 congress banned this practice. Pell grants are limited to low-income students and do not require repayment. A student can get up to almost $6,000 to help finance their education. In addition to the grant, the administration is working with colleges to get classes set up for the inmates.
Some may argue that federal funding should not be allocated towards those who have broken the law. While I understand the hesitation, the statistics on repeat offenders do not lie. An estimated 68% of over 400,000 prisoners were arrested for a new crime within three years of release from prison and even more were arrested within five years according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. According to the Georgia Center for Opportunity, 20,000 prisoners are released back into the Georgia community every year which leads to 2 out of 3 of those being rearrested within three years. Recidivism, relapsing into criminal behavior, is highest among inmates 24 or younger. The likelihood that these young people have had a quality education is slim. Some statistics state that more than 60% of inmates can barely read and write. Education has a direct impact on a persons’ risk of becoming a criminal and it plays a large role in whether or not a prisoner can survive in the real world after their release. Having a stable family, being able to find a job, education level, and his or her mental health after leaving prison all affect a prisoners’ success after incarceration. Not being able to survive outside of prison leaves many former inmates with few options. This leads to repeat offending, homelessness, mental illness, violence in the home and other economic issues.
Studies have shown that inmates who participate in prison education programs are less likely to return to prison, 43% less likely to be exact. Offering grants to inmates could be a great start to transforming our criminal justice system. We cannot expect people to actually change after incarceration with little to no help. Prisoners return to a world with little to no structure, an education that pales in comparison to their non criminal peers, families that have continued life without them and a job market that wants nothing to do with them. Offering them a substantial grant that could elevate their education level and give them a new life after incarceration could transform our entire society economically and socially. Education serves as not only a tool to lift oneself out of an unfortunate circumstance, access new opportunities, but also as a confidence builder. It has the ability to shape the mind, alter perspectives and propel individuals forward. Giving prisoners the opportunity to learn gives them a real second chance at life. We do prisoners and our overall society a disservice when we fail to give individuals the help they need to be constructive members of society. The purpose of incarceration should be to punish and reform. It seems as though we are only succeeding at half of the job.
Tweet me your thoughts – @Lbriana12
As school gets ready to break for the summer, I cannot help but revisit the debate surrounding standardized testing. Arguments for testing are looking for “fair” ways to test which teachers are really performing well and what schools deserve a reward for their performance. Arguments against are centered around the idea that our kids are learning a test and not actual general knowledge. From someone who does NOT work in the school system: it all seems like a big mess.
But after loosely following the APS cheating trial last month I started to look a little deeper into this whole standardized testing stuff. I have a few questions:
What is it like to teach?
“About half of all teachers leave the profession within five years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.”Atlanta Journal-Constitution (2009)
It seems as though it’s very difficult for teachers to really enjoy their job when their entire career is riding on their student’s performance on one test. While I understand that measurements have to be taken in some way and that evaluations are necessary, it seems like these tests are the source of much anxiety; which leads to what people often refer to as “teaching to the test”. I don’t think most teachers started out in education for that. Is this one of the reasons teachers are transitioning out of education? Are we holding teachers accountable for things they cannot control?
What’s it like to learn?
I’ve listened to the gossip amongst third graders and the talk of the playground in April is TESTING. They all just want to pass this test.. So now we have teachers AND students stressing over these exams. I wonder how much information these kids are retaining from year to year? We have all studied for an exam and a week later knew nothing about that subject. Is that happening to our youngest minds? Are they learning or memorizing? Are they placing their self esteem in these tests rather than their overall performance as a person and a student? This story from 11Alive about a student impacted by the APS cheating scandal was heartbreaking: Here. Max Blau wrote about a study conducted by Georgia State University about the impact of the scandal. The study found that 97 percent of the APS students affected by cheating were black. What message is that sending to our most vulnerable students?
What’s it like to lead?
When you walk into some schools around Atlanta – their previous school wide test scores are posted on huge signs. New comers to the area ask about the scores to decide where to send their kids. Funding depends on the scores. Your staff needs these scores. You as a principal NEED high scores. How as a leader do you create a healthy work environment that centers around honesty and a genuine love for education when it all comes down to a test at the end of the year? It seems really challenging especially for our inner city schools who have other sets of issues (safety, quality books, decent facilities). How does a principal keep staff happy and students educated when the threat of losing funding is ever present?
The education system is a business set out to empower, educate and inspire youth. Our job as teachers, parents and community members is to work to create environments where all children and school staff can thrive and prosper at school, grow as people and discover a love of learning. Is standardized testing killing that?
Tweet me your thoughts @Lbriana12
I am thrilled that the bike sharing movement has made its way to Atlanta. Being that the south is at best, a sore spot for overall health, I think this movement is an excellent step in a healthier direction. Through this initiative over five hundred bikes will be distributed around the city for shared. I have a few questions though.
- Who is paying for this?
This type of program is costly for sure and naturally my first question is… Where is this money coming from? Initially this program was sponsored by the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation and the City of Decatur. In Order for these bikes to hang around, additional sponsorship will be needed which I am sure will not be hard to find. Health conscious foundations and companies would be smart to back this program and it helps to keep costs down for consumers. Not to mention, healthier employees make for a better work place! So far so good.
- Is Atlanta a bike friendly city?
I personally do not remember the last time I rode a bike. Nor do I recall seeing a lot of bike lanes in this wonderful city of ours. So while I love the idea of saturating the city with bikes… Where will these go-getters ride?? The good thing is someone else thought this too. Atlantans recently voted to add 12 bike lanes to some major streets that would help create more routes for bikers. This would make cycling safer and people more willing to use them. It would create more opportunities for bikers to get from point a to point b safe and sound. Good job Atlantans.
- Do enough people live within biking distance of work/play to utilize this resource?
According to the Bike Share Feasibility Study, in the beginning stages the bikes would be available to about 15% of the Atlanta/ Decatur area. In the specific areas that it would cover, about half of the individuals who live there live within biking distance of their jobs. I’m no expert but this seems like a pretty decent start. I would love to see the culture of our city adjust to a lifestyle that would allow for a quick bike commute to become the norm. Not just because traffic here is horrific but also for the health benefits. It’s a win win.
- Are helmets provided?
No. They aren’t. Georgia law does not require individuals over 16 to to wear a helmet. So while people wouldn’t be breaking the law it definitely raises some concerns for me. Helmets keep you from smashing your head against the pavement so despite the fact that they are dubbed “uncool” they are kind of important. Especially if you are biking on a main road. I would hate to see an increase in head injuries because of this but I don’t expect many people to wear helmets if it’s not the law. Perhaps that’s another issue for another post though.
Overall, I think this is a win for Atlanta and a win for health. The potential environmental and traffic benefits were probably enough to convince us all that this is a step in the right direction. It appears that the technology accompanying this movement will make this addition an easy, fun and convenient one. It is very much in the early stages but I am definitely looking forward to sharing bikes with you all! More information is available here.
Tweet me your thoughts– @Lbriana12
Hello everyone! I am Lindsay! (with an ‘A’ not an ‘E’) but I will also answer to Linds. Before I get started blogging about new bills, my political heroes & news worthy updates, I would like to introduce myself! I am a Georgia College & State University public health graduate. I have lived all over the South but consider Georgia home. I am super passionate about education, women’s rights and health issues. I live and breathe everything non-profit and have had the pleasure of working for a few thus far. I believe everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I am open to hearing all sides of an argument. I love to read. I could watch Ted Talks all day and I am always up for a good debate. The world is ever changing and I am just trying to keep up. I look forward to sharing my thoughts on our incredible country and state & hearing yours as well!
Stalk me on twitter: @Lbriana12