My report on the recent march for Charter Schools in NYC and NBC’s Education Nation.

Across the Brooklyn Bridge. Photo by Bianca Clendenin.

Across the Brooklyn Bridge. Photo by Bianca Clendenin.

“My school, my choice” was one of the many chants sung out by students…teachers… and their families who are fighting for equality in their education.

Tuesday morning on October 8th students, teachers, parents, and many supporters came out to Brooklyn to support Charter Schools in New York City.

In attempt to have there voices heard…according to NY1 over 17,000 supports walked across the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall on Tuesday.

With the upcoming election in November one of the main topics bought up by democratic candidate for Mayor…Bill de Blasio are Charter Schools and their use of space in public school buildings.

De Blasio believes that charter schools should pay for rent.

His stance on Charter Schools:  “There are charters that are much, much better endowed in terms of resources than the public sector ever hoped to be. It is insult to injury to give them free rent. They should have to pay rent. They have the money.”

His opponent, Republican Joe Lhota disagrees and was at the march on Tuesday to show support.

Supporters of Charter Schools were singing a different tune. To many, Charter Schools are Public Schools and deserve to continue existing in their spaces without being charged rent.

In New York City alone there are 183 charter schools in existence.

Current Mayor…Michael Bloomberg has been an avid supporter of the Charter School system since he took office in 2002. For this he has been seen as progressive.

New York City has been the hub for charter school success stories… For example, KIPP (which stands for Knowledge is Power Program), which I’m an alumnus of their 1st school…Opened in 1995 in the Bronx. The program has branched out both nationally and locally, with multiple schools within the 5 boroughs as well as an elementary and high school.

If De Blasio wins in November, this could lead to many of these Charter Schools closing because they don’t have the funds to afford to pay their rent. It can also mean that the dozens of Charter Schools that planed on opening up in the next few months may have to be put on hold.

Education has been a hot topic in New York in the last few days. Just finishing up their two-day summit, NBC’s 4th annual Education Nation just took place during the 6th through 8th.  Having all kinds of panels filled with educators and supporters…discussed methods on how to better education and to have this dialogue on a national scale.

One of the more popular discussions that I was grateful to be apart of was the Student Town Hall from this past Sunday. Moderated by MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry this event gave a telecast platform for students of ages ranging from 11 to 25 to come and speak out about issues in regards to education that matter to them.

Personally it inspired me to want to do more. As a recent college graduate and aspiring journalist, I realized being active in some sort of policy or advocacy work is a great way to give back to your community. Without my support from my charter school I wouldn’t be who I am today. This is why I hope to blend my growing interest in advocacy and journalism to get back to my roots and give a voice to folks who need to be heard. We can all agree that education is vital to a thriving society and we need to all work together to provide a better future for our children.

Sound off: Do you agree that Charter Schools shouldn’t have to pay rent or do you agree they need to pay up? Remember be respectful in the comments sections. Thanks, B.

To seed out all the terrible jokes on Facebook and Instagram about folks who won’t be able to receive their welfare checks or people who just don’t know about the current situation so they leave obnoxious comments, may leave some of you confused about what’s going on in Washington right now.

I’m sorry one Parks and Recreation screenshot was needed! In their fictional town, the government was shut down for 3 months.

If you’re a little confused about this government shutdown, that’s fine! There’s more to this current situation than you see from your social media circle.

Here is a short breakdown of everything you need to know about this government shutdown:

On October 1st at midnight the House and the Senate couldn’t come to an agreement on bill that would fund the federal government. This comes right after the Republican dominated House had recently just voted against the current Affordable Health Care Act, with a 231-192 vote along party lines. This bill was supposed to allow the health care act to be delayed another year. However this bill died in the Senate.

On Monday President Obama came out and said that “no matter what Congress decides to do today. The Affordable Care Act is moving forward. That funding is already in place. You can’t shut it down.”

The problem is Congress basically can’t play nice. The reason why we’re getting our first government shutdown in 17 years is because Congress can’t agree on how to fund our government.  The lack of compromise is daunting, but not surprising.

This isn’t all about the Affordable Health Care Act, Congress needs to agree on 12 different bills to pass that would fund different parts of the federal government. So far they’ve had more stopgag budgets than bills passed. A stopgag is basically putting the bill on hold and dealing with it later. As you can tell this hasn’t been the best method.

So you’re question is, what’s actually being shutdown? The answer would be, let’s talk about what’s staying open.

The Military, air traffic control, emergency medical care, border patrol, federal prisons, most law enforcement, emergency and disaster assistance, overseeing the banking system, operating the power grid, and guarding federal property are some of the many “essential to the protection of life and property of the nation” that will still be open.

Financial benefits like Social Security and veteran benefits will still be put into effect. While unemployment and food stamps will still continue for the time being. However depending on how long the government shutdown lasts, these benefits could soon stop.

The postal service and the federal reserve will still be operating, as well as all agencies of independent U.S funding.

Now you’re thinking, ok so what’s actually being shutdown then?

The list is fairly long. Here are some of the agencies that will be included in the shutdown:

All of the national parks and museums will be closed, including the Statue of Liberty in New York and the Yosemite National Park in California.

Women, Infants and Children program, also known as WIC will be cut off, which allows pregnant and new mothers to buy food for their children. A service that reaches almost 9 million Americans, it is estimated that most States have enough funds to keep the program afloat with federal government assistance until the end of the month.

The Justice Department will suspend many civil cases for as long as the government is shut down. However the FBI and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) will stay open.

Here’s a complete list of all the government agencies that are closed and open:


Now that you have an idea of what this shutdown means, who does this effect?

Well currently about 800,000 federal workers will be send home because of this shutdown. This leaves about “1.3 million “essential ” federal workers, 1.4 million active-duty military members, 500,000 Postal Service workers, and other employees in independently-funded agencies who will continue working”, according to the Washington Post.

For a breakdown of the different agencies what impacts this shutdown will bring. Check out this detailed list by the Washington Post.

What about all the” non-essential” workers? Will they get paid?

This is still unclear. This really all depends on Congress.

How will this effect our economy?

Well considering stocks went up yesterday, you would think our economy isn’t doing too bad even while our government is crumbling.

It’s reported that the local economy for D.C is expected to lose almost $200 million everyday the shutdown occurs.

Going by my research, it’s all still pretty unclear what exactly will happen. It all depends on many factors, ones we may not know for a few days or maybe even in a few weeks. The best we can hope for is for Congress to finally come together to create a way to basically fund the government and then get back to work.

Now that you have a little bit more information on the government shutdown, please go out and read more! My little write up on scratches the surface.

Most of my important came from this super helpful Washington Post Breakdown. For more details check it out here:

Ok one more joke and a reference to another show to be obsessed over with. Seriously go watch House of Cards!

A lot of words are being thrown your way about the situation going on in Syria at the moment. You will hear terms like World War III, chemical air strike, air strike, civil war, etc etc.

Here is a short break down of what’s going on and the different point of views that are out there about Syria.

Last night, President Obama gave another speech about the situation in Syria; he still believes we need military action to intervene. He continues to try to ease the minds of many Americans who are still unsure of military action,”I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria,” he said. “I will not pursue an open-ended action like Iraq or Afghanistan…This would be a targeted strike to achieve a clear objective: deterring the use of chemical weapons and degrading Assad’s capabilities.”

A Link to transcript

On August 31st, President Obama first came out and said that he believes we should go into Syria, but he decided to leave the decision up to Congress. A bold move that both people on the right and left are surprised about. Some say its sign of weakness from our President. Others believe it was a way to give him more time to figured out the best course of action.

His speech came after a deadly attack a week before in Syria where almost 1,400 people were killed, mostly of women and children. Millions have been displaced since the start of this war.

Link to video of bombing (Warning: Graphic Video):

Some people believe the president seemed very passionate about our need to intervene, calling this an humanitarian effort.

Others believe he is too busy playing on the emotions of American citizens by constantly bringing up how many children have lost their lives. And that this is distracting from the fact that our country can’t afford to end up in another war.

However after last night’s speech, the President has decided to prolonged Congress decision on whether we should attack Syria.

The History

To fully understand what is going on Syria, you need a backstory. The country has been at war with itself for almost two years now. As of August 2013, more than 100,000 Syrians have been killed, according to the United Nations.

President Bashar al-Assad of Syria has been in power since July 2000. He was reelected as President in 2007 winning 97% of the vote.

Before him, his father Hafez al-Assad, ruled Syria from 1970-2000.

In the March of 2011 there was a political and violent uprising, after a group of children and teens were arrested for writing political graffiti. Dozens of people were killed after government forces cracked down on demonstrations. These demonstrations sparked multiple protests in the country, which lead to the government trying to appease their highly upset citizens. They announced salary increases for their state employees to lifting Syria’s long standing emergency law and the licensing of new political parties, anything that would make the protests and demonstrations to stop.

From there, the next two years consist of more deadly unrest from the people, failed attempts of al-Assad trying to bridge back the government and it’s people, other organizations like the European Union and countries like Turkey to place sanctions against Syria due to “the continuing brutal campaign” by the government against its own people, and the U.N Security Council trying to send military observers for 90-day mission, but failed after three days due to the increasing violence in the country.

Back in April of this year, U.S Secretary of Defense Chunk Hagel announced that the U.S had allegedly found evidence of a chemical weapon called sarin has been used in Syria on a small scale. Sarin is clear, odorless, and tasteless liquid that once is evaporated into a gas can spread out the environment. Not immediately deadly, but long lasting contact of the chemical can lead to death. For more facts on Sarin, read more here. It wasn’t until the alleged that surfaced August 21st of chemical warfare that backed up Hagel statements.

U.S Secretary of State John Kerry declared that U.S. intelligence information has found that 1,429 people were killed in August 21st chemical weapons attack in Syria, including at least 426 children. According to CNN, Kerry announces that samples of blood and hair taken from eastern Damascus have “tested positive for signatures of sarin”. He backs President Obama and agrees that military strike should be our course of action.

For a more detailed timeline of the Civil War in Syria, check out this “Fast Facts” sheet created by CNN:

Russia and Other International Responses

Recently Russian has proposed for Syria to surrender their chemical weapons, “to thwart U.S. aggression,” to be put under “international control”.

Syria’s most powerful ally, Russia has essentially agreed to take control of their chemical weapons, a move the French aren’t too happy with. The French have proposed a solution to the U.N Security Council that would force Syria to give up their chemical stockpile, but not to the Russians.

During President Obama’s speech Tuesday night he mentions this new agreement, “It’s too early to tell whether this offer will succeed,” Mr. Obama said, “and any agreement must verify that the Assad regime keeps its commitments.”

On August 29th, The U.K Parliament voted against any military action in Syria. With this new proposal on the table,  British Prime Minister David Cameron had agreed that his country would join forces with President François Hollande of France and the U.S. in putting forward the proposal.

This proposal could lead to the end of the possibility of U.S attack on Syria.

Where Most of America Stands

In a recent poll done by the Associated Press, only 1 in 5 Americas believe that if we failed to respond to the chemical weapon attacks in Syria will lead to an all out War amongst other rogue governments.

An excerpt from Associated Press on September 10, 2013:

The poll of 1,007 adults nationwide found that most Americans oppose even a limited attack on Syria – likely with cruise missiles – despite Obama administration warnings that inaction would risk national security and ignore a gruesome humanitarian crisis. And a slim majority – 53 percent – fear that a strike would lead to a long-term U.S. military commitment in Syria.

Link to article:

Most Americans do not agree with the President, many are also pretty undecided about the entire situation. We see the same division amongst party lines as well.

AP’s poll shows that only 53% of Democrats, 59 percent of Independents, and 73 percent of Republicans believes congress should against the strike in Syria. Only a quarter of democrats believe that an attack will cease any other world leaders from engaging in chemical warfare.

Where Congress Stands

Allowing Congress to decide whether we should take military action was a political move by the President. The jury is still out if this was a good decision or not. Congress is just as divided on Syria as the American people are.

According to The Washington Post,  Congress is pretty much divided on the issue:

Where the House stands on Syria:

119 – Against

119 – Leaning no

169 – Undecided

26 – For strikes

Where the Senate stands on Syria:

18 – Against

10 – Leaning no

49 – Undecided

23 – For strikes

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So What Should We Do?

Above is just an outline of some of the major points about the situation in Syria.

What I suggest? To research for yourself what’s going on. I’m not here to point you in the direction of what we should or shouldn’t do.

All the light night talk show hosts, political talking heads both the left and right, and our government officials will tell you what they think. Take the time out and decide for yourself what you believe and then come to your own conclusions.

Even if your conclusions are still undecided.