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Southern Echo is a leadership development, education and training organization working to develop effective accountable grassroots leadership in the African-American communities in rural Mississippi and the surrounding region through comprehensive training and technical assistance programs. Our work has carried Southern Echo staff into 12 additional states across the south and southwest.

Southern Echo's underlying goal is to empower local communities through effective community organizing work, in order to create a process through which community people can build the broad-based organizations necessary to hold the political, economic, educational, and environmental systems accountable to the needs and interests of the African-American community.

“02/14/2012″ - Ayers Lecture Series – Leroy Johnson continues the MVSU Ayers Distinguished Lecture Series with a lecture on “Public Education Budgets as Public Education Policy.” The lecture will be held at the Supervisors’ Building, 115 Court Street, Historic Courthouse Square, Lexington, MS 39095). All lectures begin at 6:00pm.

“08/01/2010″ to “09/30/2010″ - Redistricting Public Hearings – Legislative Reapportionment Committee will hold public hearings to elicit public input concerning adoption of guidelines to redistrict the Congressional, Legislative and Judicial offices in 2011.

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News Archive

Welcome to Southern Echo. Here we invite you to learn who we are, what we do, and why we do it. We work hard to provide our visitors with the information, data and challenging analyses that bring to life the key public policy issues facing our communities. Learn about the communities and organizations with whom we partner to achieve our goals, stay up-to-date with our work, and find out how you can get involved or support our work whether you live in the Delta or on the other side of the world. Our continued success not only strengthens our own communities, but the larger world community in which we all live.

Let us know how we can improve the site and what additions you might like to see. Visit often, check out the photos and videos from our events, and keep up with the news below. We're looking forward to working with you. As always, we are proud to work for you.

NM Walkouts: Young People of Color Fight Corporate Testing Webinar

March 19th, 2015

SxS REGISTER HERE to join Albuquerque youth organizers Janelle Astorga Ramos (SouthWest Organizing Project) and Maya Quiñones for a conversation about the recent student walk-outs in New Mexico to protest the implementation of the PARCC standardized test in public schools there, and prospects for the work moving forward. The conversation will place the anti-test movement in the context of broader themes of public education such as push-out and the criminalization of youth. Our host will be youth and education organizer Kameisha Smith (Southern Echo) of Holmes County, Mississippi.

This webinar will be accompanied by a Twitter Chat. Our hashtag is #OurEducation.

You can join the webinar from a computer with webcam and microphone or by phone. You will be sent information on how to join the webinar once we receive your registration information. Looking forward to seeing you March 24!

“Explaining Disparity in Student Performance” in Mississippi - A Special Report by Southern Echo

March 18th, 2015

Explaining Disparity On Thursday, February 19, 2015, Southern Echo and the MS Delta Catalyst Roundtable released a new report “Explaining Student Disparity in Student Performance: Race, Class, Critical Teacher Shortage, Student Performance and School District Ranking in Mississippi School Districts” followed by a Twitter Town Hall discussion from 3:30pm to 5:00pm CST. We are providing you with an advanced copy of the report in hopes that you will help support its release.

The report documents that:

· Educational Opportunity in Mississippi is skewed and distorted by race, class, critical teacher shortages and the failure of the state to adopt effective policies to remedy the impact of past discrimination based on race and class.
· The driving forces underlying school district and student performance are low wealth in the community and student poverty.
· Student under-performance is concentrated in school districts with the highest levels of student poverty and the highest concentration of critical teacher shortages.
· The concentration of student under-performance, student poverty, community poverty, and critical teacher shortages is in majority black school districts.

The charts, graphs, and tables in this report also reveal the direct correlation among school district grade rankings by the Mississippi Department of Education, failing schools, critical teacher shortages, student poverty and majority black school districts.

In short, the factors of school district and student performance, poverty, critical teacher shortages and race are integrally entwined and interdependent in the present context.

At the same time, in the highest wealth districts with the fewest students in poverty, there are no reported critical teacher shortages, there are no reported failing schools or school districts and student proficiency levels in math and reading are the highest in the state.

The charts and tables in the report also show the correlation among these factors and the quality of housing, family income, and level of adult educational attainment.

Southern Echo Releases a New Map Showing MAEP underfunding FY 2015, 6-year underfunding FY 2010-2015; 2014-15 District Grades WITHOUT WAIVER

November 6th, 2014

MAEP UNDERFUNDING MAP November 6, 2014, Jackson, MS – Today, Southern Echo released a new MAP which illustrates:

A. the cumulative millions of dollars each district has lost due to systematic underfunding of the MS Adequate Education Program (MAEP) by the legislature in the appropriation budgets of the past 6 fiscal years (FY 2010 through FY 2015); and

B. the extent of such losses in each district imposed by the legislature in the budget for FY 2015 (2014-2015 school year), specifically.

C. the accountability grade rank WITHOUT WAIVER that each local school district received from the MS Dept. of Education for the 2014-2015 school year.

The State Board of Education has changed the accountability standards for district and school grade ranks. This year is the first year of the application of the new standards. FOR THIS YEAR ONLY the MS Dept. of Education has issued two (2) grade ranks to each school district.

GRADE RANK WITHOUT WAIVER: The Grade Rank Without Waiver shows the actual grade rank for the district based on the application of the new standards. This grade is known as the grade rank without waiver.

GRADE RANK WITH WAIVER: The Grade Rank With Waiver provides a waiver of the application of the new standards to those districts that suffered a reduction in grade rank as the result of the application of the new standards. The districts that suffered a reduction in grade rank have been given an alternative grade rank that is the same grade rank the district received in the prior school year before the standards had been changed.

We have chosen in the map to use the grade rank WITHOUT WAIVER to illustrate the impact of the new accountability standards adopted by the State Board of Education.

Some state leaders talk about wanting to operate public education like a business. But we have to question their notion of an effective business plan. It is never a good business plan to operate with far less money than is needed to get the job done effectively.

Yet year in and year out the legislature has been providing far less money than is needed to get the job done effectively. The proof in the pudding is that Mississippi continues to rank very high nationally in accountability standards, but at the bottom in funding, implementation and performance. As a business plan it is wrong-headed to continue to do every year what we know is undercutting the capacity of the school districts to get the job done effectively.

If you find any errors or lack of clarity in the map, please let me know so that we can make appropriate corrections.

Black Groups Fight Against the Myth of Racial Entitlements

November 3rd, 2014

While Congress Works to the Restore the Power of the Voting Rights Act, Local Community Groups Are not Waiting to Act – And They Never Have

There was a collective gasp inside the Supreme Court, when Justice Anthony Scalia endeavored to explain why he believed multiple sessions of Congress overwhelmingly voted to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Just moments later, the Supreme Court voted in favor of a constitutional challenge to the preclearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It was this moment, February 27, 2013 when Scalia espoused a deleterious ideology. An ethos, that lead this Justice to believe and actually say that the historic voting rights bill – a law which has aptly been heralded and “christened” as the most the successful piece of legislation the US Congress has ever passed –was merely the result of what he self-righteously labeled the “perpetuation of racial entitlement.”

Justice Scalia pontificated out loud, seemingly extemporaneously, giving the audience an insight into how he would ultimately cast this decision.

“And this last enactment, not a single vote in the Senate against it,” said Justice Scalia, referring to the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“And the House is pretty much the same. Now, I don’t think that’s attributable to the fact that it is so much clearer now that we need this. I think it is attributable, very likely attributable, to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement. It’s been written about. Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes.”

The History of Voting Rights in United States is an epic story – riddled with endless tales of strenuous struggles by marginalized heroes who fought tooth and nail to claim and then reclaim their constitutional rights to vote. History instructs us that over the centuries, slaves, women, the poor, the landless and African Americans have gone to extreme lengths just to exercise and then protect their enfranchisement, forcing the political elites to rethink who deserved enfranchisement. Poll taxes, literacy tests, and outright violence are just a few components of the arsenal utilized to keep blacks from the voting booths.
Opponents of voting rights protections have always held a veiled racist view that protecting the voting rights of minorities was the consequence of a racial entitlement sentiment, some sort of unearned gift for being born black. For American leadership, their perspectives on the rights of minorities have evolved, devolved, and evolved again, acting and reacting to the forces of community groups creating new strategies and advocating methods to secure and protect constitutional rights.

The passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was itself a direct result of the historic March of Washington for Jobs and Freedom of 1963. On a hot August day, hundreds of thousands of people from hundreds of local, small, civic, labor, and religious organizations made their final plea for human rights, and the March forged the passages of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. The latter protected the enfranchisement of the African American Community until the Supreme Court struck down Sections 4 & 5, provisions that anchored the law.

Similarly, this summer marked the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, a movement to open the polls to blacks in Mississippi and combat fierce white supremacy in Mississippi. As Freedom Summer ignited, two young white participants, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, and one African-American organizer, James Chaney, disappeared. The three young boys were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan – a terroristic tragedy that successfully horrified the members of Student Nonviolent Coordinated Committee (SNCC) but failed to dampen the resolve of the organizers who pressed forward, expanding the participation of women and minorities in the Democratic Party.

To those who think that with a stroke of a pen, the Supreme Court settled this matter permanently, they may not be too familiar with plight of minority community groups, who have treaded these waters in years past. For these groups, voting rights, or any rights for that matter come at high cost to the stakeholders, whether that is time, money, or even lives. These groups intuitively understand that the fight for freedom as they define it comes with great successes, embarrassing failures, and unplanned setbacks, like the one handed to them by the Supreme Court in Shelby V. Holder.

Today’s Community Organizations Carry the Torch. Southern Echo (SE) is one such organization. Southern Echo is a leadership development, education and training organization working to develop effective accountable grassroots leadership in the African-American communities in rural Mississippi. Southern Echo works with its partners in the Mississippi Delta Catalyst Roundtable, a partnership of ten black-based community organizations working in the Delta with parents, students, educators and public officials to create a quality public education accessible to all children. Southern Echo has been on the forefront on black community causes and has led the fight in utilizing grassroots training methods to combat voter disenfranchisement and promote voter education and empowerment.

The cornerstone of our so-called Democracy, the ability to exercise the right to vote has always been the priority of community organizations who have taken up the mantle. Millions shed blood, thousands lost their lives, and the Civil Rights Movement saw iconic figures murdered for the cause of equality, of which a vital pillar was the right vote. The Voting Rights Act stands as one of the movement’s crowning achievements and there are few today who don’t call the Voting Rights Act and great legislative feat. Yet when Justice Scalia delivered his epitaph on behalf of a branch of government not charged with legislating, and struck down laws which have been reauthorized by numerous presidents countless Members of Congress over last 10 decades, what did the black community do?

They began to work harder.