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Virginia school paid speaker $20K for lecture on critical race theory, white privilege

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Editor’s note: This story was first reported by Asra Nomani

Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia paid an anti-racism advocate who specializes in critical race theory (CRT) $20,000 for a one-hour virtual lecture, according to the released contract, Quillette reported Wednesday.

The August 6 event, as part of Virginia’s “Race Truth and Reconciliation Week,” saw Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, an outspoken advocate of CRT, give a roughly 45-minute video lecture followed by a 15-minute question period. Kendi was paid $20,000 for the event, which is almost as much as the median salary of $27,920 that teacher assistants make in a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

CRT has been gaining traction among left-wing academics and activists for many years and, over the past few months, has become a target for right-wing thinkers and pundits, with the issue of race returning to the national spotlight this past summer. On Tuesday, President Donald Trump announced that he has ordered federal agencies to discontinue contracts with individuals and companies that promote CRT and white privilege through racial sensitivity seminars, calling such courses “divisive and harmful.”

Wednesday’s revelation of the speaker’s fee adds more controversy in a school district already grappling with an ongoing debate surrounding race and affirmative action.

For over a year, the issue of affirmative action has been a heated debate at the national level, prompting lawsuits against universities such as Harvard and Yale on the grounds that their admissions practices discriminated against applicants of Asian descent in particular. In this school District lies the number-one public school in the country, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHS), where 71 percent of students are of Asian origin.

Currently, TJHS’s admissions process is race-blind and merit-based, which, according to the Quillette piece, uses a combination of “standardized test scores, grade rankings, essays, and teacher recommendations” alongside “a process based on random selection from among applicants who have a core class GPA of 3.5 or greater (and are currently enrolled in algebra).” However, an effort starting in early June to replace this system has met fierce backlash from parents, with 200 of them taking part in a protest this week against the proposed change.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Economy

NY Lawmakers want to tax tech giants to get $500M to fund unemployment benefits for illegal migrants

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New York lawmakers are debating over a proposed Democratic initiative that would pave the way for a multibillion-dollar fund designed to provide unemployment benefits for illegal immigrants. Spearheaded by state Senator Jessica Ramos, a Queens Democrat, the proposal has ignited passionate discussions within the Senate Finance Committee, where it currently awaits further deliberation.

The Center Square reports the proposal would utilize a $500 million trust fund earmarked specifically to offer jobless benefits for individuals who find themselves ineligible for traditional unemployment payments and other public assistance programs. To finance this ambitious endeavor, proponents of the plan are advocating for the imposition of a novel tax targeting tech behemoths like Google and Amazon. This tax, aimed at digital advertising revenue, is projected to generate hundreds of millions of dollars to sustain the fund.

Ramos has alluded to her belief that migrants are a fundamental contribution to the state’s economy. Despite their authorization to work, payment of taxes, and active involvement in the labor force, undocumented immigrants face a glaring disparity—they are excluded from accessing vital safety nets like unemployment benefits if they lose their jobs.

In a social media post, Ramos cited the expiration of federal unemployment insurance for freelancers and the depletion of the Excluded Workers Fund. She argues vehemently for a safety net aligned with the evolving dynamics of the labor market, one that extends support to all workers, regardless of their immigration status.

The proposed fund, aptly named the Unemployment Bridge Program, outlines comprehensive eligibility criteria encompassing a spectrum of marginalized workers—from undocumented migrants to freelancers and individuals recently released from incarceration or immigrant detention. By establishing clear guidelines and procedures, the program endeavors to streamline the application process, ensuring equitable access to unemployment benefits for those in need.

The initiative comes in the wake of prolonged deliberations regarding jobless benefits for undocumented immigrants and nontraditional workers in New York. Amid the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, the state previously allocated $2.1 billion to the Excluded Workers Fund, offering a lifeline to those excluded from conventional unemployment benefits.

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2025 underscores a commitment to supporting asylum seekers, with significant allocations directed towards housing and legal assistance. The proposal has met with opposition from Republicans, who argue for prioritizing legal residents and taxpayers in the allocation of state resources. Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt contends that limited resources should be reserved exclusively for those who have contributed to the state’s tax base.

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