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Education Board OKs Budget Requests for Teacher Pay

By The Ada News

Oklahoma teachers would receive a $2,500 across-the-board pay raise under a budget proposal approved Thursday by the State Board of Education, but they shouldn't plan to spend the money any time soon.

"It is time we as a state offer better compensation to these dedicated and talented individuals who give so much of themselves in service to our children," said state Superintendent Janet Barresi.

Gov. Mary Fallin and leaders in the GOP-led Legislature have signaled support for pay raises for Oklahoma teachers, among the lowest paid in the nation with a starting salary of $31,600. But the reality of Oklahoma's budget situation will make it difficult. Although state revenue collections are trending upward, legislative budget writers used about $290 million in one-time revenue sources to fund the current year's budget, which will eat into any growth revenue next year.

"I'm thankful the revenue is trending the way it is, but I would caution against anyone thinking there's going to be a bucket full of extra money," said Oklahoma Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger, the governor's top budget negotiator with the Legislature.

State agencies routinely request tens of millions of dollars in new spending that is far more than the Legislature can appropriate.

The state Board of Corrections met separately Thursday in Oklahoma City and approved a budget proposal asking for a more than $84 million increase for the state's prison system. The request includes $14 million for pay raises, $26 million for an increase in the number of prisoners and other requests. The total request for the upcoming fiscal year is more than $555 million.

Doerflinger said the inflated budget requests are part of a bothersome trend of agencies developing unrealistic wish lists for new state spending.

Doerflinger said the Office of Management and Enterprise Services plans to use a new performance-based budgeting tool in discussions with agencies this year designed to identify efficiencies and savings.

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The money for the raises is part of a $2.78 billion funding request the agency is submitting for the Legislature to consider for the budget year that begins July 1. The request includes nearly $300 million in new spending.


West Virginia Offers Financial Education to Inmates

By The State Journal  Image courtesy

Inmates at West Virginia's regional jails will soon be able to sign up for a financial education course designed to help them avoid becoming repeat offenders.

The course, developed by Financial Peace University, will stress critical skills such as eliminating and avoiding debt, maintaining a monthly budget, keeping checkbooks balanced and saving for emergencies. The regional jail authority will begin offering the four-week program to inmates serving sentences for misdemeanor convictions in November.

Financial Peace is the brainchild of personal finance/money management guru Dave Ramsey. Ramsey, a syndicated columnist and best-selling author, also hosts a radio show carried by more than 500 affiliates nationally with more than 8 million listeners.

“Offering Financial Peace University to our incarcerated population is another important step forward in West Virginia's Justice Reinvestment efforts,” Authority Executive Director Joe DeLong said. “We recognize that each of these inmates will return to their roles in society in the near future and I strongly believe Dave Ramsey's teachings will better position them to transition more successfully.”

The course will offer practical tools and skills, presenting a faith-based approach to address budgeting, debt, savings and other relevant topics.

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Education Justice Project Hosts Symposium on Higher Education in Prison

By Estefania Florez / The Daily Illini

The Education Justice Project is hosting a symposium on higher education programs in prison until Sunday.

“Our mission is to build a model college in prison program that demonstrates the positive impacts of higher education upon incarcerated students, the family, the neighbors to which they return, the host institution – the University of Illinois – and society,” said Rebecca Ginsburg, director of the project.

The symposium began with guest speaker Susan Burton at Salem Baptist Church Thursday night. Burton is the founder of A New Way of Life re-entry program, which focuses on helping women who have recently left prison find homes and a pathway into society.

During the lecture, Burton spoke about her involvement with the EJP and how it began with her own struggle with justice since she lost her five-year-old son to a Los Angeles Police Department officer. She went through depression and began a battle with alcohol and drugs that led her to do jail time.

“I was sent to prison a total of six times, all for the possession of alcohol and drugs,” Burton said.

After getting out of jail for the last time, Burton discovered a place that helped her beat the cycle and “birthed a new way of life.”

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Max Kenner Receives Award

By The Daily Freeman 

Bard College’s Max Kenner, the executive director of the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI), received a 2014 Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award in Education.

The award recognizes 10 of the year’s most amazing achievements and the innovators behind them in nine different categories.

Kenner created the initiative as an undergraduate at Bard in 1999 and has overseen the program, which assists nearly 300 students across six campuses in correctional facilities in New York State.The program has been granting degrees since 2001.

Kenner has become a leading advocate for the national restoration of college-in-prison and is also the co-founder of the Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison.

He was a 2013-14 fellow-in-residence at the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American history at Harvard University.

For information about BPI log onto  


The Amazing Results When You Give a Prison Inmate a Liberal Arts Education

By Jerry Adler / Smithsonian Magazine

Separated by eight years, a dozen subway stops and a vast socioeconomic distance, Erica Mateo and Max Kenner had one thing in common growing up: They were no one’s candidates for most likely to succeed. Mateo was raised by her grandmother in one of Brooklyn’s roughest neighborhoods, dropped out of school in the eighth grade and ended up in a juvenile correctional facility. Kenner’s handicap was to grow up among artists and left-wing intellectuals in 1980s SoHo, an environment that did not exactly promote a rigorous academic work ethic. At the famously progressive Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn Heights, which is known for quirky gifted graduates like Lena Dunham and doesn’t even hand out grades, “I basically checked out by senior year,” he says cheerfully.

They met in prison, at the Bayview Correctional Facility in Manhattan, where in 2006, Mateo, an insouciant and streetwise 19-year-old, was serving a three- to nine-year sentence for assault. Kenner was there speaking to inmates about the Bard Prison Initiative—a program he had conceived and created while still an undergraduate at Bard, the forward-thinking college in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. The program’s unlikely purpose was to provide a Bard education, and degree, to inmates at some of New York State’s toughest prisons.

Since its origins, BPI has expanded to six New York prisons, where it now serves some 300 students. Kenner isn’t empire-building; he encourages other colleges to establish their own programs. His vision has led to a sister organization, the Consortium for Liberal Arts in Prison, now exporting the concept to other states—nine as of 2014, where around 800 students work toward degrees from such elite institutions as Wesleyan, Grinnell and Goucher. This year his mission—to offer liberal arts education to inmates nationwide—took a major leap forward when Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education, begun with seed money from the Bard program, received its own Ford Foundation grant.

But more important, Kenner, who is 36, says, this was the year that his tireless advocacy for prison education began to pay off in nationwide political visibility, as the concept won the endorsement of Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York, Chris Christie of New Jersey and Attorney General Kamala Harris of California.

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Famous Prisoners: Where Are They Now?

By Dianne Frazee-Walker

Where are the legends who were seen indulging in gourmet entrees and sipping fine wines at the trendiest restaurants, but are now waiting in chow lines to dine?  Where is former billionaire Raj Rajaratnam, who swapped illegal stock trading for commissary stamp trading?

Ja Rule, the famous rapper, caught for not filing his income taxes ended-up filing for parole.

The only three piece suits these former dignitaries wear now are composed of handcuffs, leg irons, and waist chains.   

From Wall Street to movie sets and recording studios, many renowned people have gone from a posh to prison. Other notables have become renowned for the crime that landed them behind bars. 

Phil Spector 

Remember the haggard pouty-lipped Phil Spector, the rock star who produced such hits as “Da Doo Ron Ron,” and “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling?” Well, he must of lost that “loving feeling” when he was convicted of killing 40-year-old actress, Lana Clarkson. Spector allegedly shot his date after a night of drinking. 

Inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989, Spector was later inducted into the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison, Corcoran, Calif. in 2009 for 19-years to life. When Mr. Spector is eligible for parole he will be 88-years-old. 

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Prison Taught Me to Teach

By Petride Mudoola / NewVision
One of my favourite things to do when I meet an inmate for the first time is to ask: “What is your story?” Asking that question in a jail setting usually results in a non-trusting glare from the inmate.
However, when I further define the question by letting the inmate know that he can tell me about his family, his hobbies, what occupies him in prison, he thenrealises that I am a friend and not particularly interested in knowing why he was detained. It is amazing how the inmate opens up and the subsequent stories he tells.
Over time, inmates will share the pain that they have endured, their shattered dreams and, maybe once in a while, something that gives them joy. As I listen to each story, I try to offer encouragement and motivation.
Some stories bring tears. I believe that most of these guys want to be happy and do the right thing. When I see an inmates experience his “nastiest” moment and know they are ready to turn their life around and give back to the community, it does not get much better than that.
 Inmates of Luzira Upper Prison during a tailoring class
Fred Ndorere’s story will bear me witness. The 50-year-old father of two was sentenced to death for aggravated robbery in 1999 and was later referred to the condemned section for inmates sentenced to death.
For 19 years, he waited for the hangman to say: “Let’s go,” but this did not happen. Instead of sinking in despair, he chose to become a teacher and teach his fellow prisoners. 
He realised that only 10% of the condemned inmates had completed O’level at that time.
Ndorere then proposed to the Commissioner General of Prisons, Dr Johnson Byabashaija, to set up a school in prison. His proposal was accepted. The school was established in 2000 and the pioneer candidates sat for their Primary Leaving Examinations later that year.
“I started teaching when I was still in the condemned section. Most inmates were not educated, which made me think that there was a correlation between crime and lack of education,” Ndorere says.
On June 13, 2005, Ndorere’s sentence was commuted to 20 years after Susan Kigula and 417 other death row inmates petitioned the Constitutional Court against the death penalty.
Ndorere, now left with four years to complete his sentence, is profoundly proud of his pioneer students. He says that some of them have completed a diploma in small scale business management and entrepreneurship offered byMakerere University Business School (MUBS) in the prisons.
“Despite the challenges we encounter as inmates, it gives me a lot of joy and pleasure to see that most of my pioneer students have completed a diploma. Even those who left prison are now employed, having attained education and acquired skills while in jail,” Ndorere says proudly.