Philadelphia’s Universal Companies Dedicated to Improving Communities through Education
Milwaukee Public Schools and Universal Companies, a Philadelphia non-profit organization dedicated to improving communities through education, real estate, social services technology and wellness, announced today that they are partnering to bring a new charter school to the Milwaukee area.
Universal Companies will launch Universal School of Milwaukee at two campus locations in fall of 2013. The MPS campuses will implement a unique and innovative curriculum for “college and career bound” students by offering program specialty areas at both school sites catering to students with an aptitude for the arts, or who have excelled in other schools or show the potential for gifted and talented programs.
“Families and community must work together to educate our children,” said Ronn Johnson, Executive Vice President of Education – Midwest for Universal Companies and longtime local proponent of high quality educational opportunities in the city.
“The Milwaukee Public School system supports and celebrates this progressive stance by offering educational options for parents within its own school system by embracing new and innovative ways to educate our young people.”
Universal Companies is a not-for-profit community development and education management corporation formed under the efforts and direction of one of Philadelphia’s greatest talents, world-renowned music composer and producer Kenneth Gamble.
Devastated by the blighted conditions of the south Philadelphia neighborhood where he was raised, Gamble, along with his wife Faatimah, cofounded Universal Companies to challenge and reverse the effects of urban decline. Since 1993, Universal Companies has been working to rebuild predominantly African American communities with a comprehensive holistic approach to community revitalization.
The Universal Plan integrates real estate and economic development with education, social and supportive services to build stronger communities and change lives for the better.
Universal School of Milwaukee marks the company’s expansion into other educational markets. The company chose Milwaukee because it shares similar characteristics with Philadelphia, from student demographics and low student achievement levels to neighborhoods characterized by disinvestment and high poverty rates in urban areas.
“We cannot control the color of our skin, the family we are born to, or our nationality,” said Chairman Kenneth Gamble. “We cannot control life, nor can we control death. We focus on the things we can control: quality of life, ignorance and poverty.
“Universal Companies has developed a mission around finding solutions to the problems that continue to devastate our neighborhoods, our communities, our cities and our country. Education is at the core of true community development.”
“Milwaukee represents a welcoming and congenial environment for charter schools,” said UC President Rahim Islam. “We’re very enthusiastic about the opportunity presented to Universal, not only by the well-known and loved school campuses, but by the vibrancy of the communities surrounding them.”
The elementary school (Universal School of Milwaukee – Millennium Campus) will be located at 8th and Capitol Drive (the former MPS Green Bay Avenue School) and will serve 400 students age kindergarten through 5th grade for the 2013-2014 school year.
The middle school campus (Universal School of Milwaukee – Renaissance Campus) will be located at 55th and Green Tree (the former MPS Webster Middle School) and will serve 200 students in 6th and 7th grade. Once accepted, students may remain at USM until graduation from 12th grade.
The schools will begin accepting applications for enrollment in early April. In addition, the schools will be accepting applications for 24 classroom teachers, 16 specialists and 30 support staff members.
For more information on the schools, please visit UniversalSchoolMilwaukee.org, call 414-355-5858 or call Ronn Johnson at (414) 233-8173. For information on Universal Companies, please visit universalcompanies.org.
New York, NY – October 12: A table of illegal firearms confiscated in a large weapons bust in East Harlem are on display at a press conference on October 12, 2012 in New York City. NYPD detectives arrested 13 suspects for the illegal sale of 129 guns mostly purchased from gun dealers and pawn shops in South Carolina. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
by Alan Fram, Associated Press
Washington (AP) — Democrats gave a boost Tuesday to the pillar of President Barack Obama’s plans for reducing gun violence, pushing a bill requiring nearly universal federal background checks for firearms buyers through the Senate Judiciary Committee over solid Republican opposition.
The proposal still faces a difficult path through Congress, where GOP lawmakers say it would have little impact on crime and warn that it is a precursor to a federal registry of gun owners. Such a listing is forbidden by federal law and is anathema to conservatives and the National Rifle Association.
The committee approved the bill 10-8, supported by every Democrat and opposed by all Republicans. It would require background checks for transactions between private individuals — they are now mandatory only for sales by licensed gun dealers — and expand a system designed to keep firearms from criminals, those with major mental problems and others.
“This isn’t going to be a perfect bill,” said its sponsor, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., acknowledging that it wouldn’t end gun violence. “But it will sure reduce crimes.”
The panel also voted 14-4 for a measure providing an additional $40 million annually for school safety improvements like classroom locks and training for teachers. Four Republicans joined Democrats in backing that measure, which initially called for a higher figure that was reduced in bargaining between Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Susan Collins, R-Maine.
Awaiting a committee vote Thursday is a proposal by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. That bill is expected to win panel approval but die in the full Senate when the chamber considers gun legislation, probably in April.
Tuesday’s session came as lawmakers wrestle over responding to December’s carnage at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., that took the lives of 20 students and six educators. It also underscored the hurdles faced by expanded background checks, which has been seen as the most potent step lawmakers could take that has a fighting chance of passing Congress.
“Mass shootings would continue to occur despite universal background checks,” said Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, the committee’s top Republican. “Criminals will continue to steal guns and buy them illegally to circumvent the requirements. When that happens, we will be back here debating whether gunregistration is needed. And when registration fails, then the next step is gun confiscation.”
Schumer responded that that assertion “demeans the argument.”
Schumer said he is continuing to negotiate with Republicans in hopes of crafting a compromise background-check bill. Talks failed with conservative Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.
Schumer also faces potential defections from a half-dozen moderate Democrats from Republican-leaning states in the South and West who face re-election next year.
There are 53 Democrats in the 100-member Senate and two independents who usually side with them. Republicans are likely to force Democrats to get the 60 votes needed to advance legislation.
Leaders in the GOP-dominated House have expressed little support for extending background checks to private transactions.
At one point during Tuesday’s debate, Schumer sounded almost wistful about the proposal’s prospects.
“It’s sad,” he said. “Right after Newtown, there was a view that maybe the right place that we could all come together on was background checks.”
According to the Justice Department, the government has conducted 118 million background checks since the system began in 1998 and rejected 2.1 million applicants because of them. Supporters of expanding the system say this shows how many dangerous people have been denied firearms, while opponents argue that the requirement simply drives criminals to get their weapons elsewhere.
Schumer’s bill would exempt some transactions, like those between close relatives.
It would also delay currently mandated cuts in federal aid to states that don’t improve the number of mental health records they report to the federal background check system, but reimpose the cuts in coming years. The penalty is designed to prod states to do a better job of reporting the information to the national system, following shootings by people whose information had not been sent to Washington.
Obama had lunch Tuesday with Senate Democrats. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a moderate who worked with Schumer toward a bipartisan background check deal, said Obama told them that guns and background checks were “a very important topic and he’d like to see what could be practically done.”
Before Tuesday’s committee action, the NRA emailed a fundraising solicitation to supporters accusing the Obama administration of “exploiting a terrible tragedy to pursue the political agenda they’ve been after for years — eliminating your constitutional right to keep and bear arms.”
The panel’s votes drew praise from Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition of more than 900 mayors headed by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. Also expressing support was Mark Kelly, the retired astronaut who with his wife, the severely wounded former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., has formed a committee pushing gun control.
A poll released Tuesday by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that around 8 in 10 of both gun owners and people without guns favor extending background checks to private gun sales. Majorities of gun owners oppose banning assault weapons, while most without firearms favor the prohibition.
About 3 in 10 Republicans said they own guns, about double the rate of Democrats. It also found that two-thirds of NRA members support expanded background checks.
NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam contested that, saying Pew had no access to NRA membership files and pointing to a survey by the group stating that 9 in 10 members oppose “banning the sale of firearms between private citizens.”
Associated Press writers Alicia A. Caldwell and Julie Pace contributed to this report.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.