In the News

Damon C. Williams Tribune Staff Writer

U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah brought his pro–education platform to S. Weir Mitchell Elementary School on Monday, encouraging students to aspire for greatness and use education as an avenue to reach it.

Fattah’s visit to the school in Southwest Philadelphia coincides with his extended education focus and support of the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) initiative.

“I talked to the students about achieving beyond what they have imagined at the moment, and that it is very important that their foundation is education,” said Fattah. “I used illustrations from my own career and talked about some of the challenges I faced.”

Fattah referenced his own 20–plus year political career and reinforced to the students the need for perseverance. Fattah also used the example of President Barrack Obama losing his first congressional bid to further illustrate success can be born out of setbacks.

“In 1991, I lost my first congressional race,” Fattah said. “It’s important that the kids know that careers aren’t just built out of good times.”

There was no indication if Fattah spoke on Monday about the current challenges he faces.

In August, Fattah’s former chief of staff and long-time political consultant Gregory Naylor pleaded guilty to a host of changers, that included lying to the FBI, concealing a felony and falsifying documents. Naylor faces up to 13 years in prison and as part of his plea bargain has agreed to cooperate with investigators.

Political consultant Thomas Lindenfeld, 59, of Washington D.C., is the second closest associate of Fattah’s to plead guilty in the federal investigation, having pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to commit honest services wire fraud last month.

Fattah, who was elected to his 20th term in Congress last month, has not been charged with any crimes so far.

Fattah also has to contend with the the legal issues facing his son, Chaka “Chip” Fattah Jr, who recently surrendered to federal officials.

According to the indictment, in their continuing effort to secure lines of credit with local banks, Fattah Jr. and co-defendant Matthew Amato allegedly submitted a series of fraudulent applications. Investigators said on Aug. 8, 2005 Amato submitted false statements to Sun National Bank and secured a $25,000 line of credit under the same pretenses. Once the loan was approved, prosecutors said he wrote another check for Fattah Jr. in the amount of $24,000, payable to 259 Strategies.

Fattah’s focus on Monday was a school program he has championed. GEAR UP is an education initiative sponsored by him and signed by then-President Bill Clinton in 1991.

It is a discretionary grant program designed to increase the number of low–income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in post-secondary education, and provides six–year grants to states and partnerships to provide services at high-poverty middle and high schools.

Nationally, GEAR UP grants serve students beginning no later than the seventh grade and follow them through high school. It also provides college scholarships to low-income students. The program in four Philadelphia high schools focuses on increasing the number of students who are prepared to succeed in college.

PA State GEAR UP partners with the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, colleges and universities to help build an educational pipeline for students to realize their college dreams by building a supporting network comprised of schools, parents and community organizations.

“GEAR UP has been a tremendous resource for the students of Philadelphia,” said GEAR UP Philadelphia Director Ali Robinson–Rogers. “In a city where students struggle every day to make life choices that significantly impact their future, having a program like GEAR UP helps to keep them grounded and focused on the prize: college.”

Fattah has been pushed for wider GEAR UP funding for states and local municipalities. In September, Fattah announced the Department of Education has awarded $29.1 million in funding to the city school district — $4.3 million each year for the next seven years — for its GEAR UP program.

Source: The Philadelphia Tribune