News to Know for the week of March 29

Here are the top headlines of the week.

News to Know for the week of March 29
Supt. Mike Miles has not released the names of the HISD schools that will be ordered to make cuts. Credit: Jimmie Aggison

Houston ISD Superintendent Mike Miles has mandated approximately two dozen schools to trim 12% from their budgets next year as enrollment declines necessitate adjustments. These cuts will affect schools not enrolled in Miles’ “New Education System” (NES), whose budgets are managed by campus principals. While HISD oversees the budgets of NES schools with higher funding levels, non-NES principals will need to make reductions capped at 12% due to dwindling student numbers. An estimated 25 schools will face the maximum 12% cuts, while around 35 schools may witness budget increases. HISD has not disclosed the specific schools facing the deepest cuts. With pandemic relief funds depleting and HISD projecting a $250-300 million deficit, Miles asserts the necessity of aligning spending with student enrollments.

MS ‘Goon Squad’ sentenced for racist torture of 2 Black men

Michael Corey Jenkins, third from left, and Eddie Terrell Parker, right, stand with supporters outside the courthouse in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, March 19, 2024, calling for harsh penalties against six former law enforcement officers who committed numerous acts of racially motivated, violent torture on himself and his friend Eddie Terrell Parker in 2023. The six former law officers pleaded guilty to a number of charges for torturing them and sentencing begins Tuesday in federal court. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Two former white Mississippi law enforcement officers received yearslong prison sentences for the racist torture of two Black men last year, in a disturbing case that underscored ongoing racial tensions in the state. Hunter Elward, 31, was sentenced to around 20 years, while Jeffrey Middleton, 46, leader of the “Goon Squad,” received a 17.5-year term. Four other former officers involved in the abuse await sentencing later this week. The brutal attack stemmed from a racist call reporting the presence of Black men in a white woman’s home. Deputies, calling themselves “The Goon Squad,” barged in without a warrant, assaulting the victims with stun guns and other objects, including a gun shoved into one man’s mouth in a mock execution gone wrong. They poured milk, alcohol, and chocolate syrup over the victims, subjected them to racial slurs, and falsely accused them of drug possession. The judge condemned the deputies’ actions as “egregious and despicable,” justifying the sentences at the top of the guidelines range.

Fani Willis vows to Trump case is moving forward

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, left, and prosecutor Daysha Young speak to each other during a hearing. Credit: AP

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis says that the election interference prosecution against Donald Trump hasn’t been delayed by proceedings over her romantic relationship with a special prosecutor she hired for the case.

“I don’t feel like we have been slowed down at all,” Willis told CNN in an interview. “I think there are efforts to slow down the train, but the train is coming.”

Her latest comments come as defense attorneys continue to press claims about her handling of a sprawling prosecution against the former president and current GOP presumptive nominee. Trump faces four felony indictments — including separate federal and state cases for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election that he lost to President Joe Biden — but has fought to delay and dismiss the cases, arguing that political opponents are wrongly targeting him.

Willis spoke days after a Georgia judge allowed attorneys for Trump’s codefendants to appeal his ruling that she could stay on the case after the withdrawal of the special prosecutor, Nathan Wade. That may allow defense attorneys to amplify allegations of impropriety between Wade and Willis. Defense attorneys have alleged Willis hired Wade to profit from the Trump prosecution through their romantic relationship. Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee said there wasn’t sufficient evidence to prove those claims but rebuked Willis for what he called a “tremendous lapse in judgment.”

Willis told CNN that she didn’t think her reputation needed to be reclaimed and that she hadn’t done anything embarrassing.

“I’m not embarrassed by anything I’ve done,” Willis said. “I guess my greatest crime is that I had a relationship with a man, but that’s not something I find embarrassing in any way.”

Anthony Michael Kreis, a Georgia State University law professor who’s been following the case, criticized her comments in a post on X.

“If I were Fani Willis, I would simply not talk to the media at all at this point just out of an abundance of caution,” Kreis said.

Advocacy groups want U.S. to address traffic enforcement racial bias

The coalition’s report presents several recommendations to incentivize reforms at the state and local levels. Credit: HPD

A coalition of advocacy groups is urging the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to tackle racial bias in traffic enforcement, spotlighting its inefficacy and disproportionate impact on Black drivers. According to a recent report of approximately 20 million annual traffic stops in the U.S., Black motorists face a higher likelihood of being stopped and searched, especially for minor infractions, raising concerns about racial profiling and safety. The coalition’s report proposes reforms at the state and local levels to address these issues. Despite the administration’s broad equity agenda, the report highlighted the absence of explicit objectives addressing this critical issue. The coalition urged the DOT to integrate equity goals into its plan to ensure the safety and fairness of all drivers.