Taxpayers are providing the funding for a seminar this week in Hattiesburg that features an education professor who co-wrote a book with Bill Ayers, the controversial Weather Underground radical leader and education professor.

According to Mississippi Department of Education spokeswoman Patrice Guilfoyle, Crystal Laura will be paid $5,000, plus travel costs, from federal funds. Laura will be one of the keynote speakers at Transforming Schools: Meeting the Needs of All Learners workshop that started Tuesday and ends Wednesday in Hattiesburg. 

Laura, who is an assistant professor of educational leadership at Chicago State University, cowrote You Can’t Fire the Bad Ones! And 18 Other Myths about Teachers, Teachers Unions and Public Education with Ayers in 2018 and has written other books, including Being Bad: My Baby Brother and the School-to-Prison Pipeline in 2014.

The event is designed for educators from districts identified by MDE as at-risk and require more professional development, additional funding, and other assistance. 

This program is part of the Every Student Succeeds Act that was signed into law by President Obama in 2015.

The event was sponsored by the MDE and the Mississippi State University Research and Curriculum Unit. 

Laura’s seminar was to instruct seminar participants on the “equitable literacy skills required for Mississippi educators to better support the learning needs of vulnerable and/or minority students.” This would help educators attending the seminar “build their capacity to provide equitable and culturally responsive teaching.” 

The other keynote speaker is Robert Jackson, a former NFL player and former teacher in the Indianapolis Public Schools. His session dealt with strategies for educating black and Latino males.

Ayers is a retired University of Illinois at Chicago professor and was the former leader of the Weather Underground. This leftwing domestic terror organization from the late 1960s and early 1970s performed bombings of the U.S. Capitol and the Pentagon in addition to other targets in New York and Chicago. 

Thanks to illegal tactics by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents during its investigation into Weather Underground activities, a federal grand jury declined to indict Ayers and other group members over the bombings and other illegal activities.