Just News from Center X is a free weekly news blast about equitable public education. Please share and encourage colleagues and friends to subscribe.
Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
Branwen Jeffreys, BBC
Schools in 23 countries, with 405 million pupils, are still partially or fully closed because of Covid, the United Nations Children’s Fund says. The charity, Unicef, estimates 147 million children have missed at least half of their in-person schooling. Some vulnerable children, especially girls, have not returned to those schools that have reopened. Unicef executive director Catherine Russell says children are “the hidden casualties of the pandemic”. While children have been less vulnerable to the most serious health effects of coronavirus, their lives have been turned upside down by the school closures of the pandemic.
Melissa Block, NPR
It’s a bill that’s drawn nationwide controversy, dubbed by opponents as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. President Biden called it “hateful.” It was ridiculed by the hosts of this year’s Academy Awards. On Monday, it became Florida law, when Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the Parental Rights in Education bill. Now, Florida teachers are wondering how the new law will affect them and their students. Among its controversial measures, the law forbids instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through third grade.
Anita Chabria, Los Angeles Times
A few weeks ago, Sacramento teacher Kacie Go had 56 kids for second period.
That day, there were 109 students at her eighth- through 12th-grade school who were without an instructor because of staff shortages. So she crammed the students into her room and made it work, but “it’s not sustainable,” she said. No kidding. Go told me the story standing with hundreds of other teachers and support staff Tuesday morning in the parking lot of an empty high school, as “We’re Not Gonna Take It” blared from speakers and the mostly female workers gathered for day five of a strike that has closed down schools in the Capitol City.
Language, Culture, and Power
Jill Anderson, Harvard EdCast
Juliana Urtubey, the 2021 National Teacher of the Year recipient, knows firsthand the importance of valuing all parts of a student’s identity. As a first-generation, bilingual immigrant, Urtubey brings all parts of herself into the classroom. Today, as a special education teacher working at the Kermit R. Booker, Sr. Innovative Elementary School in Las Vegas, she leans into her diverse classroom and community, fully celebrating it. “Our students have so many layers of their identity and the more layers we invite into the classroom of their identities, the better off our students are academically in terms of their collaboration with peers and social and emotionally,” she says.
Education Beat Podcast
As an immigrant and the head of Miami-Dade public schools for nearly 14 years, Los Angeles Unified’s new superintendent, Alberto Carvalho, intimately understands the challenges and promises of families who speak languages other than English at home. As a product of Miami-Dade public schools, EdSource Executive Director Anne Vasquez shares a common understanding with the superintendent. This episode includes excerpts from a recent conversation they had about their time in Miami, the advantages of bilingual education, and some of the key similarities and differences between the districts.
Tracie Mauriello, Chalkbeat Detroit
Students who are homeless face suspension and expulsion at much higher rates than do their peers in Michigan schools. Statewide, 17% of students who have experienced homelessness were suspended or expelled in 2017-18 compared with 8% of all students in Michigan’s district-run public schools. The rates are especially high in Wayne and Macomb counties, researchers found.
Those are among figures highlighted in an interactive map recently created by the Poverty Solutions Center at the University of Michigan based on its earlier analysis of data from that school year.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Cathryn Stout, Chalkbeat TN
On one of the toughest days of his teaching career, there was tenacity, transparency, and tears.
“Today has been heavy,” admitted Adrian Hampton. Hampton, 41, has spent half of his life as a math teacher at Booker T. Washington Middle and High School, known as BTW. During his time at the Memphis school, he’s lost multiple students to gun violence, including 15-year-old Damien Smith, Jr., who was shot the day before Hampton’s interview with Chalkbeat.
Brett Wilkins, Common Dreams
As right-wing efforts to marginalize transgender students increase across the United States, the Biden administration is expected in the coming weeks to finalize new Education Department regulations to protect LGBTQ+ youth, according to a Washington Post report published Wednesday. The Post cites people familiar with a draft text of the proposed Title IX regulation that would expand the definition of “discrimination on the basis of sex” to include “discrimination on the basis of sex stereotypes, sex-related characteristics (including intersex traits), pregnancy or related conditions, sexual orientation, and gender identity.”
Laura Meckler, Washington Post
Administrators in Minnesota’s Anoka-Hennepin School District were already looking for ways to support students’ mental well-being before the pandemic, driven in part by a string of student deaths, including some suicides. Then covid-19 and remote schooling inflicted fresh emotional damage. So, this past fall, the district implemented a social-emotional learning (SEL) program — a curriculum geared at helping students manage emotions, develop positive relationships and make good decisions. Schools have worked to develop these skills for decades, and in recent years, formal programming has proliferated coast to coast.
Access, Assessment, Advancement
Elizabeth Aguilera, CalMatters
California wants to lure all 4-year-olds to public schools within the next four years. But will there be enough teachers there to meet them? School districts across the state are scrambling to hire an estimated 11,000 teachers and 25,000 teacher assistants to expand transitional kindergarten. It’s a tall order for school district officials already in the midst of a daunting educator shortage and coming out of the pandemic. “If we can’t find staffing, we just flat can’t do it,” said Mike Martin, superintendent of the County Office of Education in Modoc County. “It’s not like we have a pool of folks lined up asking to come to work in our districts. We are competing with everybody else out there for these same folks.
Nora De La Cour, Jacobin
Shortly after the pandemic halted in-person instruction in March 2020, media outlets began to warn that school closures would permanently mar the academic development — and future earning power — of school-age children. They bemoaned a “lost generation,” with one particularly hysterical report estimating that missed instruction during 2020 would result in the collective loss of 13.8 million years of life. But faced with the undeniable reality that school disruption has been harmful — hitting vulnerable and marginalized kids the hardest — Joe Biden’s Department of Education supplied the same discredited Bush- and Obama-era prescription that has poisoned K–12 classrooms for the past two decades: more testing to measure the problem. And as the Right graduates from testing and charters to openly advocating for an end to public schools, establishment Democrats seem incapable of offering a robust counternarrative. What’s the point of defending public education if we’ve already lost?
Eddie Cole, The Conversation
What pressures did college leaders face in the civil rights era?
College presidents between 1948 to 1968 had to deal with different segments of society that were at complete odds with one another. On the one hand, they oversaw schools where students were increasingly protesting segregation. But they also had to deal with segregationist politicians who controlled state funding for their institutions. Some of those politicians were not shy about their opposition to the civil rights movement. For instance, on March 3, 1960, North Carolina Gov. Luther H. Hodges urged public college leaders to direct students not to participate in civil rights demonstrations. For the most part, Black college presidents ignored such requests.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Miranda Mizariegos, NPR
The doors of the Hermogenes Gonzalez Mejia school in Guatemala City were propped wide open. The interior smelled of fresh paint and cleaning supplies. Inside each classroom, tiny desks were lined up with chairs neatly stacked on top. Two large basketball courts in the outdoor courtyard looked pristine. After two years of remote learning, the time had come to get them back inside. “They need to interact with their classmates and try to find some kind of normalcy,” said Oscar Fernando Lopez Polanco, director of the Mejia school, while prepping in his office for an assembly in mid-February to announce reopening plans.
Lil Kalish, CalMatters
After more than six hours of debate Tuesday, California’s reparations task force voted that only Black Californians who can prove a direct lineage to enslaved ancestors will be eligible for the statewide — and first-in-the nation — initiative to address the harms and enduring legacy of slavery. The nine-member task force voted 5-4 in favor of defining eligibility for reparations based on lineage “determined by an individual being an African American descendant of a chattel enslaved person or the descendant of a free Black person living in the US prior to the end of the 19th century,” the motion read.
Matt Barnum, Chalkbeat
Joe Biden is not giving up on his signature education idea: providing schools with more money, particularly those serving lots of low-income students. That’s the takeaway from the president’s latest education budget proposal, released Monday, which calls for more than doubling funding for Title I. But recent history suggests schools shouldn’t count on this new money coming through. Biden got only a fraction of what he asked for last year, and it’s not clear there will be a path through Congress for this big budget increase, either — particularly since many forecasters expect Republicans to win additional seats this November.
Democracy and the Public Interest
Constitutional ban on ‘critical race theory’ in AZ schools, universities is one vote away from the November ballot
Gloria Gomez, AZ Mirror
Republican legislators want voters to make it unconstitutional for Arizona public schools, colleges and universities to teach so-called “critical race theory,” a move that will come at the detriment of quality education, critics say. The proposed constitutional amendment would capitalize on a nationwide GOP movement to demonize critical race theory — a high-level field of academic study about the ways in which racism has become embedded in various aspects of society — and turn it into a catchall term for various race-related teachings, including instruction on “white privilege” and “anti-racism” curriculum. “We are saying that you cannot guilt a kid because of the color of their skin,” said Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-Apache Junction.
Jeff Horseman, Press Enterprise
It was draft night in Murrieta. But the picks weren’t athletes. Instead, 412 Church Temecula Valley on March 2 hosted an “endorsement draft” of conservative Christians who plan to run against school board members in Lake Elsinore, Menifee, Murrieta and Temecula this November. The kickoff rally, which featured a hype video set to the “NFL on Fox” theme music, was the opening salvo of a new offensive in southwest Riverside County’s culture wars, where past battles include the removal of a nude woman’s portrait from the city-run Old Town Temecula theater and protests against a proposal to build a mosque in Temecula. It’s part of a national trend that’s turned public schools into political battlefields over COVID-19 mandates, LGBTQ acceptance and what children should learn about race.
Kerry Kretchmar and T. Jameson Brewer, EPAA
This paper explores the politicization of school reopenings in two swing states against the backdrop of rising COVID cases, public health warnings, and the hyper-partisan weaponization of “choice” rhetoric by parents to send children back into school. Rhetoric surrounding parental choice partnered with economic considerations placed significant pressure on school boards to navigate their reopening plans from a partisan frame of reference. We explore, compare, and contrast the landscape of school reopening plans in Wisconsin and Georgia, which both served as pivotal states in the contentious 2020 Presidential election. Within each state we consider two districts that are situated in either a more traditionally conservative or liberal environment. Our guiding questions are: (1) How is the conversation about school reopening reflective of politicized and polarized approaches to COVID? and, (2) How are school reopening discussions different in politically liberal and conservative communities?
Other News of Note
Brenda Rees, Eastsider LA
Roy Payan is a familiar face around here, involved in numerous big issues over the decades. Public safety. Cleaning up trash. Preserving open space. He’s played a role in it all. Recently, Payan made headlines for his involvement in an issue that goes far beyond his hillside neighborhood. The 64-year-old Payan sued the L.A. Community College District over its accessibility policy for students with disabilities. Payan, who became blind as an adult, enrolled at L.A. City College in 2016 but discovered he couldn’t access the website, email and text books. Lectures couldn’t be recorded either.
Ashley McBride, OaklandSide
An Oakland K-8 school that was born out of parent and community activism as a hub of Latino culture and language is among the Oakland Unified schools being downsized or closed as part of a larger district plan to save money. La Escuelita, Spanish for “the little school,” will lose its middle school grades following this school year. District officials have said the school’s relatively small enrollment—there are currently fewer than 100 students in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades—is unsustainable.
Gregory Smithers, Ms. Magazine
Each March, we celebrate pioneering figures in women’s history. We rightly reflect on the accomplishments, insights, and leadership of women such as Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Jane Addams and many more. These women changed the course of American history. One such woman who helped change America, but who’s rarely remembered, is Barbara Cameron. Born on May 22, 1954, Cameron grew up on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. A Hunkpapa Lakota, Cameron packed a lot into her 47 years—a life of community organizing and activism on behalf of Two-Spirit people. The term “Two-Spirit” is an umbrella term used to denote Native American people who embody both male and female spirits. Adopted by gay and lesbian Indians in 1990, Two-Spirit is an English translation of the Northern Algonquin word niiz manitoag. By adopting the term Two-Spirit, gay and lesbian leaders in Native American communities underscored their determination to make their fight against the twin prejudices of homophobia and racism visible to Native and non-Native Americans.