Just News from Center X – April 10, 2020

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

Coronavirus aid might not prevent cuts to school funding, analysis shows

Andrew Ujifusa, Education Week
Even with $13.5 billion in coronavirus relief provided to schools by Congress last month, an across-the-board 8 percent cut to states’ school funding would lead to a decline in per-pupil spending in all 50 states, a new analysis shows. In addition, the analysis by Michael Griffith, a veteran school finance consultant, finds that the K-12 relief package signed by President Donald Trump on March 27 as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act amounts to less than 2 percent of all spending on public schools. As a souring economy eats into states’ resources this year, the emergency airlift of federal money could help mitigate the damage to the nation as a whole and states in particular. Yet already, states are seeing their economies start to slide and are slashing their spending.

Using federal stimulus funds to advance equity and opportunity

Jessica Cardichon, Learning Policy Institute
The closure of schools due to the COVID-19 crisis has elevated for the public and policymakers what for some has been hidden in plain sight for decades: the deep inequities in access and opportunity among the country’s students, schools, and communities. Recent news stories about the markedly different experience of students and educators abound. For example, in Glastonbury, Connecticut, a predominantly white and upper-income community, every student went home with an iPad loaded with resources to transition learning from school to home. Sixty miles and a world away, the experience of students in Bridgeport, Connecticut—a district serving largely students of color and with significantly fewer resources—was far different. With little technology infrastructure in the school district and uneven access at home, Bridgeport educators and families are still trying to piece together solutions to mitigate the disruptions to students’ learning.

NYC education department tells principals to stop using Zoom, citing privacy concerns

Lauren Feiner, CNBC
The New York City Department of Education advised principals not to use Zoom after privacy concerns about the platform accelerated last week, the department’s chief operating officer said late Sunday in an email obtained by CNBC. The department is now telling schools they should use services provided through Google or Microsoft to connect with students while schools are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The message comes after a group of at least three state attorneys general said they were probing the company for potential privacy violations. The Connecticut AG, who announced the probe, said he had been “zoombombed” during a forum about the Census, with hundreds of messages flooding the chat box with profanities.

Language, Culture, and Power

Tasked with schoolwork help, many US parents lack English

Regina Garcia Cano And Carolyn Thompson, Click on Detroit
Since her daughters’ school closed for the coronavirus outbreak, Mariana Luna has been thrust into the role of their primary educator, like millions of parents across the U.S. But each day, before she can go over their schoolwork, her 9-year-old first has to help her understand what the assignments say. A Spanish speaker originally from Mexico, Luna uses Google Translate on her phone and, when she gets stuck, asks her daughter to translate instructions and emails from teachers.

Education levels of recent Latino immigrants in the U.S. reached new highs as of 2018

Luis Noe-Bustamante, Pew Research Center
The educational attainment of recently arrived Latino immigrants in the United States has reached its highest level in at least three decades, reflecting changes in where immigrants are coming from and rising education levels in Latin America and other regions, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. About a quarter (26%) of recently arrived Latino immigrants ages 25 and older had a bachelor’s degree or more education in 2018, up from just 10% in 1990. They are among a rapidly growing share of recently arrived Hispanic immigrants who have completed high school – 67% in 2018, up from 38% in 1990. These increases have helped raise the education levels of all Latino immigrants and shifted the group toward high-skill occupations and away from low-skill ones. Latino immigrants who have been in the U.S. for more than a decade have a very different educational profile than recent arrivals – defined here as those in the country for five years or less. About one-in-ten Latino immigrants who are long-term residents (12%) had a college degree in 2018, part of the 54% of long-term Latino residents who had completed high school.

The beat goes on: high school choirs improvise in the age of coronavirus

Sequoia Carrillo, NPR
Spring semester was off to a pretty normal start at Rolling Meadows High School. The school, in a northwest suburb of Chicago, was gearing up for the goodbye rituals of every spring semester: senior prom, end-of-year exams and graduation. Caitlyn Walsh, the school’s music teacher, was looking forward to the big choir concert and the spring musical. “From the fine arts scene we have a lot of end-of-year activities that are very cherished,” she says.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

With schools closed, some districts are feeding more people than food banks

Nadra Nittle, Civil Eats
When the novel coronavirus pandemic led school districts across the country to close in March, questions grew about whether the food-insecure children who depend on school meals to survive would still have access to them. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, for example, initially resisted closing schools in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, citing the fact that so many students rely on school breakfast and lunch for sustenance.

In the poorest county, in America’s poorest state, a virus hits home: ‘Hunger is rampant’

Oliver Laughland, The Guardian
On the cracked country roads of Lexington, deep in the Mississippi delta, an empty yellow school bus drives slowly, making life-sustaining drop-offs on the way. Here, in the poorest county, in America’s poorest state, the coronavirus has yet to ravage the jurisdiction with infection. There has been one recorded Covid-19 death in the county, Clinton Cobbins, Lexington’s first African American mayor. But even now the coronavirus still poses a serious threat to life. In Holmes county consolidated—the school district to which Lexington belongs – every single child qualifies for free school meals, a marker of pervasive poverty. For many, said the superintendent, Dr James L Henderson, breakfast and lunch at school are the only nutritious meals a student will eat in a day. For a few, they are the only meals.

Former foster youth laid off from advocacy group amid COVID-19 crisis are rehired

Sara Tiana, The Chronicle of Social Change
Following two weeks of chaotic upheaval that felt like a personal blow to many longtime advocates in California’s child welfare circles, all employees let go in layoffs at the nationally recognized foster youth group, the California Youth Connection, have been rehired. The whiplash move to rehire eight of CYC’s 17 employees on Monday follows the resignation late last week of Haydée Cuza, one of the group’s founding members and executive director since 2016. Cuza abruptly dismissed the employees – the majority of whom are former foster youth – in what she saw as an opportune time to reorganize the nonprofit, as the coronavirus pandemic ravaged lives and financial stability across the globe. Now, all laid-off employees have rejoined the organization, according to a statement from the CYC board of directors sent Monday afternoon that described their decision as a hopeful move to “begin our journey of healing.”

Access, Assessment, and Advancement

L.A. Unified chief says online learning won’t be available to all students until May

City News Service, The Eastsider LA
Calling the effort akin to trying to land on the moon, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner said today the district is still trying to iron out issues with transitioning students to online learning at home due to the coronavirus outbreak. “It’s clear that normal is not returning anytime soon. That should be obvious to all of us,” Beutner said. “But that statement raises more questions for schools than it answers. … We know it’s difficult to juggle home schooling while also dealing with the disruption this crisis is causing in your lives.”

4 In 10 U.S. teens say they haven’t done online learning since schools closed

Anya Kamanetz, NPR
With most schools closed nationwide because of the coronavirus pandemic, a national poll of young people ages 13 to 17 suggests distance learning has been far from a universal substitute.
The poll or 849 teenagers, by Common Sense Media, conducted with SurveyMonkey, found that as schools across the country transition to some form of online learning, 41% of teenagers overall, including 47% of public school students, say they haven’t attended a single online or virtual class.

Should schools change how they grade students during the pandemic?

Shannon Doyne and Michael Gonchar, The New York Times
How teachers teach students has changed in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Should how schools grade students change, too? Many colleges are considering this question. Some are offering pass/fail or credit/no credit as the default grading systems instead of letter grades. Some students are pushing for a “universal pass,” a semester during which nobody fails. Should high schools and middle schools also consider changing their grading policies?

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Education, interrupted

Lauren Camera, U.S. News & World Report
When the scourge of the coronavirus subsides and schools can safely reopen, more than 55 million children will have had their education significantly interrupted. The majority, perhaps, will not have stepped into a classroom for six months. While school district leaders scramble to establish some type of distance learning to blunt the impact of the months-long closures, educators brace for what half a year of unstructured, patchwork instruction – and for some children, little to no education at all – will mean when they return to classrooms in the fall.

Special education will be one of the biggest challenges for schools going online

Kristen Taketa, The San Diego Union Tribune
As Mo Martin watched her 7-year-old daughter Fiona take part in Zoom teleconferences last week, she grew concerned about how her daughter is going to learn online. During one session, as a first-grade teacher read a book to students online, Martin figured Fiona paid attention to maybe half of it. Fiona attends Alcott Elementary in San Diego and has Down syndrome. Even before schools closed last month to slow the spread of COVID-19, Fiona, like many students with disabilities, needed hands-on materials and in-person interaction to get her engaged in learning.

Coronavirus outbreak is like ‘a horror movie’ for parents of medically fragile kids

Victoria E. Freile, Democrat and Chronicle
Nurses no longer come inside Krystle Ellis’ Brighton home after years of providing round-the-clock care for her 7-year-old daughter, Brooke. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ellis decided to take over the role of full-time nurse for her daughter, a move that she hopes will shield Brooke from the highly contagious virus. She’s also concerned she — or her husband — could fall ill and leave Brooke without a caretaker. For many, the spread of the virus has been challenging but mostly an inconvenience. But for the families of medically fragile children, who require round-the-clock in-home nursing care, the outbreak has life-altering and life-threatening consequences.

Public Schools and Private $

Universities forced to face addiction to foreign students’ money

Sybilla Gross, Bloomberg
When the coronavirus outbreak triggered travel bans during the Lunar New Year holidays, about 100,000 Chinese students were stranded at home and unable to return to Australia. Siqi Li, a 23-year-old Master of Science student from Guangdong province, was one of them. “The first thing I felt was really panicked,” said Li, who had to spend two weeks in Malaysia before authorities would let her into Australia. She’s now living in lockdown and trying to study online after the University of Melbourne switched to a virtual campus.

D.C.’s public charter schools may ask for federal funds designed to bail out small businesses

Perry Stein, The Washington Post
D.C. charter schools get most of their funding from the government, a revenue stream that continues to flow as the coronavirus grinds the District’s economy to a halt. But some of the schools are now weighing whether they should apply for federal bailout money aimed at helping small businesses and nonprofit organizations hurt by the crisis. It’s a request that the education council chairman wonders whether the schools should be making when so many companies and organizations have lost nearly all of their revenue and there are finite resources to go around.

Other News of Note

A trio’s vision to promote peace through youth camps

Sharon Kantengwa, The New Times, Rwanda
26 years after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Rwanda’s youth grapple with challenges like genocide ideology, which if not addressed can breed further disruptiveness. Realising the need in Rwanda, particularly among high school students, for conflict resolution and peace education training, Ian Manzi, an enrichment year programme coordinator at the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, Derrick Murekezi, a current geophysics PhD student at Georgia Institute of Technology and Julia Lisi, board relations & development assistant at the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, formed an organisation they call Critical Thinking for P.E.A.C.E (CTP) in 2016.