Just News from Center X – April 12, 2024

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Teaching Toward Liberation with Love

Jamilah Pitts, Learning for Justice

I started as a high school English teacher in Boston. I had the opportunity, through my interest and my passion, to explore cultures throughout the world and the United States. I taught for some time in the Dominican Republic, engaged in research with educators throughout India and was able to teach in China. What is clear for me and flows throughout my work is the knowing and the truth that education can be used as a tool of liberation. The large thing I emphasize is that there are already some practices that we can use to center liberation. There is room and space and creativity within our existing field and practice to center liberation. This can take place inside the classroom by asking critical questions that allow students to raise their consciousness about the world. Inquiry is a powerful tool that allows students to understand and discuss and take action against the various harms that surround them. Another way is engaging students in big ideas or enduring understandings and drawing connections on how to take action toward solving social injustices without sacrificing what you have to teach by using essential questions that point toward liberation.


Are Science of Reading Laws Based on Science?

National Education Policy Center

What’s scientific about the “science of reading? Not much, according to NEPC Fellow Elena Aydarova of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as explained in a recent article published in the peer-refereed Harvard Educational Review. In fact, she warns that legislators are using science-of-reading legislation to distract from more serious approaches to addressing students’ needs. Using an “anthropology of policy approach,” Aydarova zeroes in on legislative debates surrounding science of reading reforms that have swept the nation in the past half decade. As of July 2022, 29 states and the District of Columbia had adopted this approach, Aydarova writes. Aydarova closely examines Tennessee’s Literacy Success Act. She analyses videos of legislative meetings and debates, stakeholder interviews, and examinations of bills, policy reports, media coverage, and other documents associated with the LSA, which was passed in 2021.

Amid Gaza War, College Campuses Become Free Speech “Testing Ground” [Audio]

Murtaza Hussain and Sahar Aziz, Intercepted

The conflict in Gaza has galvanized a new generation of young anti-war activists, in the same way that opposition to the Vietnam War and apartheid South Africa did in decades past. A backlash is now building in the United States, led by right-wing activist and pro-Israel groups aimed at eliminating any public dissent over U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. As the death toll of Palestinians rises, a new authoritarian climate is sweeping across the U.S. — particularly on college campuses, which have transformed into laboratories for censorship and surveillance. Intercepted host Murtaza Hussain discusses this new political reality with Sahar Aziz, distinguished professor of law at Rutgers Law School and author of a new report on free speech and discrimination in the context of the Gaza conflict.

Language, Culture, and Power

Think tank with ties to Trump lays out plan to deny free education to undocumented students

Kalyn Belsha, Chalkbeat

An influential conservative think tank has laid out a strategy to challenge a landmark Supreme Court decision that protects the right of undocumented children to attend public school. The Heritage Foundation, which is spending tens of millions of dollars to craft a policy playbook for a second Trump presidential term, recently released a brief calling on states to require public schools to charge unaccompanied migrant children and children with undocumented parents tuition to enroll. Such a move “would draw a lawsuit from the Left,” the brief states, “which would likely lead the Supreme Court to reconsider its ill-considered Plyler v. Doe decision” — referring to the 1982 ruling that held it was unconstitutional to deny children a public education based on their immigration status.

Wisconsin will now require Asian American history to be taught in schools

Sakshi Venkatraman, NBC News

Wisconsin will now require K-12 public schools to teach Asian American and Hmong history, following a bill the state’s governor signed into law Thursday. “The Hmong and Asian American communities are a critical part of our state’s history, culture, economy, and our future,” Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, said in a news release. “It’s important that we celebrate our shared histories and honor the people who help make Wisconsin the state it is today.” Wisconsin currently requires instruction of Black, Native American and Latino American history, the release said, and the new legislation cements Asian American history into the curriculum as well.

Breaking walls, building bridges: A call for restorative justice in school discipline

July Myrthil, Hechinger Report

Imagine waking up each morning with no hope for the day ahead, navigating a minefield of potential conflicts with your body on high alert. That was my reality as a marginalized youth — misunderstood, labeled as a troublemaker and cast out without a chance to reconcile and evolve.

Growing up with anxiety in school is an all-too-common experience that perpetuates a cycle of fear and resentment. It’s time to acknowledge and address this narrative that adversely affects our youth’s learning experiences and the education system. Negative labeling of students can severely impact their confidence and sense of self. As a former “troublemaker,” I know firsthand how difficult it can be to overcome such labeling.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Teaching ‘My Friends’ Kids’: An Alaska Educator With Deep Community Ties [Video]

Catriona Ni Aolain, Education Week

Kiminaq Maddy Alvanna-Stimpfle is in her ninth year of teaching, and works as the kindergarten immersion teacher at Nome Elementary School in Nome, Alaska, where she is teaching students Inupiaq, an Alaska Native language. Alvanna-Stimpfle attended the school where she now teaches—a deep community connection that brings big rewards, but also some challenges. Here, she shares her experiences.

State Laws Set the Tone for Safety and Risk of Suicide Among LGBTQ Youth

Landon Krantz, MD, Cincinnati Children’s Research Horizons

Data from a nationwide survey of LGBTQ youth reveals that state antibullying laws can have a protective effect – but only when those laws specify that students’ sexual orientation and/or gender identity should be protected. This key finding, plus data suggesting that schools with gay/straight alliances are seen by LGBTQ youth as providing an “affirming” environment, were published online April 1, 2024, in the journal LGBT Health. The findings are based on responses from more than 27,000 students ages 13-24 years old in 44 states. “This study is the first that we know of that examines the effects of statewide enumerated antibullying laws on LGBTQ youth using a sample population which includes questions about gender identity,” says lead author Landon Krantz, MD, a member of the Division of General and Community Pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s.

Unions allege LAUSD is misusing arts education funds

Mallika Seshadri, EdSource

High school junior Maya Shtangrud may have given up on her childhood dream of learning to play the violin — but now, serving as an arts justice fellow at the ACLU of Southern California, she remains steadfast in her advocacy for arts education. Like many, she hoped Proposition 28 — a ballot measure passed by roughly 65% of voters in November 2022 to allocate about $1 billion toward arts education each year — would lead to greater opportunities for her fellow students. She’s not quite as optimistic now, and is joining a group of teachers and advocates to sound alarms on the district’s alleged mismanagement of their estimated $76.7 million in Proposition 28 money — which they claim has been used to pay for current teachers rather than create new programs or bolster existing ones.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

Fresh Food, Dance Class, and Nap Mats: What’s Lost Without Federal Money for Child Care

Rebecca Gale, EdSurge

It’s 5 a.m. and Tiffany Gale is up, as she is every morning, and the first thing she does is check to see if any of her child care staff have called out sick. “They each have kids of their own, and someone is always sick,” she explains. If indeed someone is out, Gale will be the one to step in and take over that classroom at the child care center she owns and runs. Until recently, she’d had enough money to hire a floating staff person to fill in the gaps or offer extra support, thanks to federal funds for child care providers under the American Rescue Plan Act. Across the country, ARPA stabilization dollars went to more than 220,000 child care programs, affecting 9.6 million children, with many child care providers claiming such funds kept their doors open at a time when financially they could not break even.

Student Debt in American Society

Nick Burns, New Left Review

Student-debt cancellation was a rallying cry of the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2020—an immediate, palliative measure tacked onto the 2016 campaign’s pledge to make higher education free for all. The proposal drew its strongest support from precarious professionals, portrayed in the media as a generation in danger of ‘failing to launch’: educated, underemployed and perpetually adolescent, with marriage and asset acquisition postponed by the persistence of student debt.footnote1 During the pandemic, Trump granted a reprieve in the form of a payment pause. Indebted graduates placed their hopes for a permanent amnesty in a Democratic Administration led by Joe Biden, who planned to erase $400 billion in student debt (a quarter of the total), including the outstanding balance for 45 per cent of borrowers.

Biden’s new student loan forgiveness plan could help 30 million borrowers. Here’s who would qualify

Aimee Picchi, CBS News

President Joe Biden once again is trying to deliver widespread student debt forgiveness, with a new plan unveiled on Monday that could help about 30 million borrowers erase some or all of their college loans. The latest attempt at broad debt relief comes less than a year after the Supreme Court blocked Biden’s previous attempt to help student borrowers, when the court’s June 2023 ruling denied up to $20,000 in forgiveness to roughly 40 million Americans. Biden, who had made student loan relief a major campaign pledge, unveiled the new plan on Monday, describing it as potentially “life changing” for millions of Americans. About 43 million people are carrying $1.7 trillion in student debt, a burden that some borrowers and their advocates say hampers their ability to buy a home or achieve other financial milestones.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

The Educational Radicalism of Bob Moses

Jay Gillen, Radical Teacher

Those who come in contact with the Algebra Project, founded 40 years ago by Bob Moses, tend to underestimate the extraordinary radicalism of Dr. Moses’s strategy for using math literacy as an organizing tool. The Algebra Project uses hard-earned insights from the Black freedom struggle to create space for young people to fashion their own insurgency. The goal of the Project is the destruction of caste in the United States, approached through the counter-intuitive vehicle of math classrooms.

GOP opposition to child tax credit bill could be softening in Senate

Jacob Bogage, Washington Post

Bipartisan legislation to cut taxes for working families and extend certain corporate tax breaks has stalled in the Senate over Republican opposition. But the bill’s prospects could be growing rosier as lawmakers prepare to return to Washington next week from a long recess. Privately, some GOP lawmakers have said they’re increasingly willing to support the bill with small changes that the measure’s Democratic sponsor has already offered, according to four people involved in the conversations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private talks.

In a sign of possible momentum, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) wrote to lawmakers Friday that the upper chamber could consider the bill — along with measures to regulate TikTok, address rail safety and lower health-care costs — “in the weeks and months ahead.”

Native American students get free tuition to attend the UC. Why it isn’t enough.

Christopher Buchanan, Cal Matters

For high school senior Robert McConnell, an acceptance to UC Santa Cruz would all but guarantee his attendance. That’s because, as a member of a federally recognized tribe, McConnell would not have to pay tuition to pursue his dreams of studying marine biology under the UC Native American Opportunity Plan. Launched in 2021, the University of California plan offers free tuition to any member of a federal or state-recognized Native American tribe who can provide proof of membership. McConnell, a member of the Hoopa Valley Tribe in rural Northern California, said an acceptance will grant him opportunities that aren’t available in his unincorporated tribal community.

Democracy and the Public Interest

Nebraska high school students learn how to channel their beliefs into action [AUDIO]

Kassidy Arena, NPR

Ten years after Michael Brown was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, students in Missouri’s neighboring state are using his story as motivation in their state’s capital. Nebraska Public Media’s Kassidy Arena reports how participants in a youth lobby school are using their own lived experiences to push for legislation.

The Influential Conservative Group Making it Harder for Idaho Districts to Fix Their Schools

Becca Savransky, ProPublica

The blue and orange leaflets that arrived in Idaho Falls mailboxes ahead of the school bond election in November 2022 looked like the usual fare that voters across the country get. Sent out by the school district, the mailers encouraged people in the eastern Idaho city to register to vote and listed bullet points highlighting what the bond would pay for. But the mailers, along with other materials the district distributed, would lead the county prosecutor’s office to fine the superintendent and the district’s spokesperson, accusing them of violating election law by using taxpayer money to advocate for the bond measure. According to the prosecutor, it was illegal for district officials to describe the schools as “overcrowded” and “aged” or to say that students “need modern, safe, and secure schools.” Such penalties were made possible by a 2018 state law originally pushed by the Idaho Freedom Foundation, a conservative lobbying group that has become a big player in Idaho Republican politics.

Legislation would create Office of Civil Rights within CDE

Diana Lambert, EdSource

Newly proposed legislation authored by state Sen. Henry Stern would establish an Office of Civil Rights at the California Department of Education. The office would investigate complaints and report on the frequency of incidents of discrimination, harassment, intimidation and bullying at school districts, county offices of education and charter schools, and provide recommendations to the department, according to a news release from the California Department of Education. According to Senate Bill 1421, hate crimes increased by 20% in 2022. The California Department of Education is overburdened with complaints, meaning many can not be investigated immediately.

Other News of Note

Black couple rented to a Chinese American family when nobody would. Now, they’re donating $5M to Black community. [VIDEO]

Lynda Lin Grigsby, NBC News

In 1939, the Dongs, a Chinese American family in Coronado, California, found themselves unable to rent a house amid racially restrictive housing laws that favored white buyers and renters. Emma and Gus Thompson, a Black entrepreneurial couple in town, allowed the family to rent and eventually buy their Coronado property when nobody else would. Now, to thank the Thompsons for helping them get a toehold in American society, the Dongs are donating $5 million to Black college students using proceeds from the sale of the house.

April 12, 1787: Free African Society Founded

Zinn Education Project

On April 12, 1787, Richard Allen and Absalom Jones founded the Free African Society in Philadelphia to be a multi-denomination mutual aid organization for freed people so that they could gather strength and develop leaders in the community. Allen and Jones were both religious leaders and formerly enslaved men who had purchased their freedom before moving to Philadelphia, where they met and found common cause. The Free African Society was a benevolent organization grounded in Christian religious faith and operating outside denominational differences to serve the social needs of Black Philadelphians.