Just News from Center X – April 24, 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.

The UCLA Data for Democracy project is pleased to announce our newest brief:  Housing Inequality in Los Angeles.  This brief invites k-12 students to examine charts, graphs, tables, maps, and interviews about housing insecurity and movements to create housing justice in our communities.  Next week we will post a Spanish language version of the brief and share an invitation for Los Angeles students to participate in a virtual dialogue with UCLA researchers about housing inequality and housing justice.

Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

In the Detroit school lawsuit, court rules kids have a constitutional right to literacy

Rafi Schwartz, Mic
Nearly four years after seven Detroit school children sued a host of government officials over the “state of Michigan’s systemic, persistent, and deliberate failure to deliver instruction and tools essential for access to literacy,” the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that students do indeed have a constitutional right to literacy — the first ruling of its kind, according to civil rights attorney and Senior Legal Counsel for the City of Detroit Eli Savit. “This is really a landmark ruling,” Savit told Mic in a phone call. “There’s no two ways about it.” Thursday’s decision is the latest milestone in a years-long effort to ensure educational justice by the student plaintiffs in Gary B. v. Snyder, a suit alleging that then-Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R), as well the superintendent of Public Instruction and members of the state’s board of education had engaged in prolonged “disinvestment in and deliberate indifference to Detroit schools.” The result, the plaintiffs alleged, was a denial of their right to literacy.

Startling disparities in digital learning emerge as COVID-19 spreads: UN education agency

UN News
With most of the world’s students now at home due to COVID-19, the pandemic is revealing startling divides in digitally-based distance learning, data from the UN education and cultural agency, UNESCO, and partners has revealed. They found that half of all students currently out of the classroom – or nearly 830 million learners globally — do not have access to a computer. Additionally, more than 40 per cent have no Internet access at home. “These inequalities are a real threat to learning continuity at a time of unprecedented educational disruption”, said Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education.

Los Angeles Unified enrollment dips below 600,000, a first in more than three decades

Michael Burke and Daniel J. Willis, EdSource
For the first time in more than three decades, the number of students in Los Angeles Unified has fallen below 600,000 students — the continuation of a long trend of declining enrollment that has significant implications for the financial health and staffing of the district. The district is already facing an uncertain financial future amid the coronavirus pandemic, which Superintendent Austin Beutner estimates will bring LA Unified $200 million in unexpected expenses — including the cost of distributing millions of meals and ensuring that students will have access to distance learning. The pandemic also will likely lead to a drop in the state’s revenues that determine the district’s funding.

Language, Culture, and Power

Imagine online school in a language you don’t understand

Rikha Sharma Rani, The New York Times
Like many parents, Zainab Alomari has spent the last month trying to help her children learn at home. But unlike most, she has been talking to teachers and working through lessons in a language she barely understands. Ms. Alomari came to the United States in 2006 from Yemen, where she spoke Arabic. She knows only a few basic English words and phrases.

Trump administration bars DACA and undocumented students from billions in federal aid

Chris Quintana, USA Today
The White House on Tuesday blocked tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants and DACA recipients from getting billions of dollars in aid earmarked for college students affected by COVID-19. It’s difficult to know how many people are affected by the Trump administration’s decision since exact figures are not kept on undocumented immigrants attending U.S. colleges. There are nearly 700,000 recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, making it likely that scores of students in the DACA ranks will be affected.

We need new ideas to ensure education responses to Covid-19 don’t harm those marginalized

Manos Antoninis, Worlds of Education
In the middle of the turmoil that the pandemic has caused, two perspectives are critical. First, the upheaval has thrown pre-existing inequalities into sharp relief. Second, the crisis is the backdrop to a crash course in moral philosophy: we are all faced with stark choices, as solutions that help some, can cause grave damage to others. Both perspectives are highly relevant for education.
Governments all over the world have responded with zeal to the new circumstances. However, just as education systems are struggling to cater for the marginalized in the best of times, the weaknesses of the various distance learning modalities being hastily put together become increasingly apparent. The lack of contact with students deprives teachers of some of the most important tools they usually have at their disposal to compensate for marginalized learners’ disadvantages.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Closed schools are creating more trauma for students

Cory Turner, NPR
The high school senior sitting across from Franciene Sabens was in tears over the abrupt amputation of her social life and turmoil at home. Because of the coronavirus, there will be no prom, no traditional send-off or ceremony for the graduates of Carbondale Community High School in Carbondale, Ill. And Sabens, one of the school’s counselors, could not give the girl the one thing Sabens’ gut told her the teen needed most. “I want to hug them all, but I really wanted to hug that one,” Sabens remembers. Instead of a desk between counselor and student, there were miles of Internet cable and a computer screen. No hug. No private office. This is Sabens’ new normal.

Students on remote learning: More creativity, interaction needed

Linda Jacobson, Education Dive
Teachers and administrators are reaching out and communicating with students about how school has changed because of closures, but what students would like is a better online classroom experience and more interaction with teachers and peers, according to survey results from Phi Delta Kappa International. Nineteen percent of high school students responding, for example, said video chats would make them feel more connected during remote learning, but only 2% could give examples of how their teachers had done this well.

Congress should grant schools flexibility in implementing special education laws

Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, EdSource
United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is weighing whether to recommend that Congress provide waivers to schools and states on some requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. I urge her to recommend necessary and temporary flexibility during this unprecedented public health crisis.

Access, Assessment, and Advancement

Internet providers asked to do more for California students without access

Sydney Johnson, EdSource
In an ongoing effort to connect all California students to the internet at home, state legislators are urging internet service companies to increase their efforts to extend services to families without access. Internet service providers, including AT&T, Verizon, Charter Communications, Cox Communications and Comcast, testified on Monday afternoon in a virtual public hearing about what they are doing to support students without internet access during the coronavirus pandemic. It was the first hearing of the new Closing the Digital Divide Task Force, co-chaired by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, that is focused on closing the digital divide.

Paid leave, free wi-fi: California college students form coalition to demand more help

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, LAist
Colleges need to do more and be more consistent in the help they’re providing students during the coronavirus crisis, a coalition of students demanded in a letter sent Wednesday to top administrators at California’s community college and public university systems.
The demands from the California Students High Education Advocacy Round Table include leniency in grading, paid leave for student workers until they return to work, waiving on-campus parking fees and use of campus wi-fi.

Community colleges could see a surge in popularity amid Covid-19

Jessica Dickler, CNBC
The coronavirus crisis has already changed the way this year’s crop of high school seniors are thinking about higher education. And community colleges across the country are preparing accordingly. “Under the circumstances, families may turn to us as the gateway of opportunity, and we’ve been ready,” said Michael Baston, the president of Rockland Community College in Rockland County, New York.
Amid a global pandemic and sharp economic slowdown, students and families may be more likely to choose local and less-expensive public schools or community college rather than private universities far from home, according to Robert Franek, editor in chief of The Princeton Review and author of “The Best 385 Colleges.”

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Distance learning during coronavirus worsens race, class inequality in education

Nidia Bautista, Teen Vogue
Abruptly shifting much of the U.S. education system online in the middle of a pandemic was never going to be easy. But for students of color at some of the country’s largest school districts, the practical, technical, and emotional challenges are far more acute. Their lack of reliable internet access and technology is only the tip of the iceberg. Students told Teen Vogue they’re growing anxious as relatives are laid off and bills mount. Mixed-status families are being left out of relief packages. Children of essential workers are taking on responsibilities at home that prevent them from engaging in online classes. All of the historic inequities in education access that students of color already faced are compounded by a pandemic that is particularly devastating for black and Latinx communities.

Prolonged school closures could be very costly for America’s students

Matthew Yglesias, Vox
Prolonged school closures associated with the coronavirus pandemic are likely to have a major and negative affect on children’s learning, according to a wide range of experts — leaving some students behind academically for years to come, and even leading to meaningful lost income over the course of their lifetimes. Problems are likely to be especially concentrated in younger children and lower-income households, but not necessarily limited to them.

Getting free internet is hard for poor students despite provider promises, survey finds

Howard Blume, Sonali Kohli and Paloma Esquivel, The Los Angeles Times
Tamara Solis faced a choice when it came to her children’s education: Pay for rent and food or pay for internet access. Broadband came in second, so she takes her kids to a friend’s garage apartment in Watts for internet — where they do their schoolwork in close quarters amid the coronavirus pandemic. “It’s a small place,” said Solis, noting that it was difficult to abide by recommended physical distancing guidelines. “We try to do the best — one on the table, one on the sofa, one on the bed … but it’s not big enough to keep far away.” Her plight is not unique.

Public Schools and Private $

Betsy DeVos quietly bans DACA recipients from getting emergency student aid amid pandemic

Igor Deryish, Salon
he Trump administration banned undocumented college students Tuesday from receiving emergency assistance amid the coronavirus pandemic even though Congress did not exclude the group in a relief bill. The $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill passed by Congress last month included $6 billion for colleges to help students deal with expenses after campuses around the country shut down. But the Department of Education, led by Secretary Betsy DeVos, issue new guidance this week that limits the aid to only citizens and certain legal permanent residents.

Pandemic a high-stakes test for Betsy DeVos’ leadership

Andrew Ujifusa, Education Week
In her first three years in office, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos drew attention—and fierce criticism—like none of her predecessors. Now, as the country wrestles with the coronavirus pandemic, DeVos faces circumstances no education secretary has ever confronted.
So far, her public actions and messages during the unprecedented shutdown of schools nationwide have demonstrated a mixture of leniency and pressure. But other complex tests await her. The fluctuating pressures—to be lenient or steadfast, to provide resources and clarity but not become overbearing or callous—shift from issue to issue and depend on whether she’s addressing policymakers, advocates, educators, the general public, or all of them at once.

Other News of Note

The youngest on the call is 11 — California’s youth activists rally online and with chalk to fight climate change, big oil

Ezra David Romero, Capital Public Radio
Nineteen-year-old Zuzu Schmitke and her friends are drawing a globe using homemade pastel colored chalk in front of the west steps of the Capitol in Sacramento. “It’s a really scary time right now,” said Schmitke, with the youth climate activist group Sunrise Movement Sacramento.  “I think the world needs a little bit of hope and a little bit of art.”The group is part of Earth Week in Sacramento. It includes a day of fundraising and a 12-hour-long livestream focused on climate change and COVID-19 on Friday. It began Wednesday with a Climate Chalk at people’s homes and at places like the Capitol, City Hall, parks, and grocery stores. People will use chalk to share their messages at a safe distance from each other.