Just News from Center X – August 13, 2021

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Newsom makes California first state to require teacher vaccines or COVID tests

Joe Hong, Cal Matters

After months of reluctance, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday mandated that all California school employees be vaccinated for COVID-19 or be tested weekly. This is the first such statewide mandate for teachers in the country. Until now, Newsom stopped short of such a requirement: He spent the past several months voicing confidence in school safety protocols like increased ventilation and masking, while urging all school employees to be vaccinated. “We think this is the right thing to do, and we think this is a sustainable way to keep schools open,” Newsom said at a press conference at Carl B. Munck Elementary School in Oakland. “We think this will do exactly what it’s intended to do and that’s encourage people to get vaccinated.”

GOP Governors Double Down on Orders Barring Mask Mandates in Schools

Lauren Camera, US News and World Report

A handful of Republican governors are standing by their bans on school districts requiring masks as coronavirus infection, transmission and hospitalization rates spike in their states – a juxtaposition that’s alarming public health officials who point to research showing masks as one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19, especially in schools, where the majority of children are not yet vaccinated. “Unvaccinated kids shouldn’t be forced to gamble with their lives while the deck is stacked against them,” San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said in announcing a lawsuit against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who signed an executive order this spring preventing school districts from requiring students and school staff to mask. The city of Dallas and the Southern Center for Child Advocacy, a nonprofit education organization, filed similar lawsuits against Abbott, who is also weathering pushback from the state’s biggest school districts.

The Choice to Vaccinate Has Never Been Free

Rhea Boyd, The Nation

The uneven toll of the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed preexisting fault lines within the United States—between who gets sick and who gets well, who receives care and who goes without, and those whose behaviors are rewarded—or punished—in the ongoing effort to maintain, or return to, some version of “normalcy.” The latest fault line is between “the vaccinated” and “the unvaccinated.” But rather than revealing a new line, this distinction between Americans based on their Covid vaccination status traces an older division: between those of us who can freely choose to obtain health care and those who still—even in 2021, in the middle of a pandemic—cannot. Common parlance, including the ire of at least a few public officials, might lead some to assume “the unvaccinated” are a self-selecting, selfish gaggle of anti-vaxxers. But the truth is that when compared to those have received a Covid vaccine, those who have not are more likely to be children, working-age adults who earn less than $40,000 per year, Black or Hispanic folks, and the uninsured.

Language, Culture, and Power

Legal group backs US review of Indigenous boarding schools

Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

The American Bar Association’s policymaking body has voted in favor of a resolution supporting the U.S. Interior Department as it works to uncover the troubled legacy of federal boarding schools that sought to assimilate Indigenous youth into white society. The resolution, adopted Monday by delegates at the bar association’s annual meeting, calls for the Biden administration and Congress to fully fund the initiative and provide subpoena power to the Interior Department as it gathers and reviews reams of records related to the schools.

Draft Social Studies Standards Don’t Match What Group Submitted

Lee Strubinger, South Dakota Public Broadcasting

The state Department of Education released a draft of social studies content standards last week. However, those standards differ from the draft a working group submitted.  The Department of Education removed references to Native American culture, including historical lore, the meaning of symbols like the star quilts, buffalo and medicine wheels.  Those standards were included by the working group, which spent eight days in Pierre revising the state’s social studies standards.  The department also removed several references to “indigenous Native Americans.”  Sherry Johnson is the education director for the Sisseton Wahpeton Tribe. She sat on the content standards panel and says she’s disappointed in the changes.  “That wasn’t what we wrote. That wasn’t what I wrote,” Johnson says. “That wasn’t what I was there for, to have somebody else censor history. Censor history and erase ‘Native American’ out of there.”  It’s not clear why. The Department of Education has not returned requests for comment.

Education influencers: How 2 SoCal teens’ push for ethnic studies blew up on social media [Audio]

Matt Guilhem, KCRW

When the Black Lives Matter movement swept through the nation last year, then-high school seniors Jasmine Nguyen and Katelin Zhou felt helpless. To brainstorm how they can be allies for racial justice, they hopped on a FaceTime call — without knowing their little grassroots effort would gain massive traction and blow up on social media. After sharing their experience of not learning enough about racism and ethnic oppressions in their classrooms, the two friends decided to push for multicultural education at schools in California and launched a nonprofit organization called “Diversify Our Narrative.”

Whole Children and Strong Communities

New eviction moratorium doesn’t end fears about students and homelessness amid COVID

Andrew Ujifusa, Education Week

The federal government has moved to extend protections that shield people from evictions until later this year, although the extent to which the decision will buy sufficient time for students on the brink of homelessness in an uncertain economy and evolving pandemic remains to be seen. Controversy over the latest eviction moratorium also highlights the extent to which student homelessness has been difficult for experts to track during the pandemic, even though concerns about youth without stable housing have only grown over the past 18 months. The new moratorium lasts until Oct. 3, which could result in confusion and disruption among many school-age children and their families, who are some of the most vulnerable students in the K-12 system.

Oakland schools documentary ‘Homeroom’ starts streaming on Hulu this week

Ashley McBride, Oakland Side

Listen to the youth. That’s the message Oakland students want you to take away from Homeroom, the Peter Nicks documentary premiering on Hulu this week.  The film chronicles Oakland High School’s graduating class as they navigate the 2019-2020 school year—including the joys and pitfalls of their senior year marred by a global pandemic, budget cuts threatening student programming, and the fight to remove police from schools. Homeroom is the third in a trilogy of documentaries directed by Nicks and his film company Open’hood examining three public institutions in Oakland. The first was The Waiting Room, a 2012 film about Highland Hospital, followed by The Force, a 2017 documentary on the Oakland Police Department. Now, Homeroom takes a deep dive into the Oakland Unified School District.

Here’s how young people feel we can improve the lives of Black male students

Sam Woods, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

How would you improve outcomes for Black male high schoolers in Milwaukee?  Through “Design Your Future,” a fellowship organized by Milwaukee Succeeds, about 60 young people developed six project proposals aimed at doing just that. The fellows, ranging in age from 13 to 20 years old, met every weekday for six weeks in June and July to flesh out their ideas. Some, but not all, of the participants were Black males. Most of the proposals focused on using school or recreational settings to improve the mental health of Black males. Clintel Hasan, strategic initiatives manager at Milwaukee Succeeds, a partnership of educational leaders across government, nonprofit and private sectors that launched the program in December, said this did not surprise her.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

The Kindergarten Exodus

Dana Goldstein and Alicia Parlapianon, New York Times

On a sweltering July afternoon, Solomon Carson, 6, jumped off the stoop of his family’s tidy rowhouse in West Philadelphia, full of what his father, David, called “unspent energy.” When a stranger asked his name, he answered brightly, but added that he couldn’t spell it. “I can help you with that,” his father said, patiently pronouncing each letter, with Solomon repeating after him.

Solomon was supposed to have learned the basics in kindergarten this past year, but his first year of formal education was anything but. When Covid-19 closed classrooms, his parents chose not to enroll him in city schools that they already had doubts about. As they were not working, they decided to teach him at home along with his two older brothers. And they signed him up for a virtual charter school that advertised in-person tutoring — and failed to provide it.

After mixed experiences with distance learning, disabled California college students want flexibility 

Michael Burke, EdSource

For many disabled students across California’s colleges and universities, one thing is clear as a new school year approaches: It helps to have options.The 2020-21 academic year, featuring mostly distance learning, was a mixed bag for disabled students. Taking courses online was a struggle for some, such as students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, many of whom missed the structure of in-person classes. But there were also positive elements of distance learning for some students, including many with physical disabilities.

Democrats overwhelmingly favor free college tuition, while Republicans are divided by age, education

Hannah Hartig, Pew Research Center

American adults generally support making tuition free at public colleges and universities for all U.S. students, yet there are sizable partisan and demographic differences in views of tuition-free college. Republicans, in particular, are divided by age and educational attainment in opinions on this issue, according to a new Pew Research Center survey conducted July 8-18, 2021. Among all U.S. adults, 63% favor making tuition at public colleges free, including 34% who strongly favor the proposal. Slightly more than a third oppose tuition-free college (36%), with 20% strongly opposed. These views are little changed over the past year.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

The link between educational inequality and infrastructure

Erika M. Kitzmiller and Akira Drake Rodriguez, Washington Post

Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) recently introduced legislation calling for $1.43 trillion in federal funding to support upgrades to school buildings and green infrastructure while making major investments in teaching and learning. As a former public school principal, counselor and teacher, Bowman understands firsthand the hardships that educators, families and youths have endured this year — and especially the underappreciated but powerful link between sustainable infrastructure and education. Indeed, educational inequality has long been fueled by the inefficient physical structures of the school building, something the response to covid-19 exposed. While affluent parents donated resources and funding to guarantee that their schools could implement covid-19 mitigation practices — notably mandatory masking and physical distancing — public schools that serve less-affluent, non-White children faced antiquated HVAC systems and windowless classrooms, making it difficult, if not impossible, to implement the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s covid-19 mitigation policies and practices.

“America’s colleges and universities have a dirty open secret” [AUDIO]

Adam Harris, Marketplace

Of the nearly 4,000 four-year and two-year colleges in the United States, around 40% are publicly funded. However, that funding is not distributed equally. One study from the Center for American Progress found that public colleges spend about $5 billion less per year educating students of color than they spend on white students. How the U.S. higher education system became so unequal is the subject of a new book, “The State Must Provide: Why America’s Colleges Have Always Been Unequal— and How to Set Them Right” by Atlantic staff writer and longtime education reporter Adam Harris.

In skirt case, appeals court says Title IX bars dress codes that discriminate based on sex

Mark Walsh, Education Week

A federal appeals court on Monday ruled that Title IX prohibits dress codes that discriminate on the basis of sex. The court panel sent a lawsuit challenging a North Carolina charter school’s dress code—which requires girls to wear skirts and bars them from wearing pants or shorts—back to a federal district court for further proceedings under that provision of federal education law. At the same time, however, the panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, in Richmond, Va., ruled 2-1 that the group that held the charter and the entity that managed the K-8 Charter Day School in Leland, N.C., were not government “actors” and, thus, the dress code could not be challenged as unconstitutional.

Democracy and the Public Interest

Judge rules against Calif. charter schools in class-action funding lawsuit

Kristen Taketa, San Diego Union-Tribune

A California Superior Court judge ruled against hundreds of online and other non-classroom based charter schools in a class-action lawsuit last week, declaring that the state did not wrongfully deprive the schools of education funding during the pandemic. The ruling, handed down July 27, was a blow to the schools, which are called non-classroom-based charter schools because at least 20 percent of the learning occurs off campus, often online or at home.

Hong Kong teachers’ union to disband due to ‘drastic’ political situation


Hong Kong’s largest teachers’ union said on Tuesday it would disband, days after it was criticised by Chinese state media and the city’s Education Bureau severed ties, accusing the group of helping to infiltrate schools with politics. The move is expected to deepen concerns over a crackdown on opposition groups in the Asian financial hub after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the city last year that has stoked fears about the shrinking space for dissent.

These districts will risk breaking state law to continue anti-racism work

Eesha Pendharkar, Education Week

At least three Oklahoma districts that serve mostly students of color say they don’t plan on changing the way they talk about racism in the classroom and are willing to face the consequences of a new state law restricting those practices and conversations. Individual and systemic acts of racism shape the everyday reality of their students’ lives, and it would be unethical and academically destructive to deny that it exists, as the law effectively asks them to do, administrators said. School leaders in Hanna, Millwood, and Tulsa said they have no plans to end their anti-bias training, change any part of their curriculum, or shutter the wealth of in-school and after-school activities that celebrate students’ cultural identities. Refusal to do so could be interpreted by state administrators as running afoul of the law.

Other News of Note

Activist Dolores Huerta welcomes new San Jose schools, pushing progressive education

Shomik Mukherjee, San Jose Mercury News

Two new public schools are set to open next week in north San Jose at a state-of-the-art joint campus, one aspect of a modern learning experience that administrators say the schools will provide. But celebrated labor organizer and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, for whom one of the schools is named, issued a familiar call for progress during a ribbon-cutting Saturday for the new schools, which she said must offer an education that prepares students to address wealth inequality, racial discrimination and climate change. In a speech belying her 91 years of age, Huerta led attendees in fervent rallying cries that epitomized her rise as one of the most influential labor leaders in the history of California. One of them — her most iconic — was “Sí, Se Puede,” which roughly translates in English as “Yes, we can.” “We have a lot of money that goes into the military, into defense, into so many other areas, and education is always lagging,” Huerta said to applause. “This has to change.”