Just News from Center X – August 7, 2020

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Across the Country, Teachers Rally for Safe Reopenings and Police-Free Schools

Madeline Will, Education Week
In at least three dozen cities across the country on Monday—from Los Angeles to Baton Rouge, La.—teachers took part in car caravans and socially distanced rallies to protest against reopening school buildings and police officers in schools. The actions were part of a “National Day of Resistance,” organized by a coalition of local teachers’ unions, the Democratic Socialists of America, and left-leaning national groups. The coalition is demanding districts not reopen school buildings “until the scientific data supports it,” ensure equitable access to online learning, and maintain safe conditions when schools do reopen, including small class sizes, personal protective equipment, adequate cleaning, and COVID-19 testing. Other demands include police-free schools, rent and mortgage cancelations, direct cash assistance to those unable to work or who are unemployed, a moratorium on new charter schools or voucher programs, and a pause on standardized testing.

LAUSD, teachers reach tentative deal on remote learning

Howard Blume, LA Times
After a troubled and uneven spring of distance learning, Los Angeles schools will reopen in two weeks with a major reboot for learning at home that includes a structured schedule, mandatory attendance-taking and more required online time with teachers and counselors, under a tentative agreement between the teachers union and the district. The official schedule will be shorter than a normal on-campus school day, beginning at 9 a.m. and ending at 2:15 p.m., with teachers expected to work an average of six hours while exercising broad discretion over how much time they spend teaching live online classes versus providing recorded sessions and supervising students working independently.

As the Coronavirus Comes to School, a Tough Choice: When to Close

Sarah Mervosh and Shawn Hubler, New York Times
As schools in the South and the Midwest reopen this week, officials must decide what steps to take as staff members and students test positive. More than 200 employees have been barred from work in Georgia’s largest school district. A high school in Indiana had to shift to online learning after just two days. And students in Mississippi were forced to quarantine after classmates tested positive for the coronavirus during the first week of classes.

Language, Learning, and Power

Teachers Aren’t Sacrificial Lambs. No Essential Worker Is.   

Sarah Jones, New York Magazine
In a pandemic, a new school year is a source of panic, not relief, for parents. There are no good options, no way for anything to feel truly normal again. Some school districts are moving ahead with plans to reopen as normal; others are going all remote; and some are implementing a hybrid model. Each option represents a burden for parents. In-person instruction carries a certain amount of risk, especially in communities with high levels of viral spread. Virtual learning can bore kids and demands a level of involvement that working parents may not be able to provide, and the hybrid model may just double a parent’s responsibilities.

California legislators urge Newsom to sign bill requiring CSU students to take ethnic studies

Ashley A. Smith, Edsource
Bill would bypass California State University proposal to broaden ethnic studies and include social justice. Within the next 12 days, Gov. Gavin Newsom will decide which ethnic studies courses California State University students must take to graduate.Advocates of a bill that would require students to take a 3-unit class in one of four ethnic studies disciplines gathered Tuesday to lobby Newsom to sign the bill by Aug. 15.

Why Black Girls Can’t Wait For Police-Free Schools

Jamelia Harris, Blavity
In 2007, video footage of a Black girl being slammed against a lunch table and violently arrested by an officer at my high school circulated across the media. Witnessing this incident, just weeks before my first day as a freshman student, permanently disrupted my sense of safety in school and eventually influenced me to pursue a Ph.D. at UCLA, where I research the criminalization of Black girls. Despite cultural assumptions that girls should be treated with gentility, Black girls learn early on that our Blackness disqualifies us from the protections of girlhood and childhood innocence, especially when interacting with police.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Supporting a Restorative Opening of U.S. Schools

Jennifer DePaoli Laura E. Hernández Linda Darling-Hammond, Learning Policy Institute
The events of 2020 have deeply shaken U.S. society. The murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Rayshard Brooks, among others, have elicited rightful displays of pain and anger, spawning unprecedented uprisings across the nation as justice seekers call for an end to punitive policing and for the acknowledgement of the humanity of Black lives. These killings and the ongoing use of excessive force have put systemic racism on clear display and reignited the collective, individual, and intergenerational trauma that U.S. citizens, particularly Black Americans, bear as a result of our nation’s embedded systems of power and oppression.

Now is the time to prepare for the future

Michael Matsuda, EdSource
Nearly sixty years ago, speaking about the implications of the Cuban Missile Crisis, John F. Kennedy said, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” With all the attention on reopening schools during a national pandemic, school leaders and policymakers need to also critically focus on how we will prepare students for the world after the pandemic. Our young people, called Generation Z-ers, already were faced with high college debt, mostly short term “gig” jobs with few or no benefits like health insurance, and few opportunities for mentorships or internships with corporations or non-profits that would give them better job skills.

California makes internet-enabled tablets available to nearly 1 million students

Sydney Johnson, EdSource
California education officials working to equip all students with computers and internet at home announced a new initiative on Wednesday that could connect up to 1 million students with internet-enabled tablets during distance learning this school year. Nearly 97% of California’s 6.2 million students will start the next school year from their homes as the number of coronavirus cases continues to increase across the state. But nearly 700,000 students are still without the technology they need in order to participate in online classes while schools are closed for in-person instruction, according to the latest estimates from the California Department of Education.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

Why Are Child Care Programs Open When Schools Are Not?

Elliot Haspel, New York Times
Society’s perception of child care being of lesser quality to education has rarely been so pronounced. Although school buildings in Philadelphia will remain closed this fall, St. Mary’s Nursery School, a secular child care center founded in 1964, will remain open. St. Mary’s, which serves children ages 18 months to 12 years, typifies an odd juxtaposition: As more public schools are moving to remote learning, child care programs and after-school providers in major cities are taking in more children of families who cannot work remotely.

Beyond the Neoliberal University

Todd Wolfson and Astra Taylor, Boston Review
COVID-19 has exposed the fragility and inequity of the U.S. system of higher education. Decades of state disinvestment coupled with the rise of corporate management techniques has led to skyrocketing tuition, soaring student debt, precarious academic labor, and many other pernicious effects—from racial disparities in access and outcomes, to the explosion of predatory for-profit colleges. As a result, American universities are uniquely vulnerable to the pandemic’s economic shocks. Faced with declining enrollments, massive budget cuts, hiring freezes, layoffs, and more, countless schools are in financial peril and many may have to close their doors for good. But deeper austerity is not the only possible response—we could also seize this moment of crisis to make our universities more equitable and resilient by restoring public funding and prioritizing a deeper democratic purpose. For this to happen, faculty, staff, students, and adjacent communities must mobilize and demand a seat at the table.

Making Remote Learning Relevant

Cathy N. Davidson and Dianne Harris, Inside HigherEd
“It started more slowly than they thought it would,” the video begins in classic disaster-genre fashion, but “gradually we all knew that life would never be the same.” Columbia University English professor Denise Cruz sent this video to the 115 students enrolled in her remote Asian American Literature course this fall. Partway through, the scene, images and text take a more upbeat tone: “This is the premise of Chang-rae Lee’s 2014 novel On Such a Full Sea, a book about a health crisis, labor and how an individual and a community try to imagine a way out.” The subtitles describe other aspects of the online course before concluding, “This beginning may not be easy, but it’s an important opportunity for us to reimagine what it means to read and learn not just as individuals but also as a community. This will be a fall like no other. We’re ready. We can’t wait to meet you.”

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

In Rural California, Some Students Resort To Distance Learning In Parking Lots Near WiFi Connections [Audio]  

Sarah Bohannon and Nina Sparling, CapRadio
The day Greenville Junior/Senior High School switched to distance learning, no students were in the classroom. They’d been off for three snow days, which meant the school didn’t have time to prepare and most students had left their school-issued tablets behind. A challenge greater than finding and delivering those devices to students? Getting them online.

Democrats introduce bill to give the Federal Reserve a new mission: Ending racial inequality

Heather Long, Washington Post
Congressional Democrats introduced new legislation on Wednesday that would make reducing racial inequality in the U.S. economy an official part of the Federal Reserve’s mission. The Federal Reserve Racial and Economic Equity Act requires the central bank to take action “to minimize and eliminate racial disparities in employment, wages, wealth, and access to affordable credit.” It would be the first major change to the Fed’s mandate since 1977 and would significantly alter the central bank’s focus. The Fed’s current mandate from Congress is to keep prices stable and maximize the number of Americans with jobs.

Reopening Schools [Audio]

Jaleel Howard, Office Hours with Allen, Noguera, Harper, and Howard
In this episode our team discusses reopening schools in the midst of the pandemic, and the race and equity implications that come along with it.

Public Schools and Private Dollars

Michigan GOP candidate who downplayed ties to DeVos hires her niece after getting $1M cash infusion

Igor Derysh, Salon
Michigan Republican Senate candidate John James has sought to downplay his ties to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, but new campaign finance disclosures show her family is one of his biggest backers. James, an Army veteran and businessman who lost his 2018 Senate race to Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., is running again this cycle against Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., with the backing of President Donald Trump. Though he has tried to distance himself from DeVos, James has enjoyed a cozy relationship with her family. The Senate candidate has hired Olivia DeVos, the secretary of education’s niece, as his assistant communications director. She is a recent college graduate who appears to have no relevant experience in communications or politics.

California’s elementary-school reopening rules may favor private schools, charters      

Dustin Gardiner, San Francisco Chronicle
SACRAMENTO — Elementary schools in California that receive waivers from health officials to reopen in-classroom learning in the coming weeks will most likely be private or charter campuses, educators say — a possibility that teachers unions warn could exacerbate gaps between wealthy children and low-income students enrolled at traditional public schools.The California Department of Public Health’s new guidelines for how elementary schools can bring students back into classrooms during the coronavirus pandemic put public school districts at a disadvantage, some teachers say.

If Public Schools Are Closed, Should Private Schools Have to Follow?

Simon Romero, Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio and Patricia Mazzei, New York Times
Facing a resurgence of the coronavirus, public schools in the suburbs of the nation’s capital decided in recent weeks that more than a million children would start the school year from home. On Friday, officials in Maryland’s most populous county said that private schools, including some of the nation’s most elite, had to join them. Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, abruptly overruled that directive this week, contending that Maryland’s private schools should be allowed to make their own reopening decisions. The governor staked out his position on the same day that a group of parents filed a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn the county’s order, saying it discriminated against private and religious schools.

Other News of Note

The Lessons We Haven’t Learned

Helen Caldicott, The Progressive
My birthday is August 7, sandwiched between the anniversary dates for the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (on August 6 and August 9, 1945, respectively). I was six years old when the first bomb fell. My course in life was predetermined. On September 2, 1945, when the local fire siren suddenly blared, my teacher asked, “What is that?” and I knew: The war was over. It had been a really scary time in Melbourne, Australia, as the Japanese had threatened to invade us. Dad dug an air-raid shelter in our back garden, and the windows were blacked out while the city’s searchlights scanned the skies at night. Elated, I walked home on that lovely sunny afternoon picking flowers along the way. It would be years later before I learned the awful truth about how the war ended.