Just News from Center X – Dec 13, 2019

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Will fires, outages land California students in ‘disaster relief’ summer school?

Ricardo Cano, CalMatters
Reeling from a fire-ravaged autumn in which “disaster days” have already cost some 800,000 students days and even weeks of instruction, California educators are asking the state to address one of the most sweeping consequences of climate-fueled wildfire: the now-annual mass emergency closures of schools. In Sonoma County, where some schools have lost nearly 40 instructional days in two years to wildfires, floods and power shutoffs, one superintendent is leading a lobbying campaign for “summer disaster relief” school funding to underwrite summer school in fire country. In Butte County, another has told lawmakers that pre-emptive blackouts forced him to choose between educating kids in the dark or risking $107,000 per day in attendance-based state money.

How teachers advocating for their students could backfire

Diana D’Amico Pawlewicz, The Washington Post
Over the past few years, teachers have walked out of schools across the United States in the name of bargaining for the common good. Across state lines and political divisions, teachers have moved beyond traditional bread-and-butter concerns to call for smaller class sizes, more support personnel and improved housing options for students and families. Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of the United Teachers of Los Angeles union, explained that although salaries and benefits are important, “our contract campaign is suffused with a lot of demands that benefit society much more broadly.” A news release from the Chicago Teachers Union about the recent 10-day strike echoed that sentiment: “Our contract fight was about the larger movement to shift values and priorities in Chicago.” For CTU President Jesse Sharkey, the strike was not for teachers, but for “real and lasting change for our students and the people of this city.” On the surface, there is nothing not to love about teachers advocating for their students.

Education groups renew call for Newsom to put tax for schools to voters in 2020

John Fensterwald, EdSource
A coalition of education organizations and school officials on Tuesday called on Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders to place one tax measure on the November 2020 ballot “solely focused on education: quality child care, pre-school, K-12 and higher education.” Their letter to Newsom, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President pro Tem Toni Atkins picks up where the California School Boards Association left off last week, when it announced it was deferring a $15 billion tax initiative for K-12 and community colleges until 2022. The school boards association had hoped that Newsom would intervene and reach a compromise with sponsors of another tax initiative — a challenge to Proposition 13’s limits on commercial property tax increases — to put only one tax before voters.

Language, Culture, and Power

What do young people think about impeaching Trump?

StudentNation, The Nation
House Democratic leaders yesterday formally called for President Donald Trump’s removal from office, arguing that he “ignored and injured the interests of the nation” in two articles of impeachment that accused him of abusing his power and obstructing Congress. But what do young people—for most, the first impeachment in their lifetime—think about it? We asked Student Nation contributors to share their thoughts, answering the question: How does the current effort to impeach President Trump affect your day-to-day life? How does it inform your view of the future?

As Newtown students grow up, some turn to activism

Dave Collins, ABC News
They were children themselves when they lost siblings, friends, and schoolmates in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Too young to comprehend the massacre, they spent years in shock and denial. Seven years later, some young people in Newtown, still struggling with the trauma, are emerging as new voices for school safety and gun violence prevention. The activism, they say, has been a way to turn something horrific into something positive.

Accidental shootings raise questions about arming teachers

Martha Bellisle, The Chicago Tribune
As the country looks for ways to deal with mass shootings at schools, some have responded by saying more people should carry guns, including teachers. “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” President Donald Trump told the National Rifle Association convention in April. More states are allowing teachers to carry guns, he said, and “who better to protect our children than our teachers, who love them.” But a close look at unintentional shootings by law enforcement officers, including at schools, raises doubts about whether more guns would help keep students safe.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

West LA high school students use art, poetry to help homeless children [VIDEO]

Veronica Miracle, ABC 7
A group of Los Angeles area high school students are using their artistic talents to help homeless children. They were inspired when they saw the staggering statistics of unsheltered children. Inside the colorful book they created, full of whimsical artwork and thoughtful poems, is a meaningful message. “We’re the next generation,” Marisol Torro said. “It’s our responsibility to give back.” The 16 West L.A. high school seniors are the authors and illustrators behind “Verses for the Voiceless.”

500 homeless families go to head of line for L.A. housing vouchers

Howard Blume, The Los Angeles Times
Five hundred families with school-age children will go to the head of the line for housing vouchers under a new program announced this week by Los Angeles city and school officials. The effort is no panacea — given estimates of more than 17,000 students with unstable housing — but could be life-changing for families that benefit. One of those could be Blanca Ahumada, who has worked periodically as a cashier since graduating from Van Nuys High School in 2001. Her seven children range in age from 2 months to 14 years. Ahumada said she and her husband, Jose Marquez, a day laborer, have struggled for more than two years to find a stable living situation after being evicted in a dispute with their landlord.

California parents, preschool teachers learn to teach math through children’s books

Zaidee Stavely, EdSource
A group of California parents and preschool teachers are overcoming their fear of math and discovering new confidence to teach it to young children through an unexpected source: storybooks. A series of activities designed to teach math concepts inspired by children’s books are being piloted in Fresno as part of the California Statewide Early Math Initiative, which aims to improve how preschool teachers and parents teach and talk about math concepts with young children. At an event to kick off the project, preschoolers and parents at the Lighthouse for Children Child Development Center built boats with aluminum foil, modeling clay and popsicle sticks, and then placed them in water to see if they would float. Other children traced and cut out shapes from construction paper and glued them down to create animals, or counted and played with colorful plastic balls to see how many would fit in different containers.

Access, Assessment, and Advancement

After 10 years of hopes and setbacks, what happened to the Common Core?

Dana Goldstein, The New York Times
The plan was hatched with high hopes and missionary zeal: For the first time in its history, the United States would come together to create consistent, rigorous education standards and stop letting so many school children fall behind academically. More than 40 states signed on to the plan, known as the Common Core State Standards Initiative, after it was rolled out in 2010 by a bipartisan group of governors, education experts and philanthropists. The education secretary at the time, Arne Duncan, declared himself “ecstatic.” American children would read more nonfiction, write better essays and understand key mathematical concepts, instead of just mechanically solving equations.

Students, community groups sue University of California to drop SAT, ACT

Melissa Korn, The Wall Street Journal
A group of students and community organizations filed a much-anticipated lawsuit against the University of California, alleging that the university system discriminates against low-income students, racial minorities and others by requiring SAT or ACT admissions tests. The suit was filed Tuesday in California state court on behalf of a high-school sophomore, two seniors, and a first-year student at Pasadena City College, all of whom it says would be strong candidates for more selective UC campuses except for their test scores. Several California college-prep and social-justice nonprofits are also plaintiffs in the suit. The Compton Unified School District is preparing to file a related suit.

High school students in Oakland take college classes—for free

Young Whan Choi, The Young and the Woke
Students, especially low-income students, don’t have the luxury of taking expensive college classes and building up debt while they “figure things out.” What if we could expose students in high school to more college, career, and community experiences to help them understand how to pursue their future goals? In this episode, we learn about Dual Enrollment – a program between Oakland Unified School District and Peralta College that aims to do just that.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Disconnected: Internet stops once school ends for many rural California students

Sydney Johnson, EdSource
Walk into any classroom in Alpaugh Unified and you will see teaching and learning using the latest technology. Students collaborate on digital documents, give presentations on interactive whiteboards, conduct research and even apply to colleges on Chromebooks. But for many students in Alpaugh, a small rural town about an hour north of Bakersfield in Tulare County, that online connection stops once the school day ends.

San Ysidro School District Kicked Out a Homeless Student Over a Paperwork Problem

Lisa Halverstadt, The Voice of San Diego
About a month ago, Camila Martinez got a call from her daughter’s school any parent would dread. A school staffer said her 11-year-old had been booted from Willow Elementary and that Martinez needed to pick her up immediately. The sixth grader wasn’t being disciplined. Her family had failed to submit paperwork to verify their residency in the district, documentation that the San Ysidro School District said was required to prove Olivia was eligible to attend the school because her mother had previously reported she was homeless. Now a school staffer was telling Martinez that her daughter was no longer enrolled.

What happens when black Americans leave their segregated hometowns

Christine Leibbrand, The Conversation
Where someone grows up is profoundly important for their life chances. It influences things like the schools they attend, the jobs, parks and community resources they have access to and the peers they interact with. Because of this comprehensive influence, one might conclude that where you grow up affects your ability to move up the residential ladder and into a better neighborhood than the one you grew up in. In a new study, my co-authors and I show that for many children, where they grow up is profoundly important for where they end up as adults.

Public Schools and Private $

Broad Center to move from L.A. to Yale along with $100-million gift

Howard Blume, The Los Angeles Times
The Broad Center, which has attracted praise and suspicion for its training of school district leaders, will move from Los Angeles to Yale University, along with a $100-million gift provided by founder Eli Broad, the center announced Thursday. The donation is the largest ever for the Yale School of Management and will help fund a master’s program for public education leaders and advanced leadership training for top school system executives — efforts that had been undertaken by the center in Los Angeles. The current participants will finish their work at the center in Los Angeles before the operation shifts to the East Coast.

Federal government wasted millions of dollars on charter schools that never opened

Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post
More than 35 percent of charter schools funded by the federal Charter School Program (CSP) between 2006 and 2014 either never opened or were shut down, costing taxpayers more than half a billion dollars, according to a new report from an advocacy group that reviewed records of nearly 5,000 schools. The state with the most charter schools that never opened was Michigan, home to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. The report, titled “Still Asleep at the Wheel,” said that 537 “ghost schools” never opened but received a total of more than $45.5 million in federal start-up funding. That was more than 11 percent of all the schools that received funding from CSP, which began giving grants in 1995.

Pete Buttigieg releases $1 trillion-plus plan for early-childhood and K-12 education

Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post
Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg is unveiling a broad new education plan on Saturday that pledges to spend $700 billion over a decade to create a high-quality child care and preschool system that he said would reach all children from birth to age 5 and create 1 million jobs. The 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Ind., also promised to spend $425 billion to strengthen America’s K-12 public schools, targeting federal investments and policy to help historically marginalized students. He would boost funding for schools in high-poverty areas as well as for students with disabilities, and promote voluntary school integration. And he said he would ensure that all charter schools — which are publicly funded but privately operated — undergo the same accountability measures as schools in publicly funded districts.

Other News of Note

A just society doesn’t criminalize girls

Ayanna Pressley and Monique Morris, Common Dreams
The policies and unfair practices that disproportionately push girls of color from institutions of learning stem from deeply entrenched biases that require bold, community-based solutions to correct. Too frequently, educational justice is denied for girls – especially for girls of color. Schools should be the safest place for our children and yet, for many girls of color, the school environment adds painful weight to their already heavy emotional backpacks. Across our country, black and brown girls are pushed out of school not because they pose any sort of threat, but for simply being who they are. Society too often deems our hair too distracting and our bodies too provocative, our voices too loud, and our attitudes too mean — demeaning our very existence before we even reach adulthood. According to the National Women’s Law Center, black girls in preschool are 54 percent of the girls receiving out-of-school suspensions despite making up only 20 percent of girls enrolled in preschool.

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