Just News from Center X – December 16, 2022

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Happy holidays to all our readers. This is the final edition of Just News for 2022. We will be back on January 6 with more stories about powerful learning and inspiring struggles for justice.

Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

‘Shut it down!’: Picketers disrupt UC regents meeting as strike drags into 5th week

Debbie Truong and Grace Toohey, Los Angeles Times

Hundreds of striking UC academic workers — whose massive five-week walkout has disrupted finals week and stirred angst among students and faculty about term grades — converged on the UCLA campus Wednesday shouting for better pay and benefits and a swift end to the contract dispute. A small group of picketers delayed the meeting of the UC regents for hours by refusing to leave the room. Later, another group interrupted a committee meeting, said UC spokesperson Ryan King. About 15 were cited by university police and were peacefully escorted from the room, he said. When the meeting originally scheduled for 10 a.m. at UCLA’s Luskin Center finally convened after 1 p.m., a member of the striking unions took the microphone during public comment. “Your role as regents is to advocate for the improvement of the university, this includes the financial and physical well-being of those who make the university run,” said Wesleigh Gates, a doctoral candidate at UCLA.

A Fast-Growing Network of Conservative Groups Is Fueling a Surge in Book Bans

Elizabeth A. Harris and Alexandra Alter, New York Times

The Keller Independent School District, just outside of Dallas, passed a new rule in November: It banned books from its libraries that include the concept of gender fluidity. The change was pushed by three new school board members, elected in May with support from Patriot Mobile, a self-described Christian cellphone carrier. Through its political action committee, Patriot Mobile poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into Texas school board races to promote candidates with conservative views on race, gender and sexuality — including on which books children can access at school. Traditionally, debates over what books are appropriate for school libraries have taken place between a concerned parent and a librarian or administrator, and resulted in a single title or a few books being re-evaluated, and either removed or returned to shelves.

One state is poised to teach media literacy starting in kindergarten

Javeria Salman, Hechinger Report

New Jersey is set to become the first state in the nation to mandate teaching media literacy to students of all ages as a bill with the requirement heads to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk for a signature. The bill, which won bipartisan support from the state’s senate and assembly, would require the New Jersey Department of Education to develop learning standards across K-12 in media and information literacy. Media literacy is often defined as the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create and communicate information or media. Experts say that many Americans, both young and old, lack the skills required to critically analyze information in a digital world. A 2019 report from the Stanford History Education Group found that high school students had “difficulty discerning fact from fiction online.” According to Michelle Ciulla Lipkin, executive director of the nonprofit group National Association for Media Literacy Education, New Jersey’s bill is an important step forward for teaching kids how to think critically about media messages, evaluate news and identify misinformation.

Language, Culture, and Power

Thousands of Teens Are Being Pushed Into Military’s Junior R.O.T.C.

By Mike Baker, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs and Ilana Marcus, New York Times

On her first day of high school, Andreya Thomas looked over her schedule and found that she was enrolled in a class with an unfamiliar name: J.R.O.T.C. She and other freshmen at Pershing High School in Detroit soon learned that they had been placed into the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, a program funded by the U.S. military designed to teach leadership skills, discipline and civic values — and open students’ eyes to the idea of a military career. In the class, students had to wear military uniforms and obey orders from an instructor who was often yelling, Ms. Thomas said, but when several of them pleaded to be allowed to drop the class, school administrators refused. “They told us it was mandatory,” Ms. Thomas said. J.R.O.T.C. programs, taught by military veterans at some 3,500 high schools across the country, are supposed to be elective, and the Pentagon has said that requiring students to take them goes against its guidelines. But The New York Times found that thousands of public school students were being funneled into the classes without ever having chosen them, either as an explicit requirement or by being automatically enrolled.

For Black Families in Phoenix, Child Welfare Investigations Are a Constant Threat

Eli Hager, Agnel Philip, and Hannah Rappleye, ProPublica and NBC

In 2015, Nydea Richards decided to move her family to the nation’s fastest-growing metropolitan area, in search of lower crime and better weather than in her hometown of Milwaukee. She was pregnant at the time. Before arriving here, Richards, like most Americans, never thought of child protective services as having a major presence in people’s lives, unless they’ve committed some sort of clear-cut child abuse. As a Black mother, she was more concerned about her kids encountering the police someday. But within months, she found herself being investigated by the Arizona Department of Child Safety — based on the initial result of a drug test administered to her newborn daughter at the hospital, according to DCS case records she shared with ProPublica and NBC News.

The City That Kicked Cops Out of Schools and Tried Restorative Practices Instead

Andy Kopsa, In These Times

Wearing bright yellow Crocs, carrying a backpack and holding a clipboard stacked with papers, Ahmed Musa listens intently to a student. You would be forgiven for thinking Mr. Musa was a student himself; it is ​“staff dress like a student” day during spirit week at Theodore Roosevelt High School, and Mr. Musa looks the part. Then again, Mr. Musa, 24, was a Roosevelt student not too long ago. He graduated in 2017. He is talking with senior Jackie in a second floor hallway. She is animated, her purple and white braids falling across her baby blue N95 mask as she explains a problem.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

All School Kids Should Eat Lunch for Free

Bridget Huber, Mother Jones

For the first two years of the pandemic, there was such a thing as a free lunch—for public school kids, at least. To blunt a spike in hunger caused by job losses and school closures, the federal government made school meals free, even available as “grab and go,” for virtually all children. But Republicans blocked a renewal of the program last spring, accusing Democrats of exploiting emergency measures to enact lasting changes. “Families don’t want schools to be permanently stuck in a pandemic posture,” argued Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.).

How Gen Z is changing the politics of guns in America

Miles Howard, WBUR

Many of us remember exactly where we were when the name “Sandy Hook” became part of our lexicon. I was in New Hampshire, working as a backcountry lodge caretaker and running resupply errands when news crackled from the radio of my loaner pickup truck that 20 elementary school students and six educators had been murdered by a young man wielding a Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle. The viciousness and the scale of the Sandy Hook mass shooting seemed like an inevitable come-to-Jesus moment for Americans — a shooting so horrific that Congress would be forced to enact restrictions on the sale of weapons that are structurally designed to inflict maximum carnage on human bodies. Nearly as horrific as the shooting itself was the slow, incredulous realization that our federal government would do nothing to prevent the next Sandy Hook. That the Republican Party, in its fealty to gun manufacturers and lobbyists, would squelch any substantive efforts to control the proliferation of assault weapons among American civilians. And that similar weapons would later be used to massacre even more students at school, including in Parkland, Florida, and Uvalde, Texas.

California considers mandating naloxone in schools to prevent opioid deaths

Kara Arundel, K-12 Dive

A proposal in the California Legislature would require public schools to keep on hand at least two doses of a medicine that reverses opioid overdoses, including those caused by illegal fentanyl. California Assemblyman Joe Patterson, who introduced the legislation, AB19, told CNN on Dec. 10 that requiring schools to carry naloxone hydrochloride or another “opioid antagonist” was one of several measures he plans to introduce regarding fentanyl. As fentanyl-related deaths increase across the country, many school systems are stocking naloxone and giving explicit warnings about fentanyl’s harms to students.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

U.S. ranks worst in the developed world for early childcare, study shows

Karen D’Souza, Ed Source

The U.S. may be the only country in the developed world that does not offer any paid maternity leave, according to a new report. Countries with half the GDP are more generous than the US when it comes to offering financial support to new mothers, the report suggests. Conducted by CommonCentsMom.com, a parenting website, the report analyzed the costs of early childcare for women in 40 countries and how much time off they receive. The research used data sources from national statistics offices, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Bank and Eurostat from 2020 and 2021.

The future of education: are the real needs of students being neglected in favour of grades and test scores?

José Álvarez Díaz, Equal Times

For centuries, education was in the hands of the very few and inaccessible to the masses. Over the last 200 years, however, humanity has made significant strides in education. According to the World Bank, in 1820, only 12 per cent of the world population could write and write. Today, against the backdrop of an interconnected global community, the global literacy rate has risen to 87 per cent. The Prussian educational model has left a mark on the way we imagine and organise schools, which has hardly changed over the last century and a half. From this shared basis, the education systems of each country have developed different nuances. While schools in Europe tend to be publicly managed and teachers publicly employed, education in the Americas often reflects the palpable inequality there, with fewer resources dedicated to public education and schools forced to compete against each other. A comparison of the education systems of Finland, Estonia, China, Singapore, Hong Kong and Canada, for example, countries that ranked amongst the highest in the Programme for International Student Assessment survey conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development,, reveals similarities and differences between approaches to education.

Sara Yeatman on the Intersection of Contraceptive Access and College Completion [Audio]

Alan Weil, Health Affairs

Health Affairs Editor-in-Chief Alan Weil interviews Sara Yeatman from the University of Colorado Denver to discuss her paper in the December 2022 issue assessing the effects of the 2009 Colorado’s Family Planning Initiative on contraceptive access in college completion for women. They found the initiative led to an increase in college completion.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Civil rights at stake: Black, Hispanic students blocked from class for missing class

Tara Garcia Mathewson, Maria Polletta, and Fazil Khan, Hechinger Report

Camron Olivas has been suspended at least five times throughout middle and high school for being late to class. While his mother cares for his toddler sister, his older brother drives him in, and they frequently arrive after the first bell. During the day, Camron said he sometimes remains in the hallways too long between classes, talking to his friends. Punishments for the teen’s tardiness have escalated from warnings to in-school suspensions to multiday out-of-school suspensions. Camron, 15, attends Deer Valley High School, just west of Phoenix, where he is one of an outsize number of Hispanic students who have been suspended for attendance violations, according to district data. Camron, who is also Native American, most recently spent a day in the in-school suspension room in October, a punishment that forced him to miss seven whole periods for occasionally being a few minutes late to some of them. The next day, he had to catch up on what he missed, while also taking in new lessons.

I’m moving my family and discovering what home values are hiding: past and present racism

​​​​​​​Jemar Tisby, USA Today

I recently got hired as a history professor at Simmons College of Kentucky, and I can hardly wait to move to Louisville. I’m excited to explore the Muhammad Ali Center, to indulge in the best bourbon tours and to learn the city’s rich history. But before this fun can begin, my family and I must find a place to call home. Compared with other metro areas, Louisville’s housing market seems quite affordable, especially for the culture and amenities it boasts. Yet, as I have begun to search for a house, I have quickly discovered Louisville’s average home value only tells a part of the story. In Louisville’s majority white neighborhoods, the average home costs $325,942, three times the $116,180 that homes in Louisville majority Black communities’ cost.

The pandemic showed us that poverty is a policy choice – we must do better

Greg Jericho, The Guardian

The great economic lesson of the pandemic was that poverty is a policy choice, and inequality is effectively set at the level the government is content with. When the pandemic hit and businesses shut, unemployment was set to soar and the Morrison government realised that more than a million people were about to discover just how impossible it is to survive on $40 a day. Not only was this politically untenable, but it was also economically disastrous, because the pitiful jobseeker rate would not be enough to sustain the economy during the downturn. In response, the government temporarily doubled the rate and instituted the jobkeeper program as a quasi-wage guarantee. Guess what? It worked. Not only did it keep the economy going despite a massive drop in production, but it also lowered poverty.

Democracy and the Public Interest

Americans want climate change taught in schools. Political parties aren’t so sure

Glenn Branch, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Support for climate change education is strong across the political spectrum. In a 2021 survey, the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication found that a solid majority of Democrats, independents, and liberal and moderate Republicans somewhat or strongly agreed that schools should teach our children about the causes, consequences, and potential solutions to global warming. Even among conservative Republicans, nearly half, 46 percent, supported climate change education. In light of the ongoing political polarization of public opinion in the United States, which notoriously extends even to the reality of climate change itself, such widespread support for climate change education is both surprising and gratifying. But it is natural to wonder whether America’s political parties reflect the public’s attitude. What—if anything—do political party platforms say about climate change education?

K-12 parents differ by party in how frequently they discuss certain national issues with their children

Kiley Hurst, Pew Research

Issues that have been at the center of national debates in recent months are also topics of conversation for some parents and their children. But there are wide partisan divides in how often these topics come up in conversation, according to a Pew Research Center survey of parents. Overall, a quarter of parents of K-12 students in the United States say racism or racial inequality comes up in conversations with their children very or fairly often. About one-in-five (18%) say they and their children discuss the environment or climate change with the same frequency, and the same share say this about the topic of sexual orientation or gender identity. Some 15% of K-12 parents say guns or gun policy comes up at least fairly often with their K-12 children in conversation.

A critique of a GAO report on charter schools

Valerie Strauss and Carol Burris, Washington Post

In October, the U.S. General Accountability Office (GAO) released a report titled “Charter Schools That Received Federal Funding to Open or Expand Were Generally Less Likely to Close Than Other Similar Charter Schools” in response to a congressional request. The report looked at data about the federal Charter School Program, which over several decades has awarded billions of dollars in grants for the expansion or opening of charters. These schools are publicly funded but privately operated, often with minimal or no oversight from a governmental agency.

Other News of Note

Taking Our School Boards Back

Jennifer Job, The Progressive

Here is a sample of what a typical board of education meeting in Wake County, North Carolina, sounds like ever since the extreme rightwing group Moms for Liberty began showing up: “My name is Cheryl Caulfield, and I’m running for District One because I have watched decisions made over and over by this board that have harmed our children.” “My name is Monica Ruiz and I am a Wake County Board of Education candidate for District Two . . . . The system used by teachers to take attendance, store health records, and store grades has the sex of your child, my student, hidden . . . . This means we don’t have the ability to determine if the child is a boy or a girl.” “I’m Katie Long and I am running in District Seven . . . . There’s a lack of transparency around the curriculum, and parents’ rights have been stripped.”