Just News from Center X – February 9, 2024

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

‘Dreamers’ left out in the cold by US Senate border bill

Richard Cowan, Reuters

A bipartisan border security bill headed to a U.S. Senate vote this week is likely to dash hopes for a quick, clear path to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of people brought into the U.S. illegally as children, as Congress takes a harder line on immigration. This group, known as “Dreamers,” had been a top priority for Democrats in immigration policy talks for more than a decade. But as Republicans made new border restrictions a condition of aid for U.S. allies Ukraine and Israel sought by Democratic President Joe Biden, the Dreamers question was left off the table. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said that at the onset of the just-concluded talks Republicans rejected his plea to include the Dreamers. “There are members on the other side that have the position of not one single immigrant under any circumstances,” Durbin said in an interview.

In Red States, the Bill for School Voucher Bait-and-Switch Is Coming Due

Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider, The Nation

Bait-and-switch is an old retail tactic. You lure customers in with promises of a deep discount, only to inform them that the deal has a catch. The real price tag, it turns out, is quite a bit more.

Though it took supporters of school vouchers a while to catch on, they’ve learned quickly that the trick works just as well in education policy as it does in retail sales. Pick a price that will get people in the door, and then break the news once you’ve got them where you want them. In Arizona, taxpayers are now staring down a $400 million shortfall, with an even bigger bill coming due next year. How did the Grand Canyon State go from sitting on a huge cash reserve to facing a rising tide of red ink? Simple. Voucher proponents suggested that paying for private school tuition would cost taxpayers $65 million a year; but as it stands, the program is on track to cost roughly 15 times that. All told, Arizona taxpayers are likely to spend close to a billion dollars reimbursing the cost of tuition and luxury expenses—including ski resort passes, pianos, and theme park tickets—for families whose children were never enrolled in the public schools.

This Leader Partners With Students to Build a More Sustainable Future for Her District

Arianna Prothero, Education Week

Whether it’s buying school buses, installing solar panels, or replacing HVAC systems, deciding how schools get and use their energy is usually a job reserved for the grown-ups in a district. But LeeAnn Kittle, the executive director of sustainability for the Denver public schools, believes that when it comes to making a district’s operations more environmentally-friendly, students should be an integral part of the process. The work offers invaluable learning opportunities that can help prepare students for a labor market changing with the climate. Maybe more importantly: Students are powerful ambassadors for sustainability.

Language, Culture, and Power

UCLA doubles down on ethnic studies expansion amid fraught national politics

Teresa Watanabe, LA Times

More than five decades ago, Morgan Chu was taught a version of American history that all but ignored the experiences of Asian Americans like him. Chu, an attorney who grew up in New York and moved to Los Angeles to attend UCLA, never learned that the U.S. government barred Chinese people from immigrating to the United States in the 19th century and incarcerated tens of thousands of American citizens of Japanese ancestry without charges during World War II. He was not taught about state laws in the early 1900s that prevented Asians from owning land or, even earlier, marrying outside their race.

Aspiring bilingual teachers gain new perspectives by crossing the border

Zaidee Stavely, EdSource

The U.S.-Mexico border is a fraught topic in political debate in Congress and between presidential candidates. But crossing it is a key part of training for some prospective bilingual teachers in California to get insight into their future students’ lives.The dual language and English learner education department at San Diego State University has taken student teachers on four-day trips to visit schools in Tijuana for about 10 years. The goal is for the prospective teachers to learn about some of the experiences that students from Mexico and other countries in Central and South America face and how those experiences might affect students in the classroom.

A little schoolhouse fights to keep Mohawk language alive

Sara Miller Llana, Christian Science Monitor

They take turns reading from the Ohén:ton Karihwatéhkwen, which translates from the Mohawk language to “Words before all else.” These words, which recognize all life forces in creation, mark the day’s start at the Akwesasne Freedom School. But the 60-odd students here wouldn’t understand these lessons if it weren’t for this little schoolhouse at the United States-Canada border that for decades has been fighting to preserve Mohawk language and culture. “This makes us who we are, and if we don’t have this, who are we going to be?” asks teacher Kawehnokwiiosthe, whose name in English means “She makes the island beautiful.”

Whole Children and Strong Communities

When the Biggest Student Mental Health Advocates are the Students

Jennifer Miller, NYTimes

Last October, to commemorate Mental Health Awareness Week, a group of students at Sacopee Valley High School in Hiram, Maine, created the annual Hope Board. Shaped like an enormous tulip and displayed in the lobby, the board was covered with anonymous teenage aspirations. Some students hoped to pass driver’s education or have a successful playoff season. Others expressed more complicated desires. “To be more happy than angry,” wrote one student. Another wrote, “I hope people are kinder and more mature.” Camryn Baron, 17, created the board as a founder of Sacopee’s Yellow Tulip Team, a student group devoted to mental health.

We are facing a migrant mental health crisis. More school social workers could help.

Ashley Busone Rodriguez, Chalkbeat NY

A new student recently arrived in my third grade classroom in tears. She missed her mom, who was back in Colombia, she told me. She cried from 8 a.m. until lunch. The other students stared. Some cried, too. Some offered hugs. We all felt the heaviness of the moment. I tried every trauma-informed technique I knew to comfort her: We took deep breaths, she visited our peace corner, I lent her a teddy bear, we looked at some calming books, and she wrote a letter to her mom.

15 GOP Governors Are Refusing Free Summer Meals for School Kids

Bryce Covert, Mother Jones

When I spoke to Mandi Remington in late January, she had $7 in her bank account and had run out of milk. At times like these, which happen toward the end of most months, she cobbles together “stone soup” from what’s in the house, she said, or feeds her three children and then makes her own meal from whatever is left on their plates.  So when she found out that Iowa, where she lives in Iowa City, is among the 15 states that decided not to participate in Summer EBT, a new federal food program that would have sent her $40 a month per child while they were out of school, “it was extremely frustrating,” she said. As a single parent who doesn’t receive child support, Remington struggles to make ends meet. Her $55,000 annual salary as a medical records clerk at the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics “does not leave much leftover for gas in the car and groceries,” she said, yet she earns too much to qualify for Medicaid and food stamps.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

California early education advocates rally for funding boost

Karen D’Souza, EdSource

Hundreds of California early education advocates are planning to rally in Sacramento today, calling for one-time funding of $100 million to help stabilize the child care sector. Amid dwindling revenues from the tobacco tax, members of the First 5 Association, a statewide commission focused on children from birth to 5 years old, argue that more money is needed to support family resource centers, early childhood mental health services, and child care and early learning programs. “Failure to secure a short-term, stop-gap investment this year from the state will result in the elimination of even more services and programs currently supporting the healthy development of California’s youngest residents, ” said Fabiola González, board president of the First 5 Association, in a release.

Stolen Indigenous land is the foundation of the land-grant university system. Climate change is its legacy.

Tristan Ahtone, Robert Lee, Amanda Tachine, An Garagiola, Audrianna Goodwin, Maria Parazo Rose, & Clayton Aldern, High Country News

Alina Sierra needs $6,405. In 2022, the 19-year-old Tohono O’odham student was accepted to the University of Arizona, her dream school, and excited to become the first in her family to go to college. Her godfather used to take her to the university’s campus when she was a child, and their excursions could include a stop at the turtle pond or lunch at the student union. Her grandfather also encouraged her, saying: “You’re going to be here one day.” “Ever since then,” said Sierra. “I wanted to go.”

Students in Greece protest plans to introduce private universities

AP News

Several thousand university students and supporters took part in a protest in central Athens Thursday to oppose plans by Greece‘s conservative government to allow privately run universities. The protesters, chanting “Students, United, Will Win,” filed past the main Athens University building and statues of the ancient Greek philosophers Plato and Socrates as they marched through central Athens and riot police took up positions in nearby side streets. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ center-right government is pushing through several key pieces of legislation early in the new year, taking advantage of a landslide reelection in 2023, and a huge lead in opinion polls.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

California Aims $2 Billion to Help Students Catch Up From the Pandemic

Sarah Mervosh, New York Times

In the fall of 2020, around the height of the debate over pandemic school closures, a lawsuit in California made a serious claim: The state had failed its constitutional obligation to provide an equal education to lower-income, Black and Hispanic students, who had less access to online learning. Now, in a settlement announced on Thursday, the state has agreed to use at least $2 billion meant for pandemic recovery to help those students who are still trying to catch up. And it includes guardrails for how the money can be used. Mark Rosenbaum, a lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, described it as a “historic settlement” that ensures that the money will go to students who are “most in need.”

SCOTUS signals interest in K-12 admissions case

Naaz Modan, K-12 Dive

Will the U.S. Supreme Court weigh in on another high-profile education case this term? That is seeming more likely, given that the justices have deliberated multiple times in the past month whether to accept a closely watched case concerning admissions policies in K-12 public schools. Typically, multiple such deliberations signal the high court’s interest in hearing or weighing in on a case. Petitioners in TJ v. Fairfax County School Board last August asked the high court to review the case.

Students with disabilities often left on the sidelines when it comes to school sports

Megan MacDonald, The Conversation

“Teen with special needs makes thrilling buzzer beater shot.” “Special needs student offered shot of a lifetime.” “High school basketball manager gets his time on the court.” These inspirational headlines may sound familiar. They highlight brief but exhilarating moments of disabled students in sports. They represent what’s commonly referred to in the disability community as “inspiration porn,” but they often miss an injustice that deserves far more attention.

Democracy and the Public Interest

Indiana’s AG launched a tip line for controversial classroom material. It’s already raising concerns about accuracy and privacy.

Aleksandra Appleton, Amelia Pak-Harvey, and MJ Slaby, Chalkbeat

The Indiana Attorney General has unveiled an online portal for complaints about the teaching of race, gender, and political ideology in schools — an aggressive move that raises concerns about privacy and the veracity of the material made public. The new website, which was announced Tuesday by state Attorney General Todd Rokita, is called “Eyes on Education” and includes complaints dating back to 2018. The website launched with material already posted, but the included school districts and state department of education didn’t know about it. It lists 13 school districts around Indiana and the Indiana University School of Medicine with links to photos, screenshots, or presentation materials that the office describes as “potentially inappropriate.” In some cases, the portal also includes the addresses, phone numbers, and emails of people identified in the materials. Schools have characterized these materials as incomplete, outdated, or inaccurate.

Arizona schools chief Tom Horne wants students to learn the softer side of slavery

EJ Montini, Arizona Republic

It is as if Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne suddenly realized that he could not on his own, and without considerable outside support, indoctrinate Arizona’s schoolchildren with all of the radical right-wing educational hooey that he’d hoped. So, last week, Horne opened up the education department’s website to lessons from PragerU, a foundationally extreme nonprofit claiming to be an alternative to “dominant left-wing ideology in culture, media and education.” Yeah, sort of the way Trump University (before it agreed to pay a $25 million settlement to bamboozled students) was an alternative to actual universities.

Florida School Requires Permission Slip for Kids to Participate in Black History Month Events, Citing Ron DeSantis’s “Parents’ Bill of Rights”

Bess Levin, Vanity Fair

When he wasn’t trying (and spectacularly failing) to win the GOP nomination for president, Ron DeSantis spent much of his time over the last several years terrorizing the public-education community under the guise of giving parents a say in what their kids learn in school. That’s meant, among other things: banning the mention of gender identity and sexual orientation in grades kindergarten through 12th; banning AP African American studies; and banning instruction that could make white people feel bad. Such legislation has led to schools going to ridiculous lengths to not run afoul of the state’s new rules, as was apparently the case at a Miami school that felt the need to get parental permission for students to celebrate Black History Month.

Other News of Note

Alice Walker, February 9, 1944 – Eatonton, Atlanta

This Day in Georgia History

She was born in Eatonton in 1944 and at age 8 she was blinded in one eye by a BB gun fired by her brother, a traumatic event that crippled her self-confidence. She was eventually homecoming queen and valedictorian at Butler-Baker High School. But it was Alice Walker’s searing literary portraits of African-American life and culture in poetry, short stories, and novels that brought her international fame. Walker attended Spelman College in Atlanta, was active in the civil rights movement, and graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in New York, where her writing was first nurtured. Walker published her first short story, “To Hell With Dying,” at age 23 in a collection edited by Langston Hughes. Her landmark 1982 novel, The Color Purple, earned her the first Pulitzer Prize in fiction won by an African-American woman.


Alice Walker

My teacher
was told
her teacher –
who loved her:

You cannot
shoot guns
you cannot
drop bombs
your fists
are forbidden
to you
as are
mean and
no matter
carefully chosen.

You have one
one weapon

Use it.

It is