Just News from Center X – July 12, 2019

Just News from Center X is a free weekly news blast about equitable and inclusive public education. Please share and encourage colleagues and friends to subscribe.

Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Democratic hopefuls pledge to make education a priority — and to spend more money

Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post
Ten Democratic presidential hopefuls talked about their plans to improve public education Friday at a union forum, promising to spend billions of dollars in new investment to raise teachers’ salaries, expand early-childhood education and relieve student debt and campus buildings. Former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.) both participated, but they did not continue a contentious discussion about school busing that started this past week in the first debate among Democratic presidential candidates. In fact, neither raised it — nor the other’s position — at the forum, which took place during the annual convention in Houston of the National Education Association, the country’s largest labor union, with more than 3 million members.

Should a teacher be the secretary of education?

Peter Greene, Forbes
This is part of the value of having a clown car full of candidates for a Presidential primary: the contest becomes a primary of ideas, and certain notions gain traction by spreading across the field of candidates. Not that gaining traction means those ideas will ultimately prevail (a widespread notion among the 2016 GOP field was that Donald Trump was unfit to be President), but it’s still an intriguing process. One up-and-coming education policy idea that was first proposed by Elizabeth Warren, but has now garnered wider candidate support, is the notion that a teacher should be the next secretary of education. At last count, four major candidates were supporting some version of the idea. It’s an arresting and appealing idea. Betsy DeVos is widely seen as a controversial opponent of public education, and in many education circles, predecessors like Arne Duncan were not much loved, either. Many teachers feel that the folks in DC just don’t get it, so the idea of someone from the trenches who would, presumably, get it–well, it’s an attractive idea. Now we have to ask–is it a good idea?

Vladovic takes helm of LAUSD board

Jenny Hontz, Speak Up
With Richard Vladovic taking over as president of the Los Angeles Unified School Board during his final year in office, the board has an opportunity to forge a middle-ground path toward stabilizing LAUSD finances and lifting student achievement at low-performing schools. Vladovic (BD7) has long been considered a swing vote on the board, sometimes siding with education reformers and sometimes with union activists, who joined forces this spring to campaign for Measure EE in hopes of bringing more revenue to LAUSD.

Language, Culture, and Power

Trump official defends squalid conditions in children’s detention facility

Zack Ford, ThinkProgress
Recent news reports detailed deplorable conditions for immigrant children being held at a detention center in Clint, Texas, including lack of adequate sanitation and an appalling disregard for the youngsters’ nutritional needs. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan on Sunday defended the quality of care given to the children there as sufficient. “[T]here’s adequate food and water,” he told ABC’s This Week program.

Stories of Displacement

Miguel Casar and Pedro Noguera, Re-imagining Migration
I am sitting across from a man and his daughter at a makeshift table, inside a large, brightly lit room. We are at a house in El Paso that has been set up to support the flood of migrants who managed to cross the border and have been released from the overcrowded detention centers. These are the “lucky” ones. On the other side in Juarez there are thousands of others waiting for their cases to be heard. Around us, there is a never-ending movement of people, phone calls, conversations, and lots of gestures from both the volunteers and the people we are there to support. The air is filled with stories, of both hope and tragedy, mixed with clarity and confusion, laughter and sadness. The walls are covered with notes of paper each carrying simple, cryptic messages pertaining to the current status of migrants: “waiting for family to call back”, “unable to reach uncle”, “leaving on a red-eye to Chicago tonight at 11:43.”

Should Non-Citizen Parents Be Allowed To Vote In LAUSD School Board Elections?

Kyle Stokes, LAist
Los Angeles Unified School Board members each represent thousands of constituents who have a direct stake in the success of the district’s schools but who cannot currently vote: parents who are not American citizens. In a few weeks, though, the board may take a first step toward giving all parents — including those living in the U.S. without legal authorization — a right to vote in school board elections.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

End to random searches of students is a victory for entire school community

Mauro Bautista, Ed Source
For the past three years, students and adult allies have built a campaign to end the dehumanizing and demoralizing 26-year practice of randomly pulling secondary students, some as young as 11, out of class — without cause — to search their bodies and their belongings for weapons with metal detector wands. Those who oppose random wanding know it is not effective at deterring weapons possession on campuses. In fact, weapons account for an estimated one percent of items confiscated through mandatory metal detector searches. And the practice is demoralizing: students consistently report feeling alienated, disrespected and disempowered by the practice, which they say devalues their education and makes them feel like criminal suspects. Further, as a result of random searches, students lose valuable instructional time, teachers’ instruction is disrupted and the policy completely contradicts LA Unified’s goal to create classroom environments of respect and rapport

When LAUSD’s random searches of students end, what’s next for school safety?

Sonali Kohli, The Los Angeles Times
In the early 1990s, five students at Belvedere Middle School in East L.A. were killed, recalled then-Principal Victoria Castro, in incidents off campus during a violent period when there were regular student fights, attacks on teachers and tensions throughout the area fueled by the L.A. riots. By 1993, when two students were killed in shootings at Fairfax and Reseda high schools, Castro was among those who cheered when L.A. Unified began wanding students with metal detectors and allowing random searches. In 2011, after a shooting at Gardena High School, the district mandated daily searches at every middle and high school. Now — 26 years after the wanding policy was introduced and amid years of pressure from advocates and student activists to end the practice — leaders of the nation’s second-largest school district have voted to eliminate the policy by July 2020, directing the superintendent to come up with a different plan to keep students safe.

Bad hombre: forever from Los Angeles [VIDEO]

Mohammad Gorjestani, Rudy Mondragon, Sean Conroy, & Jeff Mercado, Lyft
This is a story about reinvention. It’s a story about lowriders, a practice built around the remaking of American cars. It’s a story about a man named Wilson, who is also known as “Punch,” who didn’t think he’d live past 21, and who has rehabilitated himself into a loving father of three children. Lowriding was born in the Chicano barrios of Los Angeles after World War II. Servicemen returning from the war brought with them specialized mechanical skills, which translated easily into the just beginning practice of car customizations. Lowriders became the vehicle of choice for pachucos, rebellious Mexican-American youth. Punch himself isn’t Mexican-American—his parents were born in El Salvador, and he was born in LA. Ever since he spotted his first one at the age of 11, his passion has been for customized, handpainted, kitted-out sedans that bounce on hydraulic jacks—lowriders.

Using Instagram to teach poetry

Kyleen Gray, Edutopia
I’m always on the lookout for engaging language arts activities. Earlier this year, while surfing Instagram, I came across a beautiful poem carefully sketched on a thematically symbolic image. Like. Share. Follow. Just like that, I became an Instapoetry junkie. For those of you as oblivious as I was to this trend, Instapoetry has been a genuine poetic genre for quite a while now—much to the dismay of highbrow literary critics, who cringe at its very existence and scoff at its lack of depth and tendency toward digital marketing.

Access, Assessment, and Advancement

California may create 5th year high school graduation rate

John Fensterwald, EdSource
California may soon join most states in creating a 5-year high school graduation rate as a way of crediting districts and high schools that help students who return to school after senior year to earn a diploma. The State Board of Education is expected to adopt the rate at its meeting on Wednesday; it would go into effect in time for the next release of the California School Dashboard, the color-coded system for rating district and school performance on a number of measures, including high school graduation rates.

Second chances for applicants shut out of crowded CSU campuses

Larry Gordon, EdSource
This is the season for second chances at the 23-campus California State University system.
Because of overcrowding, about 28,000 otherwise eligible students were shut out of all the CSU campuses to which they applied this year. But a new policy now offers potential freshmen and transfer students a second chance to attend a CSU. If their high school grades and test scores meet basic requirements, these students can enroll at a campus that has room for them.

Ignoring emails from colleges could hurt students’ changes at being accepted, admissions experts say

Jenni Fink, Newsweek
It’s common knowledge that college admission committees consider more than just an applicant’s grades when deciding between candidates, seeking to draw a pool of people from diverse backgrounds who are likely to succeed in both their studies and future careers. Along with seeking students with the potential to change their communities, country and even the world, schools want students that want them. So much so that experts say failing to open emails from prospective schools can impact whether a student finds a large or small envelope containing the college’s decision in the mailbox.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Segregation has soared in America’s schools as federal leaders largely looked away

Seema Mehta and Michael Finnegan, Los Angeles Times
Nearly 50 years have passed since Kamala Harris joined the legions of children bused to schools in distant neighborhoods as the United States attempted to integrate its racially segregated public schools. Yet the consequences of racial and economic segregation remain a fact of daily life for millions of black and Latino children. Harris’ attack on her Democratic rival Joe Biden over his opposition to federally mandated busing in the 1970s was a rare case of school segregation emerging as a flashpoint in a recent presidential race. The emotionally raw clash on a Miami debate stage between a black U.S. senator and a white former vice president raised the question of what, if anything, the Democratic candidates would do to promote racial integration of America’s schools.

‘Do you support busing?’ is not the best question

Emily Badger, The New York Times
In the short time since Kamala Harris and Joe Biden tangled over the history of busing in the first Democratic primary debate, the question has awkwardly shifted to the present. Busing is still needed today, Ms. Harris has since said. But discussion of just what that would look like has appeared to make both candidates uncomfortable on the campaign trail. As the issue lingers, it is easy to imagine a future debate question — one of those raise-your-hand episodes: “Do you support busing today?” That is not the right question for this moment, according to researchers who’ve studied school desegregation and what happened when those efforts waned across the country.

State data show public school funding disparity persists

John Horgan, The Mercury News
When it comes to funding for public education in San Mateo County, stunning inequality continues to be the unfortunate norm. The most recent figures provided by the state’s Department of Education validates that unhappy premise. According to the department’s online data base for the most recent fiscal year available, 2017-18 per child expenditures for the county’s 23 public school districts ranged from a low of $9,859 in the Millbrae Elementary District to a peak of $25,025 in the Woodside Elementary District, a difference of 150 percent — a whopping $15,166.

Teacher credentials come in for tough grading as CA rethinks charter school rules

Ricardo Cano, CALmatters
Heather Williams knew as a kid that she wanted to be a piano teacher. She earned her music degree with a piano emphasis from Brigham Young University and spent decades honing her craft. Today she not only runs her own academy near Sacramento, offering private lessons with a special certification in the Suzuki Method of instruction, but also teaches in public schools, though she lacks a state teaching credential. How? Via a loophole that lets charter schools skip some of the credentialing required of teachers in traditional public school classrooms. The exception has allowed Williams to offer music instruction to homeschool charter students and to group classes in brick-and-mortar charters such as the Sacramento-based California Montessori Project network. Proponents say it encourages enrichment in that privately-run sector of the public school system. In recent months, however—like many state rules that apply to charters—it has drawn legislative attention. And influential lawmakers say it could be on its way out.

Public Schools and Private $

Why wealthy parents are increasingly choosing public over private schools

Christopher Rim, Forbes
As the founder of an education consultancy, I work with parents and students trying to make all manner of difficult decisions—and often, the most major and carefully considered one is which school their child should attend. From choosing a high school in eighth grade to deciding whether or not to transfer, many (but not all) of the families I work with end up choosing public schools. After all, public schools are funded by property taxes. Many families who can afford private school live somewhere with amazing public schools, and their students would be better off there.

Why some of the country’s best urban schools are facing a reckoning

Eliza Shapiro, The New York Times
When the charter school movement first burst on to the scene, its founders pledged to transform big urban school districts by offering low-income and minority families something they believed was missing: safe, orderly schools with rigorous academics. But now, several decades later, as the movement has expanded, questions about whether its leaders were fulfilling their original promise to educate vulnerable children better than neighborhood public schools have mounted.

A tug-of-war over empty classrooms between a charter school and its host campus

Howar Blume, The Los Angeles Times
The eighth-grade English class at Magnolia Science Academy 3 met last semester in an unusual setting: a carved-out rectangle in the school’s office, formed by portable dividers. Cramped quarters have forced such coping strategies at the charter school, which would like to rent more space at the roomy campus it shares with Curtiss Middle School in Carson. But so far, a solution to its problem has proved out of reach. Under state law, charters — which are privately operated — are entitled to a “reasonably equivalent” share of space on public school campuses. The Los Angeles Unified School District says Magnolia already occupies its fair share, and though the district could choose to provide more space, it won’t — for reasons officials have not clearly explained.

Other News of Note

‘Education, not separation’: teachers march to shelter for immigrant youth

Madeline Will, Education Week
On Independence Day, hundreds of educators marched to a shelter for unaccompanied migrant children, chanting calls for freedom. The protesters are delegates to the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers’ union. The NEA is holding its annual representative assembly here July 4-7. But the protest was not sanctioned by the NEA—it was a grassroots march organized by educators, who were horrified to learn their convention was blocks away from a facility for immigrant youth.