Just News from Center X – July 16, 2021

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

Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Unprecedented California budget to usher in sweeping education changes


Gov. Gavin Newsom and the California Legislature have seized a once-in-a-generation deluge of state and federal funding to set in motion a sweeping and ambitious set of education programs that seemed implausible six months ago. The 2021-22 state budget, which Newsom signed late Monday, expands the state government’s commitment to meet the needs of all students and redefines what constitutes an equitable education for low-income kids in a state with rising inequality. Last week, Newsom called the budget “unlike anything we have ever done in this state. So many things we’ve promoted, so many things we dreamed of, we’re delivering.” It contrasts sharply with the state budget passed a year ago, when Newsom and the Legislature cut spending in anticipation of a yearlong Covid-precipitated recession.

Critical race theory battles are driving frustrated, exhausted educators out of their jobs

Tyler Kingkade, NBC News

When Rydell Harrison started a new job as a school superintendent in southwestern Connecticut last August, he was excited to join a community that seemed committed to diversity and equity.

The Easton, Redding and Region 9 district, which covers two small, mostly white towns, had recently established a task force and allocated money to address the racial climate in schools. That decision was a response to the hundreds of students and recent alumni who wrote to school board members following George Floyd’s murder to describe racist incidents they’d experienced or witnessed at school. To Harrison, the task force was a sign that the community sat up and listened when young people advocated for change. Things shifted, however, after the riot at the U.S. Capitol in January.

Should Texas teachers be required to post lesson information for review?

Taila Richman, Dallas Morning News

Educators are concerned about a “burdensome” bill that would require teachers to share information about their lessons online — and are watching to see where it goes during this unpredictable special session. Republican lawmakers want educators to disclose information about their class materials and activities online, sparking concern about the added administrative strain and purpose of such a requirement. Ultimately, the legislation may not gain traction as Texas Democrats left the state Monday to derail the special session in protest of a Republican-backed elections bill. But some are worried it’s a sign of continued attempts at overreach in classrooms as it mirrors similar legislation introduced in Wisconsin and North Carolina.

Language, Culture, and Power

California approves $156 million API Equity Budget to combat anti-Asian hate

Ryan General, Yahoo News

California is allocating $156 million to fund victim-centered solutions in combatting violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI). Historic funding: California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the historic Asian and Pacific Islander (API) Equity Budget on Monday as part of the state’s new $100 billion spending bill, NBC reported. Led by the API Legislative Caucus, California’s funding plan for the AAPI community is the largest allocated by any state. It is over 15 times what New York approved in April. In a statement published by Stop AAPI Hate, Senator Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), Chair of the API Legislative Caucus, expressed his thanks to Newsom for “making history and investing in critical resources for the API Community.” “This sends a message to the API community that the State of California sees them and that we matter,” he added. “It gives us hope that California will be supporting our survivors and communities as our state recovers from COVID-19.”

Indigenous-led schools are a way to redress legacy of residential schools

Jeremiah Rodriguez, CTV News

Leaders of Toronto’s first Indigenous cultural school say institutions like theirs are a way to redress the injustices and legacies of the residential school system in Canada. Kâpapâmahchakwêw – Wandering Spirit School has been around since the 1970s and administrators say its restorative impact cannot be overstated. “This is a redress to the legacy of the Indian residential school system [which] I don’t call it a school at all. It was a system of genocide,” Tanya Senk, Toronto School Board District’s superintendent of Indigenous education, told CTV’s Your Morning on Monday, referring to the ongoing discoveries of unmarked graves at former residential school sites. Senk called schools like Kâpapâmahchakwêw an “opportunity for young people to recuperate and pick up their Indigenous knowledges in a traditional and contemporary context in creative and imaginative ways.”

N.J. principal’s attempt to censor queer valedictorian exposes gaps in how educators treat LGBTQ students [VIDEO]

April Saul, WHYY PBS

The two versions of Bryce Dershem’s graduation speech — the one the 18-year-old valedictorian crafted with a message of triumph over adversity and the one his principal at Eastern Regional High in Voorhees demanded he deliver instead — couldn’t have been more different. His original speech started: “After I came out as queer freshman year, I felt so alone.” The school-sanctioned version began: “When I arrived at Eastern from another school, I felt so alone.” Dershem found the line humorous. “I went to private school in eighth grade,” he said. “I knew everyone at Eastern — that’s not why I felt alone!”

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Reopening schools cannot wait

Henrietta Fore and Audrey Azoulay, UNICEF and UNESCO

“It’s been 18 months since the COVID-19 outbreak started and education for millions of children is still disrupted. As of today, primary and secondary schools are shuttered in 19 countries, affecting over 156 million students. “This should not go on. Schools should be the last to close and the first to reopen. “In their efforts to limit transmission, governments have too often shut down schools and kept them closed for prolonged periods, even when the epidemiological situation didn’t warrant it. These actions were frequently taken as a first recourse rather than a last measure. “The losses that children and young people will incur from not being in school may never be recouped. From learning loss, mental distress, exposure to violence and abuse, to missed school-based meals and vaccinations or reduced development of social skills, the consequences for children will be felt in their academic achievement and societal engagement as well as physical and mental health. The most affected are often children in low-resource settings who do not have access to remote learning tools, and the youngest children who are at key developmental stages.

Using American Rescue Plan Funding to Support Full-Service Community Schools & Related Strategies” [FAQs]

U.S. Department of Education

Today, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) released Frequently Asked Questions: Using American Rescue Plan Funding to Support Full-Service Community Schools & Related Strategies.These Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) are intended to inform state and local efforts in effectively using American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) funds to support evidence-based, full-service community schools and related approaches. “When schools are at the center of our neighborhoods and communities, children and families benefit. I hope that the resource we are releasing today will help states and school districts use American Rescue Plan funds to increase access to evidence-based community schools for more students and families across the country,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “Community schools serve as hubs for vital resources and connect students and families to services that can help them thrive. Importantly, community schools expand learning and enrichment opportunities for both students and parents alike, and promote family and community engagement in education, which ultimately can bolster students’ success. That’s why I’m proud the President’s Build Back Better agenda robustly supports community schools with an additional investment of $443 million in his budget request for education.”


Under attack: California schools face ransomware threat

Zayna Syed, CalMatters

Sixth grade teacher Hilary Hall had just started teaching one Monday morning in September when her teacher’s group chats at Newhall School District exploded with confused messages. Teachers in the Santa Clarita school district — located just north of Los Angeles — were panicking. While Hall had no issues logging onto her computer from home, many of her colleagues, connected to the school district’s server, were met with a mysterious pop-up message. It said users wouldn’t be able to log into the server.  People turned to Hall, co-president of the district’s teacher’s union, for information, but she didn’t know what was going on, either. A few minutes later, an answer arrived via phone call from each grade’s head teacher: The school district, all 10 schools representing under 6,000 children, had been hit with a ransomware attack. All teachers were instructed to log off immediately. “Read a book!” Hall told the kids in her class, trying to think of educational activities on the spot as she quickly logged off.



Access, Assessment, Advancement

How Can We Support Meaningful Interactions in Early Childhood Education and Care? U.S. Perspectives [Webinar]

Steven Barnett, Barbara J. Cooper, Hanna Melnick, Andreas Schleicher, Learning Policy Institute


Children’s learning, development, and well-being are directly influenced by their daily interactions with other children, adults, their families, and the environment. This interactive process, known as “process quality,” leads to a key question: Which policies set the best conditions for children to experience high-quality interactions in early childhood education and care settings? Panel members discuss the policies and practices that can ensure high-quality early childhood education and care for all children. They also discuss five main policy levers and their effect on process quality, focusing particularly on curriculum and pedagogy, and workforce development. The webinar also focused on the the newly released Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) report, Starting Strong VI: Supporting Meaningful Interactions in Early Childhood Education and Care.

California community colleges must do more to help students avoid remedial courses

Michael Burke, EdSource

A majority of California’s community colleges are not yet fully implementing a law meant to help students enroll in transfer-level classes without first taking remedial classes, the community college system’s Board of Governors learned Tuesday. At those colleges, which include at least 79 of the system’s 115 degree-granting colleges, many students are not entering and completing transfer-level classes in English and math within a year — a key goal of the law.  Aisha Lowe, the community college system’s vice chancellor of educational services and support, told the board of governors during a meeting Tuesday that those colleges will be asked to submit plans this fall detailing how they will achieve full implementation by fall 2022. The system’s 116th college, Calbright College, is online-only and not affected by the law because it doesn’t offer degrees.

Enrollment Increases Will Require More Housing for UC and CSU Students

Hans Johnson, PPIC

Enrollment increases at the University of California (UC) and the California State University (CSU) are good news for California students and the state.  As these institutions accommodate and graduate more students, greater numbers of Californians will be able to enjoy the substantial benefits of a college degree. In the past five years, the total number of newly enrolled students (freshmen and transfer) has grown by almost 40,000 at UC and 54,000 at CSU over the preceding five years. As campuses enroll more students, housing those students can be a challenge. California’s students are not immune to the housing crisis facing the state. According to Zillow, California is home to four of the eight most expensive rental markets in the nation (the metropolitan areas of San Jose, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego, and Ventura County). Furthermore, parts of the state that were once regarded as more affordable have seen average rents increase by more than 10% in the past year, including the Inland Empire, Sacramento, Fresno, and Bakersfield. Average rents range from $1,400 in Bakersfield to $2,900 in San Jose and San Francisco. For most students, housing costs (including room and board) are higher than tuition and fees.


Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

When School Is Voluntary

David Leonhardt, New York Times

More than a century ago, U.S. states put in place laws requiring that children attend school. The guiding principle was that school mattered too much to children’s lives to be a matter of individual choice. Helping on the family farm or getting a paid job was not a good enough excuse to drop out. Nor was parental convenience or preference. And students could not leave school simply because they wanted to. Mandatory schooling laws did an enormous amount of good. They increased high school graduation rates and the share of students who attended college, as research by the economists Derek Messacar and Philip Oreopoulos has found. The extra schooling, in turn, lifted future earnings and reduced future unemployment.

These Schools Served Black Students During Segregation. There’s a Fight to Preserve Them [Video]

Jaclyn Borowski , Daarel Burnette II & Brooke Saias, Education Week

Civil rights leaders’ half-century struggle to get Black students access to all of America’s public schools, culminating in the Brown v. Board of Education decision, is widely known. But the story of how Black people, just a handful of years after slavery ended, managed to grow a solid middle class without access to so many of America’s public schools is not nearly as well known.

This story involves Black ingenuity, an unusual friendship between a Jewish philanthropist and a Black educator, and a widespread desire among Black parents for their children to be provided the same quality of education as white children.

In landmark school funding case, Pennsylvania lawmakers try to block evidence of racial disparities

Dale Mezzacappa, Chalkbeat Philadelphia

As a trial nears in a landmark fair funding case, Republican legislative leaders want to block evidence that Pennsylvania’s Black and Hispanic students fare worse on traditional measures of academic achievement than their white peers. At a Wednesday hearing, attorneys for House Speaker Bryan Cutler and Senate President Jake Corman told Commonwealth Court Judge Renée Cohn Jubilirer that the evidence is irrelevant because the plaintiffs in the case are not alleging intentional racial discrimination.

Democracy and the Public Interest

Massive trust gap splits America

Mike Allen, Axios

Americans’ trust in all big institutions has cratered, but look at the massive gap in who we do trust. By the numbers: New Gallup polling finds a 45-point split in trust of police — 76% of Republicans vs. 31% of Democrats. Confidence in the church or organized religion — twice as many Rs as Ds, 51% to 26%. So who do Democrats trust instead? With President Biden in the White House, 62% of Ds said they trust the presidency vs. 13% of Rs. That’s a 49-point delta — the biggest in the survey. No surprise here: Blue America trusts the media by double digits more than red America does. But this is interesting: Twice as many Democrats trust public schools as do Republicans, 43% to 20%.

New survey shows what parts of U.S. history kids across America are actually learning [AUDIO]

Cory Turner, NPR

Now new insight into the fight over critical race theory and K-12 schools. Some families, mostly white, accuse schools of teaching children to be ashamed of their race in their country. Educators argue they’re simply teaching the facts of U.S. history and say they’re victims in a culture war drummed up by conservative activists. Into this fight arrives a new survey of states’ history standards. And it says a lot about what kids are actually learning. NPR’s Cory Turner explains.

Why Are Federal Funds Flowing to “White Flight” Privatized Charter Schools and Contributing to the Re-Segregation of Education?

Jeff Bryant, NEPC/BuzzFlash

In June 2018, when the North Carolina state legislature enacted a law that allowed four affluent, majority-white suburbs to secede from the racially diverse Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district, or CMS, and establish their own municipal charter schools, with admission priority given to students living in the local communities, critics called the law “a new way to effectively resegregate public education” and “a return to the days when some whites in the South resisted the Supreme Court’s landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling.” So far, none of the four majority-white suburbs around Charlotte have succeeded at breaking away from CMS and sequestering their children in predominantly white charter schools, but an obscure federal government program is helping them resegregate education, nevertheless. According to an analysis by the Network for Public Education (NPE), published in the Washington Post, a five-year grant of $26.6 million from the federal government’s Charter Schools Program (CSP) was awarded to North Carolina in 2018 and is being used to finance “white-flight academies,” including existing and new charter schools in the majority-white communities that tried to break away from CMS.

Other News of Note

From the labor struggles of the 1930s to the racial reckoning of the 2020s, the Highlander school has sought to make America more equitable

Jelani Favors, Middletown Press

During this period of racial reckoning, many Americans are seeking to make the United States more equitable and just. Many new organizations and coalitions are arising out of a new wave of engagement, but they don’t need to start from scratch. The Highlander Research and Education Center, a training ground for civil rights activists founded nearly 90 years ago, offers a useful model. As a social movement historian, I am intimately familiar with how this school and similar engines of grassroots engagement have transformed America’s social and political landscape by inspiring generations of leaders seeking to end institutional racism. Located outside of Knoxville in the eastern Tennessee mountains, Highlander is among the hundreds of organizations that the billionaire philanthropist and author MacKenzie Scott has funded to combat systemic inequity. It’s also playing a critical role in attracting and distributing philanthropic support to lesser-known Southern grassroots organizations.

John Lewis: ‘Never Be Afraid to Make Noise…’ [OppArt]

Jarrett Becke, The Nation