Just News from Center X – July 24, 2020

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

The Urgency of Reopening Schools Safely

Linda Darling Hammond, Fortune
Earlier this month, President Trump tweeted, “In Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and many other countries, SCHOOLS ARE OPEN WITH NO PROBLEMS…. May cut off funding if not open!” What he should have tweeted was: “In a few countries with low infection rates, schools are open with major changes in how they operate.” And his next tweet should have said: “We must immediately pass and fund the Heroes Act, including at least $200 billion in funding for education, so that U.S. schools can open safely.”

Budget deferrals today could force schools into a $23 billion hole next year

Robert Manwaring, EdSource
With only weeks left until Congress leaves for its August recess, time is running out for major federal action to provide additional pandemic relief funding to spare California schools from damaging future budget cuts. California education leaders, teachers, parents and concerned citizens should advocate for that federal funding. To balance the budget this year and avoid cutting school funding, the governor and legislature relied on significant and unsustainable deferred spending with the hope that new federal monies would arrive before Oct. 15.

On First Knowing You’re a Teacher [Poetry]

Peter Kahn, The Guardian
Peter Kahn started out as a social worker, and began teaching in 1994. Besides running innovative university courses and community poetry activities on both sides of the Atlantic, he directs a thriving poetry class at Oak Park and River Forest high school, Chicago. Raymond Antrobus has described it as “one of the most powerful creative youth communities I have seen anywhere in the world”.

Language, Learning, and Power

California university system makes ethnic studies or social justice a required class

Jorge Ortiz, USA Today
At a time of national reckoning over racial injustice, the largest four-year public university system in the U.S. has taken a major step to make sure its future students ponder the effects of systemic discrimination. The California State University system said that, starting with the 2023-24 academic year, its 430,000-plus undergraduates will be required to take a course in ethnic studies or social justice. The CSU Board of Trustees approved the new graduation requirement Wednesday, the first significant change to its general education curriculum in 40 years.

Defunding School Police Doesn’t Go Far Enough

Thalia González, Alexis Etow & Cesar De La Vega, Education Week
It is increasingly clear to all Americans what Black communities have known for generations: Systemic racism not only persists throughout our institutions, laws, and policies, but it negatively impacts physical, psychological, and emotional health. Less evident, however, is that the overpolicing and systemic racism we see playing out in the streets, has occurred for decades in our public school system—from a 6-year-old being handcuffed and arrested for a tantrum to a 12-year-old being suspended for sharing an inhaler with an asthmatic friend who could not breathe.

Judge rules Trump administration must accept new DACA applications

Julian Aguilar, Salon
A federal judge ruled Friday that the Trump administration must start accepting new applications for the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that shields some undocumented immigrants from deportation. The decision comes four weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the 2012 initiative to remain in place. The policy, known as DACA, has protected more than 130,000 Texans from deportation since its inception, the second-highest total of any state after California. As of December 2019, there were about 107,000 Texans with DACA permits, according to federal statistics.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Citizenship education in Lebanon (Bassel Akar) [Audio]

Will Brehm, FreshEd
What does citizenship education look like in a country affected by armed conflict and economic crises? My guest today, Bassel Akar, has closely examined citizenship and history education in Lebanon. Some of his research focuses on the ways in which teachers demonstrate their agency for curricular and pedagogical change through innovative approaches inside the classroom. Bassel Akar is Associate Professor of Education and Director of the Center for Applied Research in Education at Notre Dame University in Lebanon. Last year he published a book entitled Citizenship Education in conflict-affected areas: Lebanon and beyond.

New survey shows California youth actively engaged in elections, support expanded voting options, worry about pandemic’s impact on elections

UC Office of the President, University of California Press
The University of California today (July 21) released results from a new survey of California youth that provides insights into their political and civic engagement as the 2020 general election approaches amid COVID-19 challenges. Conducted by YouGov on behalf of UC, the survey asked 18- to 24-year-olds in California about their perceptions of current events — including the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as about their attitudes on voting and the U.S. census — in an effort to better understand how they are engaging politically ahead of this year’s presidential election. The University also released a concurrent brief summarizing the latest data on undergraduate voter participation and trends among the UC student population. Both the survey data and UC brief reinforce larger national trends showing a surge in youth involvement.

Schools Adjusting to the Pandemic May Also Be Affected by Wildfire Season

Niu Gao and Joseph Hayes, Public Policy Institute of California
School districts that have been dealing with the impact of COVID-19 must also consider the potential for school closures and disruptions to distance learning because of fire. The state’s new reopening guidelines allow counties to open middle and high schools during the fall semester only if they have been off the state’s COVID-19 monitoring list for 14 days; elementary schools can open if they get approval from local health officers. Meanwhile, California’s wildfire season has begun, and some parts of the state are especially concerned that it may be longer and more severe than last year, given extremely dry weather in January and February. The concurrence of a perilous fire season with the coronavirus outbreak raises several concerns. The continued spread of COVID-19 has already affected wildland firefighting—for example, it has reduced the number of firefighters available and curtailed mutual aid arrangements. It may also affect schools: fires may shut down any schools that do reopen their classrooms for the fall semester; and fire-avoidance power shutdowns of the sort that PG&E implemented last summer are likely to interfere with distance learning.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

We Can’t Fix the Economy Without Fixing Child Care. Joe Biden Finally Has a Plan for That.

Kara Voght, Mother Jones
It took a pandemic, a botched governmental response, and a recession. But at long last, a Democratic presidential nominee is promising a universal, federally backed child care program that recognizes caregiving’s crucial role in the US economy. The proposal is a key plank of Biden’s “caregiving and education workforce,” the third pillar of an economic recovery plan that also includes an investment in American manufacturing and green infrastructure. Under his new proposal, families with children under the age of 5 would have two choices. Option one: They could elect to receive a tax credit that covers up to half of their annual child care expenses. Option two: They could opt into a plan that would guarantee they pay no more than 7 percent of their income on child care, based on a sliding scale outlined in a bill originally proposed by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.).

Investment in Child Care Can’t Wait until There’s a Coronavirus Vaccine

Katrina Van Heuval, The Nation
Our economy cannot function without child care. That simple fact has been brought into stark relief by the recent pandemic, which has forced parents across the country to choose between supporting their family financially and caring for their children. “In the Covid-19 economy, you can have a kid or a job,” wrote Deb Perelman in The New York Times, “But you can’t have both.” That’s hardly an exaggeration. With school districts contemplating virtual or partial reopenings in the fall, many of the nation’s 50 million working parents will have to fill gaps in child care. Already, 13 percent of American parents have had to either quit a job or cut back their working hours because of a lack of child care.

5 Reasons to Support Student Debt Cancellation

Tiffany Jones and Victoria Jackson, Inside HigherEd
As recently as last year, the idea of canceling student debt was seen as a radical proposal championed mostly by grassroots movements and progressive policy makers with presidential aspirations. Amid COVID-19, however, more groups and even elected officials from the middle of the political spectrum are calling for retiring at least some student debt for the sake of the country’s economic survival and recovery. The impact of such a move would be widespread: student loans have shaped the lives of more than 40 million borrowers — from every race, class and region of the country. Yet the student loan crisis, like the coronavirus pandemic, has disproportionately affected certain communities. Students who don’t complete college, Black students, students who attend for-profit colleges and universities, and low-income borrowers tend to struggle the most with debt repayment.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Secretary-General’s Nelson Mandela Lecture: “Tackling the Inequality Pandemic: A New Social Contract for a New Era”

António Guterres, United Nations
My dear friends, President Cyril Ramaphosa, excellencies, distinguished guests, friends, It is a privilege to join you in honouring Nelson Mandela, an extraordinary global leader, advocate, and role model. I thank the Nelson Mandela Foundation for this opportunity and commend their work to keep his vision alive. And I send my deepest condolences to the Mandela family and to the Government and people of South Africa on the untimely passing of Ambassador Zindzi Mandela earlier this week. May she rest in peace. I was fortunate enough to meet Nelson Mandela several times. I will never forget his wisdom, determination and compassion, which shone forth in everything he said and did. Last August, I visited Madiba’s cell at Robben Island. I stood there, looking through the bars, humbled again by his enormous mental strength and incalculable courage. Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison, 18 of them at Robben island. But he never allowed this experience to define him or his life.

How COVID is deepening California’s income inequality in 5 charts

Jackie Botts, CalMatters
The decade dawned on a California that was both “the richest and poorest” state in the nation, in the words of Gov. Gavin Newsom. Wages for the top 10% of California’s earners had grown three times as fast as those of the bottom 10% of earners since 1980 — all as the cost of buying or renting shelter skyrocketed. Then coronavirus tore across the globe, sickening hundreds of thousands of Californians and shutting down California’s booming service and tourism economies — not once but now twice. The pandemic has driven a wedge into the fault lines dividing the state’s haves and have nots.

How Educational Inequality In America Could Be Impacted By The Homeschooling Pod Frenzy

Rebekah Bastian, Forbes
As the new school year approaches and Coronavirus cases are surging across the US, decisions about what education will look like in the fall are becoming paramount. Solutions that provide peace of mind and feasibility to parents have yet to come from national or state governments. The White House administration is pressuring schools to resume in-person teaching this fall, and they have blocked the Center for Disease Control from testifying on the reopening of schools. The options being announced by school districts across the country are far from optimal: models that involve classroom education pose greater health risks; online learning is particularly difficult for working parents and did not work well for many children this spring; and the school districts that are still undecided present the extra burden of not being able to plan or prepare.

Public Schools and Private Dollars

Push to reopen Orange County schools without masks is tied to charter school proponents

Sara Cardine, Los Angeles Times
A set of controversial guidelines recommending that Orange County public school students return to their campuses without basic coronavirus precautions has ties to an anti-union, pro-charter school group that is looking to open a new campus in August. Members of the county’s Board of Education on Monday voted 4-1 to approve guidelines allowing for the reopening of schools without masks, social distancing or reduced class sizes as children, it claimed, “play a very minor role in COVID-19.”

10% of Landowners Will Pay 92% of New Property Tax Revenue, Prop. 15 Supporters Say

Scott Shafer, KQED News
A new report from supporters of a November ballot measure aimed at increasing property taxes on commercial and industrial property in California finds that more than 90% of the additional property tax revenue Proposition 15 would generate will come from just 10% of the highest value properties. The measure would amend the California Constitution to create a so-called “split roll” by reforming the 1978 measure Proposition 13, which slashed property taxes across the state and placed a limit on annual tax increases for both residential and commercial property.

Texas: Religious schools can ignore local health officials on the coronavirus

Valerie Strauss, Washington Post
Religious schools in Texas, where coronavirus rates have been spiking for weeks, do not have to follow any coronavirus-related health restrictions that local governments may impose on educational institutions because, the state’s attorney general said, it could impede the free exercise of religion. In a July 17 letter, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said that it would be unconstitutional to force religious schools to follow recommendations of health authorities about reopening schools during the pandemic, and he said they may decide for themselves “when it is safe for their communities to resume in-person instruction free from any government mandate or interference.”

Other News of Note

Youth Activism Enflamed by Injustice

Jim Miller, LA Progressive
We would love to let grown-ups solve the problem, but the issue is that you guys are not solving the problem,” says high school senior Lennox Thomas, in an interview for a short documentary film “Teens Take Charge.” Thomas is among a group of young activists in New York City who are working to end ongoing racial segregation in public schools, 65 years after the historic Brown v. Board of Education ruling that such segregation is unconstitutional. As Thomas and fellow young organizers explain throughout the 4-minute film, New York City’s public schools remain some of the most racially segregated in the nation.