Just News from Center X – July 26, 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

The Mueller report: An educational tool for teachers — and a surprising hit with book clubs

Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post
Walter Isaacson is an award-winning historian and history professor at Tulane University, where he teaches a course called “The History of the Digital Revolution, From Ada [Lovelace] to [Mark] Zuckerberg.” Last semester, he said, he assigned the report from former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III — mainly Volume 1 — so students could learn how Facebook and Twitter were used by Russians and others to “polarize American society and influence our election.” “We discussed exactly what the Internet Research Agency did, who helped them, how the social networks responded, what could be done to prevent interference in the future, and what Facebook and Twitter should do,” he said. Isaacson is not the only educator to use the report — officially titled “Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election” — as a focus of discussion in class. Teachers and professors have used it in history classes and in government, law, political science and other courses in high school, college and law school.

California Teachers Association names interim executive director

Louis Freedberg, EdSource
The California Teachers Association has named Gail Gregorio as the interim executive director to replace Joe Nuñez, who was abruptly terminated by the CTA’s board of directors last week. Gregorio recently retired as an assistant executive director of the CTA’s regional field operations. Nuñez had been executive director for six years and the CTA has yet to explain why he was let go, apparently without any notice.

How queer teachers can create a safe, brave space for students

Miguel Fonseca, Advocate
A fabulous teacher walks into his classroom, filled with 20 colorful students eager to learn. At least one of those students will board the discovery boat — a ride almost all queer people of color take, learning who they are while processing their unique and marvelous identity. But currently, in my state of Texas, there aren’t active policies around issues on LGBTQI+ identities, and teachers are not adequately trained on how to create safe, brave spaces. For those reasons, queer teachers, especially queer teachers of color, need to speak up and fill this identity gap in classrooms. This is a note from a queer teacher of color to my fellow queer teachers on how to make a brave, safe space for students on the elementary level who might identify as a queer and, by extension, to provide tips fellow teachers can use.

Language, Culture, and Power

Civil rights panel: Disabled students of color punished more

Carolyn Thompson, Associated Press
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights urged the Trump administration on Tuesday to offer schools guidance on complying with federal nondiscrimination laws following a review that found students of color with disabilities are disciplined more harshly than their peers. The administration rescinded Obama-era school discipline guidance in December, saying states and local districts should decide how to respond to bad behavior. “Discrimination based on race and disability in school discipline practices has plagued education across the United States for decades and can wreak significant harm on students and school communities,” said Catherine Lhamon, chairwoman of the commission, which also recommended more government funding for training and the hiring of school counselors.

UC admits largest and most diverse class ever of Californian freshmen

Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times
The University of California opened its doors to the largest and most diverse class of Californians ever for the fall semester of 2019, according to preliminary data released Monday. The system’s nine undergraduate campuses offered seats to 71,655 California freshmen, nearly 600 more students than last year. Overall, UC admitted 108,178 freshmen among 176,695 freshman applicants. It also admitted 28,752 transfer students from a pool of 41,282, including the largest-ever class from the California Community Colleges.

Rethinking birthright

Stephanie Degooyer, Boston Review
Amidst chants of “send her back,” it’s clear that we need a more just conception of citizenship—one that abolishes the distinction between “natural” and naturalized citizens. On May 6, 2019, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor was born in a private London hospital to an American mother (Meghan Markle) and an English father (Prince Harry). Archie came into this world seventh in line to inherit the English Crown. He also came into the world the first member of the Royal family to be a citizen of both the United Kingdom and the United States. Importantly, however, at his birth, Archie became not only a citizen of the United States, he became a natural born citizen. This is the status first mentioned in Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, which stipulates that “No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President.”

Whole Children and Strong Communities

The type of teacher most likely to be remembered by their students

Sarah Kocher, New York Post
Late night hospital visits, class cookouts in the mountains and horse rides dressed as Shakespeare – these are just some of the best memories Americans have of their favorite teachers, according to a new survey. Americans owe a lot to their teachers: From calling home to check up on them after a bad day (39 percent) to staying late to help with homework (38 percent), it comes as no surprise that 83 percent said a teacher made a meaningful impact on their life.

Parents who won’t vaccinate their kids turning to home-schooling in California, data show

Soumya Karlamangla, Los Angeles Times
If Kardie Lee’s daughter had to be fully vaccinated to enroll in school, the choice was simple, she felt: Her daughter would not attend school. Three years ago, Lee decided to home-school her daughter London, now 7, instead of complying with the state’s vaccination laws. “We became a state where they force vaccination, and I was totally against vaccination,” said Lee, 34, who lives in Murrieta.

After-school programs still waiting on cannabis tax money

Brooke Staggs, Los Angeles Daily News
Supporters of California’s publicly funded After School Education and Safety programs — which educate and care for nearly 500,000 low-income elementary and middle school kids — were encouraged in 2016 when they heard and read the ads that supported the state’s ballot measure to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. The good feeling didn’t reflect how they felt about cannabis. It came because the Yes on Proposition 64 campaign told voters — in advertising and in a statement printed on the official statewide ballot — that one of the first beneficiaries of tax revenue generated by regulated marijuana would be after school programs.

Access, Assessment, and Advancement

With less than half of LAUSD’s prospective graduates eligible for California State University system, college trustees eye adding another requirement

Taylor Swaak, LA School Report
The California State University system this week is considering a new admissions requirement for incoming freshmen — a development that’s sparked opposition from L.A. Unified, where less than half of the prospective graduates are eligible to apply under current standards.

UC makes changes to admissions process in recent audit as response to scandal

Alexis Duke, Daily Bruin
UCLA students and professors said they are optimistic about the potential impact of the University of California’s recent changes to its admissions process to prevent admissions fraud. The UC’s Ethics, Compliance and Audit Services initiated an audit of the UC’s admissions process in response to the Varsity Blues admissions scandal, in which parents helped their children cheat on standardized tests and gain admission to prestigious universities as student-athletes despite never having played their sports competitively. The UC announced changes to its admissions processes and policies June 20 based on the findings of the audit, according to a UC press release.

California State University increases application fee to $70 per campus

Larry Gordon, EdSource
California State University trustees voted Wednesday to increase the cost of applying to each of the system’s 23 campuses from $55 to $70 starting in the fall, the first increase in 30 years. Despite last-minute efforts by opponents to block the fee hike or to phase it in more slowly, the full board voted 12-6 for the higher costs to go into effect this year. The increase would still allow low and moderate income students to receive up to four fee waivers. Under the new plan, officials say that even more students would be eligible for the waivers.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Breaking the silence on early child care and education costs

Elise Gould, Marcy Whitebook, Zane Mokhiber &Lea Austin, Economic Policy Institute
California’s child early care and education (ECE) system is underfunded, and California policymakers have not been willing to acknowledge the true cost of creating a comprehensive ECE system. Proposals for ECE reform have focused primarily on improving access and affordability for families but have ignored the elephant in the room: Early care and education is substantially “funded” through low teacher pay and inadequate supports for ECE teachers. In addition to being a serious injustice, lack of adequate financial and professional supports for ECE teachers compromises the consistency and quality of care children receive.

The new low-income big borrower of student loans

Jill Barshay, The Hechinger Report
It’s a staggering number: $1.5 trillion in student debt. The majority of the nearly 45 million Americans who owe it are paying it back. But more than 10 percent of new borrowers regularly default as they leave school. These are the people who are unable to pay it back and are ruining their credit. Often they dropped out of school before finishing their degrees and can’t get a good job. Most of these defaulters are the millions of Americans who have small loans. Roughly 60 percent of all the borrowers in default owe less than $10,000. Most of them owe less than $5,000.

Student-loan borrowers demand justice from Betsy DeVos — ‘I don’t feel like I should pay for an education I never received’

Jillian Berman, MarketWatch
After years working in “dead-end” jobs, Morgan Marler decided to pursue a degree that would help her start a career working with computers. In 2013, Marler enrolled at ITT Technical Institutes feeling convinced they’d help her land a job once she graduated. “They told me about the fact that they do career placement assistance for life,” she said. After a few years of studying through pregnancy, the arrival of her daughter and the beginning of her daughter’s life, Marler graduated from the school in 2016 with an associate’s degree in information technology. But just a few months later, ITT shut down amid claims the school misled students about job placement and graduation rates.

Public Schools and Private $

High profile labor leader has a new gig fighting against teacher’s unions

Hamilton Nolan, Splinter
Andy Stern spent 14 years as the head of the SEIU, America’s most politically active labor union. He was perhaps the most visible union leader in America. And what is he doing now? He’s lending his name to a billionaire-funded astroturf group that aims to quash the power of teacher’s unions.

Emails show DeVos aides pulled strings for failing for-profit colleges

Erica L. Green and Stacy Cowley, New York Times
Dream Center Education Holdings, a subsidiary of a Los Angeles-based megachurch, had no experience in higher education when it petitioned the federal Education Department to let it take over a troubled chain of for-profit trade schools. But the organization’s chairman, Randall K. Barton, told the education secretary, Betsy DeVos, that the foundation wanted to “help people live better lives.” The purchase was blessed despite Dream Center’s lack of experience and questionable finances by an administration favorable to for-profit education. But barely a year later, the company tumbled into insolvency, dozens of its colleges closed abruptly and thousands of students were left with no degree after paying tens of thousands of dollars in tuition.

Charter school effects on school segregation [REPORT]

Tomas Monarrez, Brian Kisida, & Matthew Chingos
In the first nationally comprehensive examination of charter school effects on school system segregation, we demonstrate that growth in charter school enrollment increases the segregation of black, Hispanic, and white students. The effects, however, are modest because charter schools make up a small share of total enrollment and have different effects across different kinds of districts. Our analysis indicates that eliminating charter schools would reduce segregation by 5 percent in the average district.

Other News of Note

The Young Lords: Exploring the legacy of the radical Puerto Rican activist group 50 years later

Juan Gonzalez, Carlito Rovira, Denise Oliver-Velez, & Johanna Fernandez, Democracy Now!
Fifty years ago this week, a group of young radical Puerto Ricans took to the streets of New York City to announce the formation of the New York chapter of the Young Lords. Formed in the same radical tradition of the Black Panther Party, the activists soon became a force in the community that inspired people around the nation. The Young Lords occupied churches and hospitals to offer services to the community, and educated people about Puerto Rican culture and history. They called for self-determination for all Puerto Ricans, independence for the island of Puerto Rico, community control of institutions and land, freedom for all political prisoners and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam, Puerto Rico and other areas. While the group disintegrated in the mid-1970s, its impact is still felt today. Ahead of a commemorative event at the Schomburg Center in Harlem Friday, we speak with three former Young Lords: Denise Oliver-Velez, Carlito Rovira and Democracy Now!’s Juan González, who helped found the organization and served as its first minister of education. We also speak with Johanna Fernández, associate professor in the Department of History at CUNY’s Baruch College. She is the author of the upcoming book “The Young Lords: A Radical History.”