Just News from Center X – July 31, 2020

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Teachers Union OKs Strikes If Schools Reopen Without Safety Measures In Place [Audio]

Brakkton Booker, NPR
The head of a powerful national teachers union told members Tuesday that its leadership would support “safety strikes” if health precautions are not met amid calls for schools to reopen as coronavirus cases surge. Randi Weingarten, who leads the American Federation of Teachers, is leaving the final decision to local unions on whether to strike. The AFT — the nation’s second-largest teachers union, with 1.7 million members — also unveiled several benchmarks that it said should be met before schools can fully welcome back students and staff. “We will fight on all fronts for the safety of our students and their educators,” Weingarten said in remarks delivered at the union’s biennial convention, conducted online due to the pandemic.

5 Ways to Show You Care for Your Black Students

Jaleel Howard, Education Week
One question that many school leaders and practitioners are grappling with is how they can best support Black students. A litany of data has highlighted disparate outcomes for them at the K-12 level. We must do better. Teachers can and must be part of efforts to improve classrooms for Black students. Teachers who make a difference are able to move beyond traditional classroom practices to ensure that they feel comfortable and safe in classrooms. As a former classroom teacher and student, I can attest to the need for extra attention and care to help Black students feel comfortable in historically excluded spaces.

Did America Set Public Schools Up to Fail?

Sarah Jones, New York Magazine
Andrew Worthington’s public school was in trouble even before the coronavirus struck. “We have lead in the pipes,” the Manhattan-based English teacher said. “We have all sorts of rodents. There’s soot in the ventilation system. The bathrooms are constantly out of service.” When school is in session, Worthington said, most classes have over 30 students. About 80 percent of the student body qualifies for free and reduced lunch, and many lack the tech they now need to keep up with classes. After the pandemic turned classrooms dangerous, Worthington’s students faced widening gaps. The iPads the school handed out could only do so much. “It’s hard for them to write essays on a tablet,” Worthington observed.

Language, Learning, and Power

Coping with COVID-19: A pandemic through a girl’s eyes: 16 adolescent girls from nine countries film their lives under lockdown. [Video]

As COVID-19 tears through communities across the globe, children have become the hidden victims of the pandemic. School closures and other lockdown measures adopted to stem the spread of the virus have cut off millions of children from quality learning, critical vaccines, and nutritious diets. For girls, disruptions also come at the cost of their safety. The risk of gender-based violence and harmful practices soars during an emergency – especially for girls living under restricted movement and socioeconomic decline. Many girls kept from school today will never return, their childhood stolen by child marriage or pregnancy.

Trump Administration Defies Court, Won’t Accept New DACA Applications [Audio]

John Burnett, NPR Morning Edition
When the Supreme Court ruled last month that the Trump administration had illegally canceled the Obama-era program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, it left open the door for the president to circle back and try to kill it again. On Tuesday, the administration announced it would thoroughly reconsider DACA, and in the meantime, the government would not accept any new applications from young people who want to qualify, and it would only renew current DACA recipients for one year, down from two years. Though Tuesday’s announcement angered immigrant advocates, it stops short of cancelling the program outright, as Trump did earlier in his presidency. Here he is at an afternoon press conference.

Majority Of School Districts Not Accessible For Students With Disabilities

Michelle Diament, Disability Scoop
Thirty years after the Americans with Disabilities Act became law, most of the nation’s public school districts remain inaccessible to students with disabilities, government investigators say. A Government Accountability Office report out late last week finds that in 63 percent of public school districts, at least a quarter of facilities aren’t physically accessible to those with disabilities. Problems at the schools included steep ramps, inaccessible playgrounds and restrooms and door handles that are difficult to use, among other issues.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Should I quit my job? California parents grapple with education in a pandemic

Ricardo Cano and Lauren Hepler, CalMatters
They worry about who will care for the children and how far their education will slide. They anxiously await details on what distance learning will actually look like this fall, hopeful but skeptical that there will be more structure and support than a spring of crisis education that left many dissatisfied. They’re furiously networking on Facebook and Nextdoor in the tens of thousands to form learning pods or arrange childcare. They’ve placed a huge number of calls to local tutoring services in search of help. Some wonder who will watch their child — let alone supervise online classes — while they work essential jobs.

Parenting Children in the Age of Screens

Brooke Auxier, Monica Anderson, Andrew Perrin And Erica Turner, Pew Research
Parenting has never been easy. But the widespread adoption of smartphones and the rise of social media has introduced a new wrinkle to the challenges of parenthood. In fact, a majority of parents in the United States (66%) – who include those who have at least one child under the age of 18, but who may also have an adult child or children – say that parenting is harder today than it was 20 years ago, with many in this group citing technology as a reason why, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in March. One of the most highly discussed – and debated – topics among parents today is screen time. How much is too much? And what impact will screens have on children’s development?

In Philadelphia, a symbol of police brutality comes down, and a monument to black student protesters will go up

Benjamin Herald, Hechinger Report
Nia Weeks felt the air being sucked from her chest as she listened to the recording of Karen Asper Jordan, a Black woman like her, recounting Philadelphia’s 1967 student walkouts. A white police officer had knocked Asper Jordan to the ground, dragged her along the sidewalk for nearly a block, then savagely beaten the man who tried to protect her. It was startling, Nia thought, how studying history could leave her feeling the same heaviness she’d felt scrolling social media after police had killed Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and Laquan McDonald, young Black people of her own generation.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

Coronavirus child-care crisis will set women back a generation

Alicia Sasser Modestino, Washington Post
I have four children, one of them in elementary school. My school district just announced that its preferred plan is for school to operate in a hybrid fashion, alternating between in-person weeks and weeks of remote learning. Aside from my concerns about whether this plan is developmentally appropriate for young children who need regular routines, as a working parent I am utterly exhausted thinking about how we will manage. It is not as if parents’ jobs can be put on hold every other week. As a college professor, I am fortunate to have a somewhat flexible schedule and can work from home a lot of the time. But roughly half of all essential workers (about 27 million) are women — mostly working in-person jobs in health care and community-based services — who do not have the option of working remotely.

Will Relief Package Help DACA Students?

Kery Murakami, Inside HigherEd
The proposal for the next coronavirus relief package unveiled by Senate Republicans Monday would continue to exclude college students who are undocumented immigrants from receiving emergency aid during the pandemic, potentially setting up a politically charged debate with Democrats. Democratic lawmakers have strongly condemned Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s controversial decision in April to exclude the students from receiving any of the $6 billion set aside in the CARES Act to help with expenses like housing and food. In laying out their own $3 trillion proposal for the next COVID-19 package, through the HEROES Act passed by the House in May, Democrats are pushing to reverse DeVos’s decision by making it clear that a federal law prohibiting people who are not U.S. citizens from receiving virtually all kinds of aid does not apply to the student grants.

Does “Naming and Shaming” of Colleges with Large Tuition Increases Make a Difference? [Video]

Dominique Baker, AERA
Since 2011 the U.S. Department of Education has published two annual lists of higher education institutions with the highest percentage changes in tuition and fees and average net price. A study published today found that inclusion in either of these College Affordability and Transparency Center (CATC) lists does not affect institutional pricing policies or students’ enrollment decisions. The findings appear in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association. “This attempt by the federal government to hold colleges and universities accountable by ‘naming and shaming’ them does not appear to be effective at changing institutional or student behavior,” said study author Dominique J. Baker, an assistant professor at Southern Methodist University. “The Education Department is required by federal law to publish these lists, but there is little evidence they are having the intended effect.”

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Rise of the ‘Zutors’: private Zoom tutors spark controversy as virtual school year looms

Mario Koran, The Guardian
Alyssa Katz, a Santa Monica mother of three, is growing a matchmaking service to connect families with tutors, or “Zutors”, as she calls them – a word she’s in the process of trademarking. “The role of a Zutor is a tutor, a nanny, and an angel for a parent,” Katz told the Guardian, someone who can take over parental demands, help children with online homework and take them outside when it’s time for “recess”. Katz’s clients range from the rich and famous, to everyday people who need childcare because they can’t look after their children while they have to work. Katz said she had gotten calls from parents as far away as the Hamptons.

The health risks of this pandemic has some parents in the U.S. turning to homeschooling pods [Audio]

Alan Neal and Joel Westheimer, CBC News

Coronavirus pandemic puts a spotlight on Stockton’s guaranteed income experiment

Laurence Du Sault, CalMatters
If there was ever a good time to convince people guaranteed income can make a difference, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs figured it’d be in the middle of a pandemic that is taking a heavier toll in poor neighborhoods and among Black and Latinx communities. So Tubbs, whose city has been at the heart of one of the nation’s few experiments with free cash payments for more than a year, launched Mayors for Guaranteed Income last month to push for federal policy. So far, the mayors of Oakland, Los Angeles, Compton, Atlanta and 13 others have signed on.

Public Schools and Private Dollars

California charter schools sue state for not funding additional students this year

John Fensterwald, EdSource
Four growing charter school organizations are suing Gov. Gavin Newsom, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and the California Department of Education, charging that the state’s formula for funding K-12 schools during the pandemic will illegally deny payments for additional students in their schools. Their schools are being underfunded by millions of dollars and their students’ constitutional rights are being violated, the lawsuit claims.

Charter schools and their management companies won at least $925 million in federal coronavirus funding, data shows

Valerie Strauss, Washington Post
The Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, is a $660 billion business loan program established as part of the $2 trillion coronavirus economic stimulus legislation that Congress passed in the spring. PPP was aimed at helping certain small businesses, nonprofit organizations, sole proprietors and others stay in business during the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. Small Business Administration administered the program, and recently the SBA and the Treasury Department released some data on what organizations won loans from the program and how much they received. (Some loans can be forgiven if the PPP money is spent on keeping employees on the payroll.)

DeVos aide played role in helping failing for-profit colleges, texts and emails show

Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, Washington Post
For the past year, the Education Department has denied that a top official went out of her way to help Dream Center Education Holdings, owner of the Art Institutes, South University and Argosy University, as the company spiraled into insolvency. But a batch of text messages, emails and letters shed new light on Dream Center’s relationship with Diane Auer Jones, the head of higher education policy at the department, and her efforts to help the company regain accreditation at two of its schools. The Trump administration had a keen interest in staving off the collapse of the troubled chain of for-profit colleges, even though congressional investigators found that Dream Center deceptively enrolled students at campuses that had lost accreditation and raked in taxpayer money in the process. The closure would have given more students a clear path to have hundreds of millions of dollars in federal loans forgiven. It also would have embarrassed an administration that has rolled back for-profit education regulations and filled the department with proponents.

Other News of Note

John Lewis traded the typical college experience for activism, arrests and jail cells

Jelani Favors, The Conversation
As an 18-year-old student attending a training session for activists at the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee, John Lewis stuttered and struggled to read. A visiting professor mocked his stammered speech and “poor reading skills” and dismissed Lewis’ potential as a “suitable leader” for the burgeoning movement. Famed activist and organizer Septima Clark rose to his defense and her support of Lewis paid off. The unassuming teenager from the backwoods of Troy, Alabama, became a giant of the Black freedom struggle and, ultimately, would go on to serve more than three decades in Congress. He died on July 17.

Student activists want change — and they’re starting in the classroom

Terry Nguyen, Vox
Throughout her three years at Westminster High School in Southern California, Liana Le recalled reading only a handful of books that featured nonwhite perspectives. But even when those books featured people of color — in the case of To Kill a Mockingbird, for example — the 16-year-old realized that the book was often written by a white author who failed to portray Black characters with depth, agency, and thoughtfulness. “It made me realize how representation in literature is so important,” the rising senior told me. “Talking about the Black, Latino, or Asian community from a removed point of view and reading it from a white author isn’t enough. We must include and hear other voices.”